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Should You Work With A Local Agent or On-Line?
One agent's perspective on working with local agents by David Frucella
Play an imaginary game with me for just a moment. I'm asking you do this because I had a lengthy discussion and disagreement with one of AmericaQuote's viewers.
Imagine for a moment there are no local life insurance agents in your city and the only way you can buy life insurance is over the Internet. If you were in the market for life insurance, you would contact many sites and gather as much information as possible. You would likely do business with the site you learned the most from and felt the most comfortable with. So far so good, now let's go back to the real world and to my disagreement with one of AmericaQuote's viewers.
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He told me he thoroughly enjoyed visiting our site and gathered valuable information he never knew before. He collected the prices of major companies' policies in minutes, not weeks, and felt AmericaQuote was a valuable resource (so far, I liked what he was saying). He then went on to tell me he was taking our quote and bringing it to his local agent (or a relative) to write the coverage. This naturally got my attention and I asked why. The best answer I got was that the agent was " local" and AmericaQuote, for all practical purposes, was located on Mars!! Forget the fact the local agent did nothing to earn the business.
Now this may sound like "sour grapes," but before I started Americaquote, now over fifteen years ago, I knew there would be "shoppers". There would be those who would gather as much information as possible and would not purchase from us. It just goes with the territory when you start an operation like AmericaQuote or any other on-line enterprise. We encourage everyone to do exactly that. If they find value here and the best advice, we would like them to return and to purchase here too. After all, this is a business, not a charity :).
Now back to my disagreement... I believe the bottom line for him (and maybe for you, too) is the fact AmericaQuote is not around the corner, and he will probably never meet anyone from our firm face-to-face. There is validity to that argument. I believe he was also of the opinion that people selling insurance on the Internet live under rocks and may not be licensed or authorized to do business in their state anyway. That is a valid concern. He was also probably thinking that five years down the road, if he thinks he was lied to, whom would he go after? Would the insurance commission in his state have jurisdiction over an "out of state" agent? These items may be on your mind also and let me address them.
I asked him if he was aware that in order to sell insurance in his state, one must be licensed in that state before soliciting his business. This is true whether the agent lives in another state or locally. Most companies adhere to this closely. In addition, the various state insurance commissions monitor them closely. As an Internet shopper, I would ask for a faxed copy of the state license that authorizes them to sell in your state. If they have one, that automatically puts them under the jurisdiction and authority of your states' insurance commissioner, just like any " local" agent. If a "non-resident" agent does something fraudulent in your state, they can lose their license in their "home state" and others as well. State insurance commissioners work together for the common good. Fraudulent acts by an agent will end an insurance career very quickly.
The answer to the second question is that it is almost impossible to lie to someone over the Internet regarding insurance. Now, I'm not so naive that I believe people are always truthful, but if you look at most sites, the presentations and quotes are written out for you to copy, if you desire. If there is a conflict later on, you have your proof. If you need further clarification, ask for it in writing. Don't take anyone's word for anything (especially in the area of rate guarantees). It will not hold up in court. Having said this, I personally believe, most sites are ethical. They have typed out their entire presentation and made it available for millions to view (including state insurance commissioners). Just by being on the Internet, we probably are under more scrutiny than the local agent.
Again, back to my disagreement... It didn't have a happy ending. I was unable to get him over the "long-distance" hurdle to buy from us. He did thank me for the valuable information he gathered. It didn't make me feel any better, but from this experience, I do have one thing to ask of you... when shopping here or elsewhere on the Internet or even with your local agent, consider where you got the best advice and research. If you get the best advice from your local agent, buy from him/her. If you get it elsewhere, buy there. Don't do all the work yourself and simply "hand" the business to someone who did nothing to deserve it.
I would appreciate your comments. Please write or call. And by the way, AmericaQuote is not located on Mars. We are " local agents," located in beautiful Charlotte, North Carolina - go Tar Heels!
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