- Based in Rock Falls, IL
- Founded in 1985
- 50% Life and Health, 50% Property and Casualty
- 10 Employees
“We have great relationships with the people at SIS. From the CEO to the tech people – it’s been the same team the whole time we’ve been in the system. I know them by name. It’s just amazing to me that the people are consistent. It’s so refreshing. And they really care.”
While Veronica Edwards and her team excelled at serving their customers, they were quickly finding their management system provider did not. After years of price increases, they were left with nothing but subpar service and a cumbersome system with redundant steps and slow processing. When she got a call from an SIS team member, Veronica knew it was time to make a change, but her past conversion experience made her hesitate.
With patience and persistence, the SIS team kept in touch. That commitment eased Veronica’s fears, and Hugh F. Miller Insurance Agency moved to Partner Platform in 2018. We talked with Veronica about her management system search and why she wishes she’d made the switch sooner.
Tell us about your agency and your experience in the industry.
Hugh F. Miller started in 1985, and we have ten employees today. We’re family-owned and operated. My dad founded the agency in July 1985, and I joined him that summer while I was in college, doing some bookkeeping and other small tasks. I never thought I would make a career of it! But, two years into college, I realized it was a good fit. I joined full-time in 1987 and now own the agency.
How about your management system experience – what prompted you to look for a new agency management system?
Partner Platform is only my second management system in all my years in the industry. We started with a big-name provider and went through a few iterations of their system. I can’t even remember the name of the first program, but we started with one, moved to a second, and ended with their most recent one.
At first, I thought our old system was a good product – until their fees continued to increase and we never saw anything for it. For years we were getting rate increases every quarter, and I kept thinking: “Oh, they must be working on a major upgrade. They see what’s going on in the industry, and they’re going to introduce something new.” But then, nothing ever developed. We got tired of it. Getting an increase in cost with no benefits to it; we wouldn’t let our customers stand for that – so we decided it was time to look for something else.
When did you first encounter Partner Platform, and what were your impressions?
We first learned about Partner Platform around 2010, under its old State Auto name, SEMCI. I think I first heard from (SIS Director of Sales) Jordan Owens, who was a sales rep at the time. He reached out with a cold call and asked if we were looking for a new system. At the time, we were starting to get frustrated – but we had done a conversion in 2005 from a previous version of our old provider’s system to the most recent one, and it did not go well. So, the thought of a conversion wasn’t thrilling me. I told him to keep my name, but I knew I wasn’t ready to pull the trigger yet. I knew we didn’t like what was happening, but we just weren’t ready to go through that conversion experience again.
We explored multiple things over the next few years before we moved to Partner Platform in 2018. Looking back, I’m kicking myself. I wish we would have switched sooner.
What made Partner Platform stand out in your search?
The number one thing that impressed me through the whole thing was that I started with Jordan in 2010, and we ultimately purchased from him in 2018. I probably went through nine, ten, or more salespeople from other vendors in that timeframe. The fact that Jordan was still there after eight years told me this is an outstanding organization. I thought, “They’re doing something right because this guy has still been there the whole time!” And even now, almost five years later, it’s the same people. You are doing something right – and I know you’re growing because I’m getting calls from other agencies asking about our experience.
As COO, what outcomes were you looking for in a new management system?
We were looking for ease of workflow for our staff and trying to chronicle each client experience in one place. With our old provider, if we, say, made an auto change, we had to make a note to take in the change, then send it off to the company, and that’d be another note, then maybe we got a call from the insured, and that was another note – and we’d end up with like six notes. Plus, once you made a note you couldn’t open it up and add to it, you had to add another note to change it. With Partner Platform, everything is in one place – it’s so nice! It’s just one note, you can follow it from start to finish, and if you make a mistake you can just delet it, simple as that. From an E &O standpoint, the Partner Platform is much more efficient because everything is centralized. That efficiency is huge.
Another area we wanted to improve was accounting. Accounting was so cumbersome with our old provider – there were over a dozen steps to do a reversal! In Partner Platform, it’s ridiculously simple. If you have a wrong receipt, you just delete it, and that’s it. You don’t have to worry about it. I can’t understand why other vendors can’t do things like that.
What was it about Partner Platform and the SIS team that made you confident to change management systems?
Jordan did a great job of staying persistent without being annoying. The more I talked with him, the more comfortable I felt about making the switch – I could tell he had character and pride in what he was doing. He was very patient, reaching out every six months or so, and I’d tell him we were still thinking about it – and that was for eight years! Amazingly, it was the same person the whole time. With our old provider, we never knew who we were supposed to call. That consistency and patience helped get us over our hesitancy.
How has your partnership with SIS evolved over the years?
We have great relationships with the people at SIS. From the CEO to the tech people – it’s been the same team the whole time we’ve been in the system. I know them by name. It’s just amazing to me that the people are consistent. It’s so refreshing. And they really care. When my dad, who founded the business, passed away this summer, we got flowers from (SIS President) Michael (Doran) and the team. I was so touched by that kindness. Other vendors don’t do that.
We’ve also really gotten into the webinars and video guides. Having the recorded training videos you can reference whenever you need them is excellent. That way, we can figure things out quickly on our own. That support is vital to us. Everyone in our office is very comfortable with looking at the videos and FAQ to troubleshoot so we can learn ourselves and only reach out when we can’t do it on our own.
What stands out to you about Partner Platform today?
The tech response time is impressive. When we called our old provider, they’d maybe call us back in two weeks, if at all. We’d have staff waiting on them and unable to do a simple task, holding up a customer’s needs because of a system issue. That reflects very poorly on us. With Partner Platform, if I wait even an hour, that’s a long time. We always get an immediate email that our request was received, and if it’s something simple, we get a video link within minutes to walk us through it. If it’s more complex, we get a call back that same day, and they go into the system and take care of it. It’s night and day difference.
Partner Platform also really listens to their consumers. I saw that through the whole selection process. What we saw as our first 2010 demo was enhanced by the time we took it on in 2018. I could see the changes, and I know it was feedback from Partner Platform agencies. You continue to integrate things based on changes in the industry, freeing us to do our jobs without worrying if we’re keeping up with tech advances. I think that’s phenomenal.
Another small thing that makes a big difference are the reports – they’re so easy! That was something that was a huge pain point with our old provider. Getting reports and trying to run year-end reports would take me almost a month in our old system. I can literally do my year-end reports in about 30 minutes now. It’s crazy the difference.
What advice do you have for someone looking to change systems?
Just do it! Don’t waste time. If you feel comfortable, make the decision. Anything you’re anticipating for pain points will be worth it from an efficiency standpoint once you’re in the system. We have completely revamped our total workflows from the time we got into Partner Platform. We’ve eliminated steps because it makes things much easier. I would venture to guess the time it takes to convert you’re going to save dozens of times over once you get in the system. Just go for it!
Where do you think the insurance industry is going in the next 5 to 10 years? What challenges or opportunities will agencies face?
A completely digital environment is probably at the forefront. If agencies can’t do things digitally, consumers are not going to want to do it. The in-person client visits are getting less and less. It may not be what we want to do, but that’s what the consumer is saying, and that’s what we need to follow.
I also see texting becoming more popular. I have more clients now that would rather text than email. So I can see email becoming less important as time goes on.
I feel confident we’re ready for any of those changes with Partner Platform and the SIS team. They’re forward-thinking when it comes to the industry. That means we can trust they’re looking ahead for us. It’s amazing how the system can adapt to you. We have multiple agencies we know in the area, and we all use the system entirely differently. We keep learning from each other and the Partner Platform team. That growth-minded, collaborative community means a lot.