By Deb Rushenberg
A person who does business for another person : a person who acts on behalf of another.
In the insurance world, agents — or brokers, in some instances — are oftentimes viewed as the “expert” when it comes to all things regarding liability, protection and coverage. As individuals, protecting things like personal vehicles and homes is thought of as a “no-brainer.”
What isn’t always top-of-mind is protecting the church.
As a ministry, there are innumerable assets and coverage options that should be considered when purchasing insurance. That’s where an insurance agent comes in to help.
So, what’s an agent?
Agents are people who do business with, or act on behalf of, another person. It’s no secret that purchasing the right insurance coverage for your church is a difficult task, especially without having knowledge in the field.
To help ease the decision and get a church headed in the right direction, the following are five questions you should consider asking your potential agent.
#1: “What’s your area of expertise?”
Begin with a preliminary question. This will help determine if moving forward with a particular individual is worth your time, or if you should consider someone else.
Secondly, there are two types of agents that should be considered: those who work for several different insurance companies, and those who solely do business with just one. Independent agents — those who do business with several companies — will most likely have a broader scope of coverage and pricing options for the church to choose from. Captive agents — those who sell insurance for just one company — will have personalized, in-depth knowledge about what their own company can offer.
Additionally, research the agent and the company / companies he or she works for. It’s common for customers to ask for a list of references to gain more knowledge and gather feedback from similar establishments — in this case, other churches. Is the agent knowledgeable about the products and services they’re offering? Can the agent answer any questions you might have? Does the insurance company have a strong reputation? Does the company specialize in a certain area?
#2: “What kinds of coverages are needed to fully protect our church?”
As a church, there are several aspects of the organization that should be considered: the building, vehicles, church members, employees and so on. Upon inspecting and evaluating the church, agents can make recommendations so that everything the church owns is protected properly and in its entirety.
#3: “What value-added products and services does your company offer?”
Insurance companies sell insurance policies; there’s no doubt about that. But, what else do they offer in addition to basic coverages? This is a very important question to ask your agent, as most companies they work for will offer several perks along with a written policy. Examples include risk management tools, endorsements, building construction or other services, discounts to vendors and training videos.
Additionally, your relationship with the agent, as well as the agent’s relationship with the company he or she works for, is something to consider. Ensuring the agent is accessible when the church is in need of assistance is oftentimes overlooked, but it can make all the difference in the long run.
#4: “What’s the average time it takes your company to handle a claim?”
Unfortunately, accidents happen and disasters strike. This is where insurance comes into play. For an insurance company, processing a claim is routine and should be done in a timely manner. As a church, you want to be confident that you’ve made the right decision in choosing a company that will help the congregation get back on track without missing much of a beat.
Furthermore, what kind of service should be expected after a claim has been submitted? An agent should have a better idea of what the process entails and what you, as a customer, will be dealing with in the event of a claim.
#5: “What’s your overall recommendation?”
You’ve asked all the right questions, and the agent has provided with you with loads of information — the decision is ultimately yours. However, as an expert in the field, the agent should provide the church with a detailed summary of what was presented and an overall recommendation. This should ultimately include both a coverage package and the total cost, which will hopefully provide the church enough confidence to make the right decision.
Protecting the church is always the ultimate goal. However, through the use of an agent, you can ensure that you’re making a well-informed decision while receiving personalized customer service and knowing they have your best interest at heart.
Deb Rushenberg is Director of Commercial Lines Underwriting at GuideOne Insurance in West Des Moines, IA, where she is responsible for the overall vision, direction and oversight of underwriting for the Church niche. Rushenberg has been with GuideOne for more than two decades.