I recently performed a Google search of various insurance companies’ online reviews and came to find that the bulk of the reviews were negative in nature. While I was surprised at first, I quickly realized that the reviews were written by a small percentage of angry clients and were not representative of clients who had positive customer experiences. How do I find a company that will be a right fit for me? Below, I’m offering some tips and items to consider to help you navigate through the, oftentimes overwhelming, insurance environment.
Product Promotion Methods
Television advertising has increased dramatically over the past several years. A major focus has been put on the price of the policy and not the value of the product. Companies that solely focus on price may constantly be forced to cut expenses to stay the low-price option. Keep in mind customer claims is their largest expense. Sometimes you can get the best product at the lowest price, but not always.
Most insurance companies have a target market. This simply means that there are certain groups of consumers with whom they prefer to build their business. For example, a carrier whose main focus is insuring farm homes in a rural area might not be the right fit for a homeowner who recently purchased a brownstone in the city. The company might not have extensive knowledge or expertise in the area, coverage might not line up correctly, and claims adjusters may not be accustomed to the different lifestyle and client’s expectation. This is a good reason to shop with independent brokers who have a knowledge of carriers’ client appetite.
Personality & Reputation
Just like people, companies have personalities - generous, friendly, strict, lackadaisical, etc. Some companies main priority is to make the client happy, others aim to fulfill their insurance policy obligations to the client in a fair way, while some strive to solely make money.
Hint: Insurance brokers and professionals are usually a good barometer for an insurance carrier’s reputation. Ask them what they think of the carrier and if they would feel comfortable insuring with them.
In the event you need assistance from your insurance carrier, you will need to consider how they will manage their customer service. Will you have a dedicated representative? A large call center? A website? Call centers and websites might not understand the insurance needs of your area. Last year I tested a popular online auto insurance company with information from a “typical” northeast client. I tested with “above average” for income and the site suggested $50,000 per occurrence and $100,000 per accident in bodily injury limits. That was a bad suggestion. An accident with 3rd party injuries could easily result in a judgement over $50,000 and the client would be required to pay out of pocket any amount over $50,000. The website did not understand the buyer’s needs.
Not every policy is the same. There can be very distinct differences between policies or, oftentimes, slight differences that might go unnoticed to you unless you read the “fine print”. It is important to find out in advance what your insurance covers.
Hint: There are industry standard forms, such as those from the Insurance Services Office (ISO) and there are manuscript forms which are written by individual carriers. ISO policies tend to be easier to compare as the endorsements and exclusions will account for many of the differences. Manuscript forms present more of a challenge or “side by side” comparisons as there could be differences in the actual policy wording, not just the endorsements.
How your insurance carrier manages claims should be one of the most important factors for every consumer when considering which company to select. An insurance policy is only a piece of paper until it comes to submitting and settling your claim. Low-ball replacement offers, after-market auto parts, unfriendly adjusters and unanswered emails or voicemails are a good indication you're in trouble. If you use a broker, he/she will be able to assist in the unfortunate event the carrier is unresponsive.
Catastrophic Event Management
How will your insurance carrier be able to respond to your needs in the event you’re impacted by a natural disaster? Having a tornado, hailstorm, or hurricane come through your neighborhood can be devastating. National insurance companies usually have the ability to respond to regional catastrophes well since they can pull resources from around the country. This is an important service to homeowner customers. Regional carriers may be more constrained, yet many have agreements with third parties to assist in claim support during catastrophes.
Check out their financial rating
An insurance company with an A.M. Best “A” financial rating may have better long term financial stability than a lower rated carrier. A.M. Best and Standard & Poor’s tend to be good sources of information on carrier financial rating. Try www.ambest.com for a specific company’s financial rating or contact your broker and they can research it for you.
I hope the above was informative. Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or comments at Rino@SumCov.com or 718-INSURED (467-8733).
An Independent Insurance Broker with Summit Coverages, Ltd based in Brooklyn, NY. For the last 11 years, he has helped families and small businesses in placing their insurance needs. For any questions, please email him at Rino@SumCov.com or call 718-INSURED (718-467-8733).