Do you stay with what you know or entertain new options? Susan Sellberg, president of a six-location insurance agency, describes their company’s experience changing to a new agency management system, a move she describes as “jumping into the unknown.” On this episode of the Trusted Advisor Podcast, we hear how she navigates the challenges involved in taking this big step. Listen in if you are looking for advice as you head “into the unknown”!
Edwin K. Morris (4s):
Welcome to the trusted advisor podcast brought to you by Iroquois group. Iroquois is your trusted advisor in all things insurance. I am Edwin K. Morris. Today in the studio we have Susan Sellberg. She is the president of the Genesee Valley Agency with six locations serving over 10,000 customers in the Genesee Valley region of upstate New York. Susan’s primary role in the agency is overseeing operations. Susan started her career in insurance, assisting with an Iroquois agency database conversion over 10 years ago. Technology is an ever-changing issue in an organization. Tell me what your experience has been.
Susan Sellberg (46s):
With our agency, we have gone through several database conversions over the last few years for various reasons. The most recent we switched from AMS as our database to EZLynx because when we merged with another agency this year, we were going to have to pay to combine our two databases at that time. And we thought it was a good opportunity to look at what else was out there, what was available and what our options were.
Edwin K. Morris (1m 14s):
And that’s almost a full-time job for somebody, right? I mean, in any organization you’re constantly looking at what’s coming up next, that’s a constant challenge. Do you stay with what you know, and the pain points they’re with, or do you try to jump over into another option to give that a go?
Susan Sellberg (1m 32s):
Absolutely. And then you’re jumping into the unknown
Edwin K. Morris (1m 34s):
Scary stuff. So how does the employee adopt or adapt to that change?
Susan Sellberg (1m 41s):
That’s been in all honesty, the biggest struggle is getting the employees on board and bought in and accepting of the change. So you really need to go through the positives of the change, you know, work through the challenges, but then show them how the new system will make us more efficient, able to do our jobs better. And
Edwin K. Morris (2m 2s):
I’m assuming there was some preseeding done. And I say preseeding, like, you have to kind of cultivate a little bit before you jump. So how did that show up with trying to get people to see what the change could bring?
Susan Sellberg (2m 15s):
We did a lot of training ahead of time showing them what the new database would look like. What features were available, tools that were going to make their lives a little simpler, especially in terms of communicating with our customers. So taking some of that busy work off their plate, making it as automated as possible, so that then they can focus on communicating with our customers, dealing with the insurance side of things rather than the technology side.
Edwin K. Morris (2m 42s):
So actually the solution set provided an easier methodology or process for them to execute what they needed to do to do their job.
Susan Sellberg (2m 50s):
Absolutely. The new system, EZLynx has more tools under a single umbrella. So you’re not going into as many programs. It’s all in one place. From the time you quote someone’s insurance, to write the policy, to renewing, you know, text messaging them, getting an e-signature from them, it’s all in the same program, making things a little easier.
Edwin K. Morris (3m 11s):
What would be your best advice to give someone in these shoes to consider when they’re looking at another option?
Susan Sellberg (3m 19s):
I guess, just to weigh the pros and cons for your agency, no system is going to be the best solution, unless you have something custom designed for you. And obviously we all get comfortable with what we’re currently using and you start to overlook the workarounds that you’re doing. In looking at new options, though, there are some up and coming providers out there, there are new technologies, and I think to stay current and to move forward in insurance and other industries, you just have to stay on the cutting edge to stay relevant
Edwin K. Morris (3m 52s):
how does this tie into a strategic view of where five years, 10 years from now, how do you stay on course to the mission and organizational goals and not let this be a hurdle, maybe, maybe in five years, this system might be the thing that’s not so hot.
Susan Sellberg (4m 9s):
Absolutely. Well, and in all honesty, a conversion is never easy. This year, the timing wasn’t ideal, probably for when we did the conversion, we actually went live on the new database two days after my son was born. So I was making a lot of phone calls from the hospital. As with all things in life, you move on, you keep going. Well as with all things, the conversion that you need to add in a little time. So we were on a tight timeline and of course, things ran late and that’s what happened. We kept going, you look at the positives, you look at how this will help us stay on track. Ultimately, we always want to grow the agency, stay in touch with our, keep in contact with our customers, provide that service that they’re relying on from a local agent, and then keep an eye on what’s going on in the industry.
Susan Sellberg (5m 1s):
And maybe there will be something better in five years. And now the one thing we do like about EZLynx is they’re a newer player in the field. So they are a little more in tune to the cutting edge technology, listening to their customers. That’s not to say I can call up customer service and get them to change the system, but they’re not quite as set in their ways as some of the other providers are
Edwin K. Morris (5m 25s):
They’re in that innovative space yet. Right. They’re not set on what they’ve produced. They’re still wanting to refine and make it better.
Susan Sellberg (5m 31s):
Absolutely. And looking to grow and gain market share on their end. So they’re exactly very in tuned to the customers. And what is wanted in the industry,
Edwin K. Morris (5m 40s):
In your background, your experience, your education training, what prepared you for this role?
Susan Sellberg (5m 49s):
Well, I have a degree in engineering actually, and I worked in the higher education setting before coming to insurance. I was in an alumni office working on the database there. And that’s, I really just gravitate towards helping behind the scenes operations, making an organization as efficient as possible, getting us focused so that the people on the front end can do their tests, and in insurance it’s so that the folks can get out there and sell. They can provide that customer service. I can help on the backend to make sure they’re not worried about, you know, how the database is working, whether it’s going to work, make sure that they have the tools in front of them, the information they need at their fingertips.
Susan Sellberg (6m 32s):
Edwin K. Morris (6m 33s):
Thank you for the sharing of this experience. I’m sure with the timing of the childbearing and the rollout of this technology, there may be a lesson learned in there maybe?
Susan Sellberg (6m 48s):
We’re six months after the fact, and we’re still doing data cleanup and I still have a few sleepless nights. So yes.
Edwin K. Morris (6m 58s):
How far is the timeline out and where’s your benchmark? Okay. We’ve crossed the finish line.
Susan Sellberg (7m 3s):
We find, our final bit of data was converted about a week ago, some final bits from the old system that I’m hoping within the next month, we can get everything cleaned up so that we have the next or final step would be getting our reports accurate. So we need that customer data in there and accurate so that we can then report out of the system and use the metrics to move forward and make decisions.
Edwin K. Morris (7m 29s):
Well, we wish you well with that success and hope to hear more and maybe you’ll come back and tell us what the next step is.
Susan Sellberg (7m 35s):
Sounds good. Thank you.
Edwin K. Morris (7m 38s):
Thanks for listening to this edition of the trusted advisor podcast brought to you by Iroquois group. Iroquois, your trusted advisor for all things insurance, and remember get out of the office and sell. This program was recorded live at the Cohen multimedia studio on the grounds of Chautauqua institution. I am Edwin Kay Morris, and I invite you to join me for the next edition of the trusted advisor podcast.