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.
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.
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
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
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
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 [email protected],
or 800.747.7005, Option 6.
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,
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
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 [email protected],
or 800.747.7005, Option 6.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
helps expand the marketing functions that are already available in Partner
Platform by enhancing the automation of Google reviews, Net Promoter Score, and
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.
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
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
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
How can your agency respond to these changes and
apply your values in a new digital way?
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:
Upgraded digital customer experience software
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
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.
When Lara Moffitt began as CEO of MHJ Insurance, her first order of business was to find a new agency management system. She knew their old system was complicated, expensive, and had poor customer service. It was clearly time for MHJ to make a change.
So, Lara rallied her team to start their search for a new agency management system provider. The three-month-long project included a series of interviews, demos, and plenty of internal discussions about what was working and what wasn’t.
Innovation is key to longevity in any industry, and the insurance industry is no different. Insurance revolves around people and relationships, making it an inherently dynamic field.
Digital insurance demands seem to change by the day to keep up with evolving customer and agency needs. That’s why we at Partner Platform partner with various tech partners to stay up to date with changing conditions. We as an organization can only be experts in so many areas, so we recognize the need to partner with outside specialists to fill our gaps.
We work with industry groups and tech companies to cover areas like digital document processing and cyber security, among others. Below are a few of our recent posts highlighting these valuable tech partnerships.
Insurance tech advancements are making everyday processes faster and more efficient, and customers are demanding more digital interactions than ever before. Despite the benefits and increasing customer demand for insurance tech, your team may be hesitant to adopt new technology.
This hesitancy is understandable. Change is difficult, and introducing a new process or system to an individual’s workflow can be frustrating. But, the benefits of integrating insurance tech into your agency far outweigh the challenges of overcoming change.
Here are a few ways we’ve seen agencies work to be more receptive to new technology and system updates.