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Insurance Agents: What They Do For You

Written by Michele Wilmonen. Posted in Definitions Last Updated: 05/01/2011

Insurance agents have the option of being an independent agent or exclusive agent and have the option of selling many different types of insurance.

Insurance Agent at her Desk

Your insurance agent is there to help you with your insurance needs.

The simple definition of an insurance agent is someone that sells insurance products. There are insurance agents in just about every city and town across the nation and they can be independent agents and sell for a number of different insurance companies or they can be agents that sell just for one company.

Agents are not bound to selling just one type of insurance either; they can also sell different insurance products just as long as they are licensed in the states that they sell in.

Independent Agents

An independent insurance agent is just what it sounds like – an insurance agent that is an independent entity not attached to any insurance company in particular. Independent agents pick and choose what insurance companies that they want to sell and can sell for a number of different companies all at the same time.

The benefit of being an independent agent is that you can offer your potential clients a number of different insurance companies to quote so that they can chose which one to go with. This option gives an independent agent the upper hand in selling to new clients and also in being able to keep clients that are already on their books, when they are not happy with the insurance company that they are currently with.

Exclusive Agents

Opposite of the independent insurance agent are the agents that exclusively sell just one insurance company’s products. They are not employees of the insurance company that they sell for, but more like independent sales agents that only have one thing to sell. These agents specialize in one company and are more familiar with the ins and outs of the single company that they sell for, more so than the independent agent that sells for multiple companies.

Agents Sell Different Insurance Lines

While we concentrate on auto insurance here at carinsuranceguidebook.com, insurance agents have a broader insurance approach. An agent that is licensed to sell auto insurance can also be licensed to sell home, commercial, crop, fleet insurance, specialty and health insurance. The more insurance lines that they are able to write for, the more money they can make.

How do You Become an Agent?

To sell insurance as an agent you have to first be licensed in the state that you are planning on selling insurance in. Each state has different rules, regulations and procedures for you to follow in order to get your insurance license. The one thing that is the same in every state is that you are required to pass a licensing test before you can be licensed to sell insurance in that state.

To find out what these requirements are contact your state insurance commissioner or visit their website for more information. If you are already working for an insurance agency, the agent that you are working for can also be a good resource for information on how to obtain your license.

Customer Service Representative (CSR)

Written by Michele Wilmonen. Posted in Definitions Last Updated: 04/26/2011

A CSR, also known as a Customer Service Representative, can be found in both your insurance agent’s office and also with your insurance company to help you with your basic insurance needs.

CSR Talking on Phone

A CSR has access to most of your policy and claim information to help you.

When you call your insurance company or insurance agent’s office the first person that you usually speak to is a Customer Service Representative or CSR.

Never heard of that term before?

CSR is just an abbreviation for a customer service representative and other than being used heavily in the fields that employ them, the term CSR is rarely heard in every day conversation.

Where You Find a CSR

Customer Service Representatives are found throughout the insurance industry. They work in your insurance agent’s office and they work directly for your insurance company. Wherever there may be contact with you, the customer, there is usually a customer service representative.

You will usually find the CSR sitting in the front part of the insurance agent’s office. With an insurance company, the CSR is the one that answers the phone to assist you first. In both cases they are there to try and assist you with what they can and re-direct you to a higher up person for the items that they can’t.

What a CSR Can Help You With

A CSR can help you with everything that does not require a license to sell insurance. This means they can answer your insurance questions, give you insurance quotes, help you file a claim, talk to you about your billing and take payments on your insurance policy. What they cannot do is actually sell you insurance or give you coverage counseling without the assistance of a licensed agent.

Some CSRs are licensed so that they can assist you with everything. Whether they are licensed or not depends on if the agency they are working with needs them to be licensed in addition to the licensed agents they already have so that the CSR can offer additional assistance to clients.

A CSR that works directly with an insurance company is only licensed when the company’s business plan includes offering insurance sales directly through them to help their independent insurance agents that sell their coverage or to forego selling through agents and just selling insurance directly.

What is a CSR Paid?

The regular pay of a CSR can be in one of two forms; hourly wages or salaried. How they are paid depends on where they work and how that insurance company or agency pays their employees. Most CSR’s are on hourly wages as their hours can vary and it is easier to figure out pay if you pay by the hour.

Also the CSR is usually the first position to have their hours decreased if the agency or the insurance company is in need of decreasing their expenses. Again it is easier to cut hours with an hourly wage earner than it is to rework the wages of a salaried employee.

If a CSR is licensed, in addition to their normal base salary, they could also earn a small commission for the insurance that they sell. The amount again depends on the insurance company and in the case of an agency, how much of the commission that the agent wishes to part with.

What Causes Auto Insurance Increases?

Written by Michele Wilmonen. Posted in Rates, Research Last Updated: 04/23/2011

Auto insurance can increase because of your own driving habits and also for reasons that are out of your control, like other drivers — and the economy.

Car Climbing the Increasing Stacks of Insurance Premium

Many factors can make your auto insurance continue to increase.

Insurance rates go up for all different kinds of reasons, some of the reasons you can control and some you cannot. Factors such as other driver’s unsafe driving, weather and the economy are all factors that you have no control over.

But, the one thing that you can control is your own driving habits, which is the one factor that is what causes auto insurance increases the fastest.

The Economy Increases Auto Insurance

While this one can’t be seen immediately it does have an effect on your insurance premiums.  An insurance company usually doesn’t just have their business dealings in auto insurance. They have investments, they are insuring businesses and homes and they themselves are usually owned by stock holders.

So when the economy takes a down turn and stocks start to fall, businesses fail and homeowners stop paying their insurance premiums insurance companies start to lose money. They have to still turn a profit so that their own stock holders don’t start selling their stock and they do this by raising rates on the clients they still have, including car insurance customers.

Statistics Increase Auto Insurance

Insurance is all about numbers and insurance companies love statistics.  Statistics show what categories of drivers are the safest, what geographic locations have the highest theft rates and what credit ratings are most likely to commit insurance fraud. A negative change in the statistics of any of the categories that you are in can make your insurance go up at your next renewal.

Other Drivers Increase Auto Insurance

Your driving record is not the only driving record that can make your insurance premiums go up. Drivers that are not even insured with your insurance company have a large impact on making insurance premiums go up, especially uninsured drivers. When an uninsured driver hits another driver that is insured with your insurance company, your insurance company has to pay out for the damages for their driver (if there is coverage).

This means that there is no other insurance company to reimburse your insurance company and getting the money that was paid out for the accident from the other person can take a long time. So to make up for the money they had to pay out, they increase everyone’s premiums.

You Make Auto Insurance Increase

The only factor that you have any real control over is your own driving habits and how safe of a driver you are. Drivers that cause accidents and are ticketed for unsafe driving are going to be charged higher insurance rates. Insurance companies want to collect as much premium as they can on these unsafe drivers before they cause the accident that they are at high risk to.

Driving safe and obeying traffic laws will keep your insurance premiums down. Also if you are a good driver and go a certain period of time without a ticket or an accident, not only will you be paying lower rates, you could also qualify for good driver discounts that could decrease your premiums even further.

Car Insurance Card for Proof of Insurance

Written by Michele Wilmonen. Posted in Definitions, Research Last Updated: 04/23/2011

Car insurance cards are the compact version of your insurance policy and should be kept in your vehicle at all times to provide proof that you have valid insurance.

Evidence of Insurance

Not all proof of auto insurance comes in the form of a card.

A car insurance card is your verification of proof that you have insurance coverage in place on your vehicle and are carrying the minimum amount of insurance required by your state.

Insurance cards come in many different shapes and sizes and are needed for a wide array of reasons. But, one thing that is the same no matter what is that just like your driver’s license, you have to have it with you whenever you drive your vehicle.

What’s On an Insurance Card?

The front on an insurance card contains all of the important information that pertains to you and your coverage. It includes the name of the company that you are insured with, your vehicle information, the name of the person that holds the policy, policy number and your policy effective dates.

The back of the card can vary from company to company, but usually contains how to contact your insurance company with questions about your policy or how to file a claim. It could also list the steps that you need to go through in the event of accident, to keep everyone safe from any additional harm and to gather the information that you need for an insurance claim.

What Insurance Card?

Not every insurance company sends out an actual insurance card. The insurance card is simply proof of insurance and can take many forms; the phrase insurance card has just become a universal term for all small sized verifications of insurance.

Some companies provide two 4”x4” pieces of paper that are separated from the rest of the paperwork in the insurance packet. Others have a single insurance verification that is the same width as the rest of the insurance packet but only 1/3 the length. No matter the size, it is important to pull the verification out of the packet and keep it with you when you drive.

Why Do I Need a Car Insurance Card?

Your car insurance card is your proof that you have at least the minimum liability insurance that is required to be able to drive in your state. This verification is needed first and foremost in the case you are pulled over for a traffic violation. The officer that pulls you over is also going to check that you are carrying the minimum insurance on your vehicle or you will be getting a second ticket.

Insurance cards provide the needed information that needs to be exchanged with the other party in the case of a case accident. They are also required when you want to drive a vehicle that is not yours, such as test driving a new vehicle from a car lot or if you are renting a car.

Where Should I Keep My Card?

A good number of people keep their insurance card in their wallet thinking that this is the best place to put it as they always will have it with them. But what happens if you have multiple drivers in the house or you allow someone else to drive your vehicle?

Insurance coverage follows the vehicle you are insuring, not the driver so it is best to actually keep your insurance car with the vehicle.

Auto Insurance Call Center Tips

Written by Michele Wilmonen. Posted in Research Last Updated: 04/18/2011

How to get what you need when you call an auto insurance call center, not be treated as a hostile client and have your issues resolved without additional agitation.

Auto Insurance call Center Agents

Agents working in auto insurance call centers are people just like you.

We all have horror stories of being treated badly by someone on the other end of the phone when we call a company’s call center. But, call center agents have the same horror stories to tell about the clients that they have talked to. Here are some tips from a former auto insurance call center agent on how to get more from your phone call and not end up as one of the horror clients that they talk about.

1) Being Nice Could Save You Money

Call center agents are attached to their phones anywhere from 8 to 12 hours a day and no matter how good at customer service they may be, all call center agents get tired and have a snapping point. If you call in and are immediately rude we do everything that we can to get you off the phone as quick as possible even if that means not offering any additional assistance that you may benefit from.

The nicer and more friendly you are with the person that you are talking to the more they will do to assist you, which could include offering you tips on how to save more on your insurance rates.

2) You Only Get One Warning

If your call takes a turn for the worse and you allow a certain category of explicatives to escape your lips, you will only be warned once to stop. Call center agents are here to help you with your insurance needs, not to be abused. If you insist on continuing to use these types of words you will be hung up and then will have to start over with the next person that you get on the phone.

In addition to being hung up on, you can almost be certain that the person you spoke to at the auto insurance call center will have put very detailed notes on your file as to the conversation that you had with them. Every person you speak to at that company from there on will read those notes and you will be treated as a hostile client every time you call in so it is best not to go down that road.

3) Keep It Short

Auto insurance call center agents are timed on everything. How long they are away from the phone if they need break, how long they take in between phone calls to finish up work and how long they take to help you. A good call center agent will help you until your problem is resolved and will not rush you through any call. But, as polite as they act they really don’t want to hear about your vacation, your kids, pets, entire insurance history and especially about any medical procedures that you have had or will have.

4) Ask for a Call Center Supervisor

If you are already upset before you even call, you need to immediately ask to speak to a supervisor. The first person that answers the phone generally cannot do anything for you and you will just get angrier if they attempt to help you and either doesn’t understand your problem or they end up defensive and argue with you.

Supervisors have usually been with the company longer and have dealt with all types of issues so they most likely can resolve your problem if it is reasonable. They are also paid more to handle upset callers and asking to speak to a supervisor also prevents you have having to tell your story more than once.

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Car Insurance Guidebook Unravels the Car Insurance Mystery

Unless you work in the car insurance industry, the topic is probably a mystery to you. The words deductible, comprehensive, collision, liability, premium, loss of use and bodily injury are all gibberish when they reach your ears.

Unfortunately, insurance is something that you are required to have by law if you want to drive. Because of how confusing it is many people go around in almost an insurance daze while they get car insurance quotes from the auto insurance companies that they have heard of. In reality, they are completely lost as to what they are actually buying.

Instead of looking at what each insurance company offers in the terms of protection for both themselves and their car, they are instead looking for cheap car insurance. Finding the cheapest car insurance coverage makes having to buy the required product all that much less painful, but misses the whole point of having insurance.

Learning about insurance through your insurance agent or websites like Car Insurance Guidebook will give you the upper hand when you looking for car insurance. You can take your knowledge and not only find the best price for insurance, you can use it to find really great insurance to protect you and your assets. Then you aren’t stuck settling for just average car insurance that can hurt you financially if you ever need it because there isn’t enough protection.

For example, when looking for insurance the car insurance rates are just the first of many factors that need to be taken into account when you are shopping around for car insurance. You also need to take into account the type of vehicle that you are driving. Many people don’t know this.

Are you driving around a vehicle that is a new sedan and can be protected under any blanket insurance policy? Or do you have an old car that you fixed up that needs special protection and could be better covered under classic car insurance?

Don’t just assume that when you compare car insurance that it will be a one-size-fits-all policy. This is where the insurance knowledge will come in handy; you will know what you need to protect yourself and your vehicle.

You will understand what your insurance agent is talking about when they use insurance terms and you will actually be able to make an informed decision. This is much better for you instead of the “nod and smile” approach people take in their insurance agent’s office.

Also just like your life changes your insurance needs will change. This year you may just need to learn about the best deductible to have. Next year you may need to educate yourself on car insurance for young drivers. As the years pass, motorcycle insurance may be something you will need to know.

Many wise people say that you never stop learning, so take their advice and educate yourself on the insurance that you spend a lot of money on and can’t get away with not having.