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The Story Behind Our Insurance Agency Software: Agency Management Resource Group

The Story Behind Our Insurance Agency Software: Agency Management Resource Group

We continue to explore the story behind our insurance agency software partners. In this post, we talked with independent insurance veteran Cheryl Koch. Cheryl founded Agency Management Resource Group to help independent agencies “achieve their goals and dreams.” With that motivation in common, we work with Cheryl and her team to educate and equip agencies for success.

When she was introduced to the Partner Platform team, Cheryl Koch saw an opportunity. Equipped with a wealth of training content for independent agencies, she knew she had just what so many Partner Platform agencies needed: personalized education. After holding our first “Ultimate Producer School”with Cheryl and her team, it was clear her expertise was the perfect fit.

I spoke with Cheryl to hear about her wealth of experience in the industry and how she connected with the Partner Platform community.

Cheryl

How did you first connect with SIS and the Partner Platform team?

I got connected through Mary Eisenhart-Belka of Eisenhart Consulting Group. Mary and I were business partners for several years, and she is an excellent judge of character. She was raving about Partner Platform – the people and the system. After hearing so many good things from her, I looked into you all. I realized there are a lot of things we do here at Agency Management Resource Group that would benefit the independent agencies connected through Partner Platform. Partner Platform serves our target audience, so I asked Mary to connect us, and here we are.

How do you collaborate with SIS and the Partner Platform community today?

We decided to start with our wildly successful Ultimate Producer School and Ultimate Account Manager School.

The Producer School is designed for people who are new to P&C sales. We do both a commercial and a personal lines school, but the one we did for SIS was focused on commercial lines. The 10-day in-person school is a blend of technical insurance knowledge and sales skills. Even if someone has been in sales in some other industry, most people know insurances sales is different and needs unique training.

Drawing from our experience selling insurance and owning independent agencies, we offer training on the technical side of the business and the specifics of insurance selling. It’s focused on understanding terminology, what to look for in coverage, and how to have conversations to grow your book of business.

The Account Manager School is a three-day in-person session. It’s what we call “line of business agnostic” because it can apply to individuals working with nearly any type of coverage. It’s a unique program because – as far as I know – we’re the only ones who offer it. It used to be that when a new account manager was hired, they’d attend training sponsored by the company. But companies have stopped providing that training. Instead, they get trained by “the osmosis chair” – they have to learn on the job, on their own. Since independent agencies lack the resources to do this essential training, we started our own.

You have unique experience in the insurance industry. What do independent agents gain from working with you over a big-name firm?

I’ve only ever been an independent agent my whole life.  I understand that emphasis on the word “independent.” Being independent is an agency’s greatest strength and Achilles’ heel all at the same time. They are fiercely independent to the extent that they serve their communities’ unique needs, yet they’re resource-strapped and unable to do training in a meaningful way. That’s why they relied on the insurance providers to give that training for so many years. When those programs went away, they were left with nothing. Some states – some state associations – do some training, but it’s just insufficient.

What we want to do is provide programs that fill that void in the market. Where they could find these resources in generic sales or project management training, we provide targeted insurance training. These are not huge agencies – they’re people owning and running a small business, and they just don’t have the resources and network to train people. Especially with so much new technology, there is so much more producers and account managers need to know than they did ten years ago. And, when they’re expected to know more, there is less available. That’s where we come in.

What do kind of feedback do you hear from the agencies you work with?

Many tell us the training gave them exactly what they needed to succeed. In the Producer School, we hear that it’s a game-changer to understand the sales process and understand coverages and how to look for specific gaps in endorsements that are needed to protect clients. We’re relentless in ensuring our clients know what they’re selling. We want them to come out knowing exactly how to assess coverage. There’s no excuse for going out there and messing with people’s financial life when you don’t know whether you’ve got a good fit for what they need or not. We’re proud to help producers be prepared in that way.

For the Account Manager training, we get feedback along the lines of, “it changed my life.” Not just “it changed my profession” or “it changed my job,” but “it changed my life.” That’s because account managers are so often overlooked and undervalued. We have so much respect for that job because we’ve done it. We feel privileged to give them the respect and education they deserve to succeed.

What are some common issues you help agencies navigate?

Agencies are overwhelmed – especially their account managers. That job has just gotten bigger and bigger, and technology was supposed to help, yet it hasn’t. In many cases, technology alone can’t drive that change. With multiple insurance companies coming at them with their technology solution and their own agency’s management system, they also have all these other applications to understand and use daily. They’re overwhelmed by what it is they need to know.

We understand that agencies need to identify and address their overall process issues before adding technology. Too often, agencies have attacked problems the other way around, adding technology without addressing overall operations. That just means they have bad practices that are now happening faster. It doesn’t address the problem. We work to identify and address operational issues and look for practical solutions.

How would you describe the experience of collaborating with SIS and the Partner Platform community?

It’s the perfect match. Partner Platform agencies are precisely who we serve and, as small agencies, need what we were providing. They’re a ready-made market!

Beyond the perfect customer march, the team at SIS is the best. Everyone is easy to work with, meeting all the expectations I came with, thanks to Mary. She also raved about the Partner Platform system, so I expected nothing less than impressive. The same is true of the community – all the individuals we had in our first Producer School were great. Everyone was engaged and asking questions. It was a great group.

Find out more about how you can enroll in our Account Manager and Producer Schools and how the Partner Platform can serve your agency: get in touch at sales@sisware.com, or 800.747.7005, Option 6.

The Story Behind Our Insurance Agency Software: Eisenhart Consulting Group

The Story Behind Our Insurance Agency Software: Eisenhart Consulting Group

Next in our series on what’s behind our Partner Platform insurance agency software community is the management and operations consulting group, Eisenhart Consulting Group. For over ten years, we’ve been lucky to work with owner Mary Belka and her team.

Mary Belka, CEO and founder of Eisenhart Consulting Group, has been part of the Partner Allies team for more than a decade. When she was first introduced to the Partner Platform system, she was impressed by the hands-on, personalized service the Partner Platform team provided to one of her clients. Since then, a mutual dedication to personalized service has made Partner Platform and Eisenhart Consulting the perfect team for our independent agency clients.

I spoke with Mary to talk about how she came to meet the Partner team, the unique and transformational service she brings to Partner agencies, and how she prepares agencies for the future.

How did you first become connected with SIS and the Partner Platform team?

It was about 10 or 15 years ago while working with an agency in North Carolina. They had just switched over to Partner Platform and were experiencing significant accounting issues due to a former employee’s mismanagement. I hadn’t heard of Partner Platform nor SIS before this, but I found myself on the phone with them to help my client resolve this issue. Even though the Partner Platform team had nothing to do with causing the problem, they methodically and patiently helped us solve it. I was so impressed and moved by their willingness to help. I’ve worked with multiple big-name providers and have never seen that level of service.

A few years later, I was running a Total Quality Agency seminar in Michigan. One of the attendees brought up Partner Platform and the great experience they had with the system and team. I reached out to (SIS President) Michael Doran to pass on the compliment, and he got in touch with me after that. We started talking about ways to connect our insurance consulting with Partner Platform agencies, and the rest is history.

How do you collaborate with SIS and the Partner Platform community today?

It was clear from the start that the Partner Platform team shared our interest in equipping agents for success. We provide one-on-one and group coaching and education sessions for Partner Platform agencies, giving them hands-on consulting on best practices for distinct areas of their business and their agency as a whole.

My team has led an Account Manager School, Producer School, and targeted accounting and E&O session, among other educational programs. We work closely with each agency and provide process documents and workbooks to individualize their experience and bring it back to their agency.

How would you describe the experience of collaborating with SIS and the Partner Platform community?

First off, it’s a dream to use the Partner Platform system as a base in our courses. The system offers a depth of capabilities without being complicated. That ease of use, combined with the various capabilities, makes it an excellent tool for teaching. Specifically, the integrated accounting and insurance CRM are essential for the similar-sized agencies we serve.

As for the SIS team, I heard so many good things before I got in touch, and they all were true. We have a mutual set of clients in independent agents, and our goals are the same: helping the agencies succeed. It’s a true partnership all around.

You have unique experience in the insurance industry. What do independent agents gain from working with you over a big-name firm?

Large firms tend to operate on a one-size-fits-all system. They have a template and fit their clients into that structure in their consultation. While we have base outlines and procedures, our focus is on fitting our services around the agency’s needs. We look at ways to help the agency be more efficient, giving them space to focus on how they can better serve their customers.

Personally, I have experience in the industry, including as a certified E&O auditor, and am familiar with the nuances of, say, accounting within an insurance agency. You might say after this many years, that, “we’ve seen it all,” at one time or another.  The combination of that expertise and experience means our team can see opportunities where others cannot.

What kind of feedback do you hear from the agencies you work with?

The biggest thing we hear is: “You’ve changed everything for us.” That means we were successful in helping agencies see old processes in a new way, opening up space for them to gain maximum efficiency in otherwise time-consuming tasks and increased accuracy in their customer service. We also hear that we’ve helped them operate with a new mindset: one of learning and growing. That’s the kind of lasting change we strive to bring to an agency.

You’ve worked in the insurance industry for over 40 years. What do you see ahead for the industry in the next three to five years?

This is something we think about a lot as we continually improve our sessions. This past year showed us aggregation is growing, meaning smaller agencies need to strengthen themselves or be overtaken by a larger provider. Buyers are on the look-out for vulnerable agencies. That means our independent agency clients need to think long-term, especially around preparing for perpetuation and keeping their valuation protected.

The key to building valuation lies in shifting from being all things to all people to focusing on doing the select things you do well. Insurance customers want and need knowledgeable agents. The recent COVID-19 pandemic brought that lack of knowledge to light with businesses, events, and individuals experiencing loss without coverage. We need more agents to grow their knowledgebase to serve their customers better.

With a solid knowledgebase, agents can be more flexible and adaptable, something they’ll need more and more in the coming years. Cybercrime and climate change threats continue to grow and change. We need agents to be nimble, embracing elements like automation, remote work, and greater connectivity to help them stay prepared for the unknown.

Find out more about our educational offerings, including our Account Manager and Producer Schools, and how the Partner Platform can serve your agency: get in touch at sales@sisware.com, or 800.747.7005, Option 6.

The Story Behind Our Insurance Agency Software: Lightspeed Voice

The Story Behind Our Insurance Agency Software: Lightspeed Voice

We strive to provide the best insurance agency software to our Partner Platform agencies, but we don’t have all the answers on our own. That’s where our trusted technology partners, our Partner Allies, come in. In this series, we get to know more about our industry partners and how they bring innovation and expertise to the Partner Platform system.

Based in Nokomis, FL, Lightspeed Voice® is a VoIP, cloud-based IP telephone provider founded in 2009 to provide the insurance industry with reliable VoIP and client relationship management (CRM) solutions.

Lightspeed differentiates through high-touch and high-service, which aligns nicely with Partner Platform’s approach – and is also true for the way our independent agency clients sell. Both Partner Platform and Lightspeed strive to be hands-on, building relationships with clients just as our independent agents do with their customers.

I talked with Lightspeed’s VP of Sales and Marketing, Steve Mohr, about the partnership.

How did you first become connected with SIS and Partner Platform?

One of our customers came to us with the suggestion – they were a Partner Platform customer and saw an opportunity. I happened to have a trip planned to the Columbus area, so I connected with (Director of Product Management) Bryce Lee while I was in town, and we took things from there.

After meeting with the Partner Platform team, we saw that SIS has many of the same values we do as a company.  We both provide personalized service above and beyond what many others in the industry provide. Both of our customer bases are very loyal, which is a testament to the product and company.

How does Lightspeed integrate into the Partner Platform system?

We offer a complete VoIP phone solution that provides numerous benefits such as a live switchboard, the ability to listen in on live calls, record all calls, and real-time performance metrics.  We also offer a screen pop-up on inbound calls, so when a prospect or customer calls in, Partner Platform will automatically pull up that contact’s information.

How do independent agents benefit from working with Lightspeed versus a big-name provider?

I often say we have a similar value proposition as independent agents. There are undoubtedly huge online carriers in our field that many use, but they’re missing out on personal service, strong partnerships, and knowing they’ll always get a human to talk to when they call us. We also own all of our infrastructure, so we can fix any issues on-site and don’t have to rely on third-party systems to place our calls.

What do Partner Platform clients like about working with Lightspeed?

The pop-up screen integration stands out as the feature most users love about the system. Overall, it’s the level of service we provide and how thorough we are, especially when agencies get started with us. We do a full network check when working with a new agency to ensure the best possible call quality is delivered right from the start.

What emerging needs do you see for independent insurance agencies in the next three to five years?

I’ve been doing more research recently on what agencies are doing to keep up with technology and product offerings trends. The biggest challenge I see is maintaining the balance of keeping up with technology without losing that personal touch customers get with an independent agency.  Finding the mix between leveraging the latest technology to improve processes and keeping employee-customer interaction at the forefront is the secret to success.

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Thanks to our Partner Allies like Lightspeed, we at Partner Platform can be confident we’re offering our agencies the best technology. Lightspeed’s commitment to provide a quality product and prioritize client service echoes our own pledge to our Partner Platform agencies and their promise to their insurance customers. We’re thankful for our Partner Allies like Lightspeed, who think and act with the client’s needs first.

Find out more about Partner Platform’s expanding capabilities and our other Partner Allies on our website at sispartnerplatform.com.

Partner Platform announces seamless integration with Rocket Referrals

Partner Platform announces seamless integration with Rocket Referrals

Partner Platform announces seamless integration with Rocket Referrals – expanding marketing automation capabilities to send timely communications, cross-sell policies, and measure client satisfaction while building long-term relationships with their insureds.

“It is core to our mission to build alliances with like-minded technologies that will improve our clients’ competitive advantages for retaining and attracting clients,” said Bryce Lee, Director of Product Management for SIS. “We carefully choose our Partner Allies with a goal of enhancing how clients do business and increasing the value they receive from both parties.”

“We believe agents should be able to pick and choose the tools they need to run their agency; that’s why integrating and partnering with other systems is so important to us,” said Torey Maerz, Co-founder and CEO of Rocket Referrals. “Partner Platform users will now have one less thing to worry about when it comes to their data and connecting to Rocket Referrals—no uploads or syncs. We’re excited to bring this seamless experience to more agents to help them compete and grow their business.”

Rocket Referrals helps expand the marketing functions that are already available in Partner Platform by enhancing the automation of Google reviews, Net Promoter Score, and hand-written cards.

Partner Allies provide products and services which work with Partner Platform agency management system enhancing the independent agency’s capacity to retain, grow, and service clients. These relationships are more than integrations – they are commitments from like-minded vendors collaborating to serve mutual clients and leveraging diverse strengths to improve the experience of our agencies.

About SIS

Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, Strategic Insurance Software (SIS) is the team behind Partner Platform, an innovative web-based insurance agency management system helping independent agents break free from the status quo.  Partner Platform is easy to use, streamlines workflows and enables agencies to run their business more affordably and effectively. Built on a foundation of strong technology and exceptional service, we’re moving forward with a constant eye on innovation that will make independent agents’ lives easier. For more information, please visit https://sispartnerplatform.com.

About Rocket Referrals

Rocket Referrals is a leading insurance communications platform based in Des Moines, Iowa. Since 2013, Rocket Referrals has been providing insurance agents across the U.S. with innovative tools to gather and analyze NPS feedback, manage online reputation, collect reviews and testimonials, grow referrals, automate cross-selling and manage communications spanning email, text messaging and direct mail.

Source: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/partner-platform-announces-seamless-integration-with-rocket-referrals-301248421.html

Insurance Agency Software Sales Solutions: What to Look For in 2021

Insurance Agency Software Sales Solutions: What to Look For in 2021

The year 2020 brought transformation across all industries, including insurance. Insurance agency software continues to evolve in response to these transformations, prompting savvy agency owners to update their tools and processes to respond to the needs of 2021.

A recent Chief Executive article pointed out several broad trends within the independent insurance agency: more digital interactions in the sales process, increased focus on digital customer experience, the convergence of sales and marketing, and the need to apply values in a new way.

Ken Branch echoed similar points in a recent PC360 article noting that in 2020 technology became more strategic, staffing and communications shifted to digital, and customer service was heightened in priority.

How can your agency respond to these changes and apply your values in a new digital way?

Discover some of our best insurance agency marketing resources here

1. Upgrade digital interactions

The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the digital shift, and it isn’t going away.  What does that mean for independent insurance agencies?

From both a sales and customer service perspective, independent insurance agency software systems must support more digital interactions. These digital interactions help agencies streamline sales and customer support, including integrating digital tools into your agency management system for one digital agency “ecosystem.” 

Upgraded digital agency sales software includes:

  • Insurance CRM
  • Marketing Automation
  • Text Messaging
  • Quoting
  • Proposals
  • eSignature

Upgraded digital customer experience software includes:

  • Client Portals
  • Agency Mobile App
  • Agency Website
  • VOIP

See what you need to become a digital insurance agent here

2. Integrate sales and marketing

More digital interaction not only means you need the right digital tools, but you also need to reimagine how you use them. The increased focus on customer experience means you need to know more about your customers. Much of that information comes from your sales and marketing tools which, when integrated, maximize your data stream.

A management system with built-in insurance CRM helps you improve prospect targeting, allows you to segment audiences, and empowers your team to use management system data to initiate conversation in informed ways. For example, you can craft an upsell/cross-sell campaign offering clients with active Auto and Home policies but no Umbrella policy information, emphasizing why they might consider Umbrella and a link to schedule a conversation.

Better coordination like this improves outreach at all levels, including helping you target the appropriate number of calls and emails to reach a prospect without the producer having to do it all manually. Embedded CRM and marketing allow you to schedule and send emails, texts, and letters in bulk while simultaneously prompting producers to call at the appropriate time. This integration of processes increases your effectiveness and decreases time spent.

Learn about the essential sales and marketing data points you need to capture

3. Improve digital customer experience

The move to digital requires new ways to support clients and a rethinking of the customer experience through the digital lens. Ask yourself:

  • How could our agency use technology such as a client portal, agency mobile app, and agency website in a way that enhances our unique relationship with our clients?
  • How do these tools offer our clients ways to conduct business seamlessly in the digital world?
  • Are we giving away that relationship by using generic versus company-branded tools?

Texting with clients has become a commonplace form of digital communication.

  • Do you support texting with your clients?
  • Can you easily document text conversations for E&O purposes?
  • Can you text clients automated policy renewal reminders?

Your quoting and onboarding process can be improved with digital tools as well.

  • How are you using digital proposals & eSignature to improve and streamline the quoting process?
  • Are you sharing proposals with the client in a secure client portal integrated into the agency website?

And you can improve your quality of service through digital systems.

  • How can you use your VOIP phone system with your agency management system to save CSRs time?
  • Do you provide CSRs with pop-up client information when they receive a call?
  • Can CSRs click to call within your agency management system?
  • Do you have easy recording and attaching phone conversations within your system?

These small improvements lead to an overall smoother and more fulfilling customer experience, leading to higher conversion and retention rates.

Read more about digital insurance consumers and what they expect from your agency

4. Find a partner to equip you for 2021 and beyond

Need an experienced partner to help you implement and manage your agency software and digital tools? The Partner Platform team is equipped to bring a top-of-the-line agency management system embedded with powerful tools such as an insurance CRM, marketing automation, client portal, agency mobile app, and agency website into your ecosystem.

Find out more about our offerings and request a demo to see how the Partner Platform system can bring your agency up to speed. Get in touch at 800.747.7005, Option 6, or sales@sisware.com.