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.
In the end, Lara’s team saw SIS and Partner Platform as the
best choice for their agency. Since signing on, they haven’t looked back.
In our conversation, we covered:
What Lara and her team looked for in an agency management system
How they conducted their agency management system search
What made Partner Platform and the SIS team stand out
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
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.
Our Digital Insurance Partner Posts
Remote Work and Agency Cyber Security: During the COVID-19 lockdowns, all our agencies and their customers needed to move to remote work rapidly. We leaned on our tech partnership with Archway Computer and the workflow expertise of consultant Mary Belka to equip our Partner Platform agencies – fast. In this post, we recap an impactful webinar focused on how to keep agency data safe during remote work and best practices for external and internal communications during that time.
Business Insights Partner Exago BI: The value of data and analytics has skyrocketed over the past few years, causing the Partner Platform team to seek a business insights partner to help our agencies stay well-equipped. Exago BI offers both canned and custom reporting for our agencies, allowing them to gain, manipulate, and analyze agency data easily.
Encrypted Email and eSignature Partner RPost: We’ve worked with digital document processing partner RPost for years, giving our Partner Platform agencies access to seamless and secure document sending, signing, and processing. What began as a HIPPA-compliant secure email service has grown into a fully digital, encrypted document processing system.
IT and Cyber Security Partner Archway Computer: Our partnership with Archway Computing is one of our longest and most valuable. The IT professionals at Archway have specialized in helping insurance agencies install, run, and update essential software for decades. The cyber security services Archway provides for our Partner Platform agencies are invaluable.
VoIP Partner Lightspeed Voice: One of our most recent partnerships is Lightspeed Voice, a VoIP provider that seamlessly integrates with our Partner Platform agency management system. Lightspeed brings a live switchboard, call recording, and real-time performance metrics, among other benefits.
Marketing Partner BlueJay Reviews:Online reputations are extremely important to any business or organization today. Every agency has an online reputation, regardless of whether they investigate or manage it. Our partner BlueJay Reviews focuses on online reputation management and makes it easy for our Partner Platform agencies to solicit and manage their online reviews, bolstering their reputation.
Find Out More About Our Tech Partnerships
These partners have been invaluable as we strive to improve our Partner Platform agency management suite every day. Especially during the COVID-19 lockdowns, we relied heavily on these partners to help us quickly adapt and provide secure, remote access for our agencies and their customers alike.
Cyber security has been a concern across industries
for years, but the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated risk. With more businesses
moving to online operations, more data became vulnerable. This is especially
true in insurance, where the use of insurance tech skyrocketed in 2020, along
with incidents of cyberattacks.
These stats should be more than enough to get you
asking the question, “What’s our agency cyber security plan?” Whether
you’re starting from scratch or updating an outdated strategy, the following
elements are must-haves for your agency’s cyber protection.
Add These Basic Security Measures
There are a handful of actions you need to set up baseline cyber protection. Those include:
Use modern hardware: Outdated desktops and laptops are more vulnerable to modern cyber-attacks. Make sure you’re using tech that’s less than five years old to ensure it has the most recent safeguards.
Add or update anti-virus software: Similarly, you need the most up-to-date virus protection software to act as the first layer of protection. Don’t ignore that “your software has expired” pop-up!
Implement multi-factor authentication: Add a layer of protection to your data storage systems with multi-factor authentication. The more complex passwords and additional layers of entry you have, the more you protect your data.
Work with a security expert: You can only do so much in-house – your team knows insurance, not cyber security! It’s worth the investment to hire a trusted partner to get you the best software, training, and cyber security management.
Train Your Team
Even the best cyber security software can’t spot
all potential threats. As cybercriminals have evolved, they’ve begun
implementing tactics that hit people’s vulnerabilities rather than machines.
One type of attack is called “social
engineering,” in which a cybercriminal gains information on the names,
titles, and small personal details about a person or persons at a company and
uses that to impersonate them. Cybercriminals will then convince a team member
to transfer funds, give up passwords, or reveal other valuable information they
can use to attack the company.
With such people-centric attacks evolving, you
need to keep your team at the ready by training them on:
How to determine if correspondence is legitimate, such as calling, texting, or sending a separate email contacting the person a message is supposed to be from to confirm their identity before taking action.
Who to contact if they suspect a threat, whether through a reporting system or contacting a specific team member.
Our team uses all the above cyber prevention tactics and employs elements like a redundant, cloud-based backup system for secure data storage. We also carefully vet all our Partner Ally integrations, ensuring they meet our high cyber security standards.
This year continued a trend of technology’s growing influence in the insurance market and all industries at large. We saw a shift where more clients embraced agency software and integrated it into their regular systems and processes. This growing interest and influence prompted our Partner Platform and SIS teams to ramp up our tech focus, including several blog posts on this highly relevant topic.
Leveraging technology to gain and analyze data was
one of the hottest topics of the last few years. As competition in the
insurance market increases, agencies need ways to set themselves apart. Our
industry partners and clients alike told us that data is the key to
differentiation. It improves lead targeting to increase close rates,
streamlines claims processes, and is essential to service personalization, a
must-have for all industries today.
With more data sent and stored, your agency is open to more risk. Malware attacks increased by 358% in 2020 alone. Agencies need to pay attention to how they’re handling and storing data, ensuring they have the best measures in place to protect it. Our experts spent time on this critical topic in posts like:
Customer service expectations took a massive leap
in 2020 and 2021. Customers now expect more personalization, quicker
transactions, and more ways to get answers and implement changes independently.
We looked at the many ways expectations changed through our posts this past
year. A few of the top ones include:
What Insurance Tech do Agency Customers Want? – There was a lot of talk around insurtech this year, much of which can be overwhelming, especially to small to mid-sized agencies. This post looks at the essential tools you need to meet customer expectations and keep your agency evolving.
Sales and Marketing
Sales and marketing are always a challenge for
growing agencies, but new customer expectations and the explosion of digital
service in the past few years have added a new level. Depending on the agency,
these changes could increase or decrease the sales and marketing challenge. We
hope to make these customer expectations and tech advances an asset to your
outreach with these posts:
The CRM for Insurance Agents: A Step-by-Step Guide – CRMs have been a staple in numerous industries for years, and insurance is embracing the power of this sales technology. This post offers a clear guide specifically for insurance agencies to leverage this powerful technology to improve their sales prospecting.
There is no
perfect time for a fresh start – the time is always right to take stock,
re-evaluate your processes and goals, and make some changes. This applies to
all aspects of your agency, including your agency management system.
management systems and providers evolve with the changing market. Are your
system and provider keeping up? Or are you seeing prices go up with little to
no changes in your management system experience? Take a critical look at your
agency management system and provider, analyzing if you have everything you
need to serve your customers and grow your business today and tomorrow with
this “fresh start” checklist.
The Client Portal is going to solve (our
customer service overload). Giving customers the ability to access their auto
ID card, make a payment, and do their certificates will be huge for us on the
small commercial business.
□ Data Analytics and
sales, service, and marketing are the norm, and each is driven by data. Your
agency management systems needs to be able to organize
and report on data quickly and easily. As a data-based industry, you take
in a large amount of information daily and need to process it fast. Data today
will be different tomorrow, so you need systems that can keep up with storage
and reporting. That quick processing means a lot to agency COO’s like Veronica Edwards of Hugh F. Miller Insurance
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.
The last thing you need in your agency is additional process
steps. What you do need are integrated capabilities including accounting
as well as seamless integrations with third party tools including email
flowing into your management system so that client communication is centralized
in one place. Integrated systems cut down on errors from moving data from one
place to another and eliminate bothersome duplication. Cliff Miller of Tri-County Agency, Inc. certainly saw the benefit with his Partner
Platform accounting integration:
Agency accounting is complex, and what works
for a “normal” business just doesn’t fit for (insurance). With the
integration, we can download policies, split commissions, and reconcile with
carriers all in one system. Overall, the fact that accounting is supported
within the management system is a vital component to our efficiency and
confidence in accuracy. It’s a real game-changer that kicks us up a notch.
□ Solid Training and
the management system itself, you want a provider that will back you up and has your interest in mind. No matter how great a system is, it’s useless if your team doesn’t understand how to operate it. Invest in a system and team that focus on making life easier for your agency: personalized training, access to regular refresher courses, and customer service that responds in hours rather than days or weeks. Agency owner Cindi Gresham of Boyle Insurance Agency, Inc. recognizes the value of quality service and support:
Hands down the service (makes the most
impact). We definitely got the savings we were looking for, but it’s the
service that stands out. As soon as we email the Partner Platform team about
something, we get a call back in less than a day – often in just a few hours.
And it’s not just for emergencies; it’s anything we need help with, they
□ Regular Technology
As mentioned at the top, your agency management systems shouldn’t be stagnant. You want a system that adapts to the changing market, adding and updating technology to serve you and your customer’s needs better. And, you want those updates to be things you need, not just something your provider came up with out of the blue. Partner Platform user Kevin Butz of Crawford-Butz Insurance values that dynamic innovation in his agency management system experience:
(If a) platform is evolving to meet our
needs, why would we go somewhere else? It’s like we get a better system each
update. There’s a huge downfall in a system that’s not willing to change. I
like to position us with software that’s evolving and people that are
innovators. That’s the Partner Platform team.
□ Data Security
As an insurance agency, you have a lot of highly-sensitive information flowing into your management system each day. Gaining and processing data quickly is important, and so is keeping that data safe. Find a system and provider that take steps to keep that data secure, including regular stress tests to ensure they have the highest level of protection for you and your customers. Principal Matt Derrenberger of Ann Arbor Insurance said it best:
As a principal, security is my number one concern. A great system means nothing if you’re data’s not safe.
Check all Your Boxes with the Partner Platform Team
We know this checklist well because we apply it to
our Partner Platform system and team daily. Our robust system’s goal is to work
for our agencies, making each click go faster and each process move easier.
If you see something missing from your management system and provider, it’s time to connect with us. Get in touch here, or contact us at [email protected] or 800.747.7005, Option 6.
Your insurance agency marketing goal is to stand out among the noise. Identifying and investing in serving a niche market is one of the most efficient and effective ways to achieve this challenging goal.
When you serve a niche market, you have less competition, making it easier to gain new customers in a specific arena. Your agency is set apart as providing “X” type of insurance, making you distinctive. PIA National’s 2022 Independent Agent Survey found that respondents devoted more than 20% of their book of business to a niche market. You, too, can capitalize on this valuable strategy.
Over the past few years, there has been a surge in insurance agency management transitions. Mergers and acquisitions specifically are on the rise, with an estimated 550 deals, up 12% from the previous year, in the first quarter of 2021. While these transitions can be profitable for owners, they can come with significant trepidation and worry from employees and customers.
As an owner, you need to start thinking ahead about how to prepare your agency for its eventual ownership transition. Whether you plan to perpetuate internally or externally, it’s essential that you prepare. That preparation includes setting your agency up for its highest valuation, prepping your team, and investing in tools and processes to bring your agency into the future.
Good partners and partnerships are critical to success in any business, but it’s crucial in technology where the pace of change and breadth of innovation is high. Insurance tech is growing fast, and it’s critical to look to progressive partners to keep up with the pace.
Why Partnerships Matter
Innovations happen everywhere, every day. Things like electric cars, an increase in IoT, the interconnectedness of tech systems in healthcare and our own homes, and other innovations significantly impact our industry. These tech advances inform how insurers can gain data to inform policies and process claims.