INDEPENDENCE — Martha Lesmeister joined the Pfaff-Karren Insurance team in December, but she’s been serving people in Monmouth and Independence for almost two decades.
“I started in May of 1999, back when it was Stineff,” Lesmeister said.
Stineff is now part of the Hanson Insurance Group.
“I saw the ad in the I-O looking for a customer service office person,” she said. “Bilingual preferred, and I’m bilingual. I dropped off my resume and got called that same day, and so I went back and been there since.”
Though Lesmeister started in an office support position, she took the necessary courses and was a licensed agent about seven months later.
Lesmeister was raised in the Monmouth-Independence area and still lives in Monmouth.
“That’s one of the assets of Martha being here,” said Kristin Thomas, who co-owns Pfaff-Karren with Karen Frascone. “She has her life history in this town.”
Thomas said representatives from Hanson Insurance approached her because they were interested in selling their clients to Pfaff-Karren.
At that time, Thomas and Frascone wanted to hire Lesmeister, who handled those clients for Hanson, to ensure continuity and serve the clients well.
“We had to be able to ensure we could still provide what they were used to,” Thomas said.
Lesmeister said she likes building relationships with her clients.
“We get to chat when they come in to make their payments,” she said. “We get a lot of those people who come in every month and that’s just their routine. We get to chatting about the holidays, what we did, and it’s nice.”
She said being bilingual helps.
“We have such a large Spanish-speaking population around here, I’ve gotten to develop that book of business because now we’re the only independent agent in Monmouth and Independence,” Lesmeister said.
Other agents in the area “captive,” Thomas said, which she said is comparable to a franchise.
Captive agencies are bound to work for only one insurance company and independent insurance agencies have contracts with multiple insurance companies.
“Our agency represents as many companies as we choose to,” Thomas said.
She said Pfaff-Karren agents shop for and give customers quotes, based on their experience.
“The trend that I’ve seen in the past five to six years is … there was a big exodus to (searching for insurance) online because it was the instant gratification, the Amazon Prime of insurance,” Thomas said.
People want the instant shopping experience, but also want someone to explain why certain coverage is necessary or not, she said.
“Instead of them doing it all themselves online and being under-insured or over-insured, they’re kind of wanting to shop a little bit themselves and then come to us for clarification,” Thomas said.
Lesmeister said it also is a benefit that customers have a local office to call or stop by.
“(It’s the) convenience of having a couple of people to call in the event they need something,” she said. “They’re not calling an 800 number, getting a different person each time they call. And they can walk right in here and get their ID card if they purchased a car, or whatever they need.”
Pfaff-Karren is located at 1327 Monmouth St., Independence.