Recently, our very own Julie Levine was featured on Re:Applied, the official podcast of Applied Systems Technology. We use Applied’s agency management system, TAM, on a daily basis and she was given the chance to speak to how our office uses this innovative and efficient software.
Interested? Give it a listen!
Forgot your headphones? Read the transcript below.
Brian Langerman [0:05] From Applied Client Network and the team behind Connections, this is Re:Applied. I’m your host, Brian Langerman, CEO of Applied Client Network.
For today’s episode, we’re talking mastering Applied TAM with ACM member and Florida chapter officer Julie Levine of Harry Levine Insurance Agency as well as project manager and principal product owner for Applied TAM within Applied Systems, Jeff Kaufman.
Welcome to the show, Julie and Jeff.
Julie Levine [0:38] Hi, thank you for having me.
Jeff Kaufman [0:40] Thanks for having me.
Brian Langerman [0:41] To kick things off, we’ve asked Julie to share a bit about her background, and how her agency approaches its use of the software. And given the current time of year, and the fact that Julie and her team are based out of Florida, she’ll also add some insight as to how the technology helps them when it comes to disaster preparedness.
Julie Levine [1:02] Well, thank you again for having me on. And I’m really excited to talk about how we use TAM, hopefully to its fullest capacity. I feel like every day that I’m learning something new that I can expand my agency to make sure that we’re using every feature to its fullest capacity.
So just a little background about me. I’ve been in the insurance industry for 13 years now. No, I was not planning to go into insurance; I don’t know anyone who ever is. I always say that I married into it. So I met my husband in college, his family had an agency, and here I am, 13 years later. And I really established myself as the Applied guru in the agency.
We were a Nationwide agency that went independent in ’08. And I took over sort of the technical side of things, the workflow management, and sort of created a position for myself. My background was Environmental Studies, so actually being in a paperless system sort of works. And I’m just really happy that I found something that works so well for me.
Like Brian said, I’m based in Orlando, Florida. So we have some interesting things—weather-related and not—that we have to deal with on a pretty regular basis. I wrote an article in the Connections newsletter that went out that sort of touched on some of the things that our agency does to be prepared for hurricane season. And I think a lot of these things can also be transitioned over for just people working from home for whatever reason, whether you’re transitioning to more of a home-based office or whatever the world throws at your agency.
So some of the things that we found that have really worked is obviously being on a cloud-based system. I do know some offices that have their TAM hosted in the agency, and they’ve had some unique extra hurdles that they have to deal with.
And I know, agencies that are not on Applied products that everyone has to work in the office, there’s no flexibility whatsoever. So I think everything moving into the future is just going to be more and more cloud-based. So I’m very happy that we’re on the product that allows us to be very flexible.
Something that we’ve also implemented in our agency more recently is a VOIP phone system; we have to have that. You can have a whole team working from home, but when we call our clients, it looks like Harry Levine Insurance is calling. They don’t know where we are, which really makes for an efficient transition whether, like I said, hurricane or any other reasons why you may be working from home.
Something else that I’ve found recently that’s really important is making sure that your team is comfortable with all of your applications. Anything digital that you’re using, whether it’s the phone app, whether it’s TAM, Epic, whatever the case may be. Because you’re not in the office per se, you don’t have that, “hey, hey guys, how do I do this real quick?” It’s much more difficult. So you really want to make sure your team is comfortable with your technology, or at least if they’re maybe not that you have a dedicated point person that can handle all of that troubleshooting.
Now with a hurricane, you may have people who don’t have internet or phone. And so those are going to be some unique situations that you may have to have, people moving about. But just some of your basic technical things, whether it’s people that are new to Zoom, who don’t know how to turn on the video or the audio. As long as you have one point person, everyone can go to. It also helps keep organized that you can see maybe some systematic issues with your agency, in either training or with your digital rollout of a new product or something. Any issue that you may have, one point person is your is your point.
So we have a few different tech people in the agency but I’m sort of the Applied point person for any issues and then somebody else’s for the phones or anything like that and really helps streamline things.
Something else that’s really great is making sure that you’re using some sort of communication tool. So in our agency, we created a WhatsApp account, a group chat for everybody. We have too many people to be on just a normal message, SMS chain, and we’re able to send videos to each other, easily communicate information, say just a quick “good morning,” send some funny memes. If people are working from home, it really helps create that feeling that you’re still together, you know, you’re not by yourself.
I downloaded some application (I don’t even remember the name, I’m not that cool). But I was able to put a funny filter on the video and had some ears or a hat or something and sent a little video update to my team on something. And they just thought it was hilarious.
So the main thing there is constant communication, but if you can make things a little light-hearted in any difficult time, it really does help the team and let them know that you care as well and care about their wellbeing.
So some of the things that we’re doing with TAM, specifically—like I said, other than being cloud-based—that make it such a great program for us, is having the ability to reach out to our clients in an easy manner.
So in the past, we were a little bit more reactive with reaching out to our clients when we saw large premium increases. What we’re doing now, though, is calling everybody once a year. (Not once per policy, cuz that would be a lot of work.) But once per year, checking in with our clients and seeing how they’re doing. Seeing if there’s anything that we can help them with, reviewing their upcoming policy, of course, trying to cross-sell, maybe increase some coverage. And this is a new program that we’re doing.
And what’s great is that I’ve been able to create some new activity codes and some new workflows that my team is able to follow. And then I can now run some spectacular reports, and see who’s behind, who’s on top of things, and who’s doing what they’re supposed to be doing, who’s asking about those other lines of coverage, who’s recommending maybe increasing their liability coverage on their auto or who asked for the other dwelling rental property that they have here in Florida so that we can quote all their business.
So being able to run those reports, we’re not micromanaging, we’re just making sure that the work is being done to be an efficient organization, and also an organization that can continue to grow no matter what the world throws at us.
So as my agency continues to grow, and we’re trying to find more ways that we can use our systems to its fullest capacity, I continue going and reaching out to my Applied Client Network by their board members, as well as my local meetings and the forums, of course. And so it’s great to learn what other agencies are doing.
I found at one point that we weren’t using the Contacts section in TAM as well as we should be and I feel like that’s a very common theme in a lot of agencies. And [I] realize how important that is for running reports and for tracking things and so we’ve really started to work more for using that function so we can properly track whose information do we have, who’s already missing. And then we can run reports based on that.
It’s been very helpful as we are working on these renewal calls and reaching out to the insured that we get updated contact information. And so at this point, that’s when we’re really going in and updating the contact information.
What’s also really good is if we don’t have email addresses for somebody in the system, this is that time where we can say “hey, we’d love to get your email address so that we can communicate with you via email blast, don’t worry, we don’t sell your email.” I can’t believe how many people still think that we’re selling their email address to some corporate company or anything. But let them know that hey, you know, there’s all this extra functionality that as an agency, we’re able to offer you if you share your email address.
In commercial, we are actually at about 98…97% of our commercial clients we have email addresses for. In personal lines, I think it’s about 92 or 93%. So I don’t know that there are too many more email addresses for us to get but it does make it helpful when we’re communicating with our clients. So whether we’re sending an email blast about “Hey, hurricane coming, this is the information you need to know, this is how you can reach out to us” or “Hey, your your policy’s coming up for renewal. We couldn’t reach you on the phone. Please call us as soon as possible so that we can shop your policy.”
Being in Florida, like I said, we have unique challenges and we actually had an insurance company go out of business—went insolvent—last year, effective 11/1/19. And I had about 500 policies we had to move. So we were emailing and calling a lot of clients, and if it wasn’t for having updated contact information in the system, I don’t know how we could have done it. Or if we were on paper files, oh my goodness. [laughs]
I actually met an agent one time who was like, “Oh, I’m not scanning. I’m not going paperless. I’m gonna wait for the whoever buys my agency.” And I just want to be like, “Yeah, well, the cost of your agency is going to be decreased tremendously, the value, because of the extra work [for] whoever buys your agency, and the time it’s going to take to get your data clean to get your contacts clean. Like, you’re doing yourself a disservice for not using whatever systems are at your fingertips.”
But I think that’s probably an outlier. I don’t think most people think that way these days.
Something else that I sort of learned was, again, with my Applied Client Network friends, is the difference—I can’t tell you how many people do this is they list brokers under “Companies” instead of under “Brokers” and then it just…you want things to be clean in your system, you know, whatever the case is, whether you’re migrating to Epic or not, or just trying to run some valid report. If your system and data is clean, it means that you’re able to get the best out of your system.
Like I said, where we’re setting all these activities, so that we can track our workflows to reaching out to our insured. If we just had random codes people were using and a billion activity codes, I’d have no way of tracking what’s a success, what’s not a success. So maybe that’s just a tip is making sure your data is clean.
And it may seem like some really daunting task. But reach out to your Applied Client Network local group, you know, see what other agencies are doing. There’s all these reports that you can run, or you can just start with one thing. Okay, every account we touch this next year, we’re going to update the contacts on. Seems pretty minor, but that is a huge impact on all your future marketing and everything, having the correct contact information. Or just saying, “Hey, I’m gonna clean up my vendors.”
One thing that I didn’t know until more recently, because we started using the accounting features in TAM for commercial producer, so we brought on a consultant to help us. And she’s like, “Oh, yeah, you know, you can inactivate and activate companies and vendors and stuff” and I was like, “Well, I, I knew about it, but I don’t really know what it does.” And she’s like, “Oh, no, you want to do this.” And so we I did it for companies and vendors, and oh my gosh…game changer! Especially for companies, because you have all of these, like thousands of companies, especially for us in Florida, and some went out of business, some you don’t use any more. So being able to inactivate them means they no longer show up.
You know, when you double click that ICO screen, and instead of having a billion companies, you only have a million, it just really helps clear things up and make you more efficient, because you’re not like, “Oh, which company am I supposed to use again? Oh, no, not this one. This one?” It only shows the companies you’re supposed to use.
So that was really not that big of a task. You can run a report, show all your companies. And then you can go through and just quickly say, “Nope, I use that one. Nope, I don’t use that one” and clean it up pretty quickly. I think your team will thank you as well.
You just have to also remind them though, that if there’s a company there that they don’t see, make sure that they change the dropdown from “access” to “all” and then if it’s there, it needs to be reactivated. You can either give them the rights to do that, or as the administrator, you can just go in and do that. Which was what I would recommend, so people aren’t willy nilly, just activating companies, whatever they want. But that was a big thing that really helps sort of clean up your data. It’s really easy, and it makes your team much more efficient as well.
Brian Langerman [13:44] Thanks so much for sharing your approach and perspective, Julie. Before we take a short break, I’d like to ask you a quick question. What’s the best movie or Netflix series you’ve watched in the last 30 days?
Julie Levine [13:57] [laughs] Well, my husband I started watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime and oh my goodness, love it! Maybe it’s because I’m Jewish and I could really relate to some of it [laughs]. She makes a mean brisket and I’m having brisket later this week. But it is hilarious. It is light-hearted. It is quick and fun. Maybe a little not safe for work, but hilarious.
Brian Langerman [14:22] Awesome. I have not heard of that. So I’m gonna have to check it out. Definitely.
So I know I would be remiss not to give the opportunity for a shout-out to your fellow Florida chapter officers. So if you want to take a moment there.
Julie Levine [14:38] Oh my goodness. Yes, my Florida chapter offices are amazing. So if anyone is trying to get more involved with Applied Client Network, reach out to your local officers. I love mine. All of us ladies are friends. We’re in constant communication with each other, we support each other.
If it wasn’t for them, I probably wouldn’t have taught a class on Applied Net last year. And it’s a really cool experience to talk to other agencies and help them see what they’re doing. We’re all in the same boat. There’s enough business for everyone. We’re not really competitive. We all can work together to make the industry better.
So check out your Applied Client Network, your local group, and definitely shout out to my Florida ladies.
Brian Langerman [15:18] Excellent. Thanks, Julie.
We’re gonna take a quick break. And then we’ll be back to chat even more with Julie and Jeff about all things Applied TAM.
I’m so thrilled to have Julie and Jeff here to dive even deeper into Applied TAM to look even further. To kick off our discussion, Jeff, I’d love to get your reaction to what Julie has shared with us today.
Jeff Kaufman [15:47] Yeah, thanks, Brian. And thank you, Julie, that was really insightful.
One of the cool things about my position at Applied Systems is I get to hear some of those stories about how people are using TAM and what’s working, and sometimes what’s not. And that’s okay. But it’s really, really insightful to hear some of how you guys are taking advantage of Applied TAM, and the client network and the things that we’re doing together to kind of make that all possible.
There are really two things that stood out.
The first one for me was flexibility. You know, you talked a lot about being able to access your cloud environment from really any location. You know, that’s good in a disaster recovery situation. That’s good just in an overall convenience situation, being able to access TAM where and when you need to.
You talked about things like using contacts a lot more efficiently, and then running some of those really powerful reports to use that data to really focus in on the things that you’re trying to get out of your system. And I think that’s one of the hallmarks of Applied TAM is that you really have the flexibility to do those things on your terms, which is very, very helpful.
Brian Langerman [16:58] Great, thanks, Jeff. Let me follow up. Jeff, a question for you. What tip or insight stood out the most to you from what Julie had shared with us earlier?
Jeff Kaufman [17:07] One of the things that I found most interesting was for somebody like Julie who’s been using TAM for so long and so deeply, she still finds opportunities to learn something new.
And that’s one of the things that I love about TAM, that’s one of the things that I love about the client network is, it doesn’t matter how deep you are with TAM, how long you’ve been using it, how much you think you know about it, there’s always going to be something that you can learn, that you can take away, that you can do differently or better. And that just speaks to the depth of knowledge of the people that use it and the depth of what the product itself can do to help you really tackle all of those different scenarios that you might have.
Brian Langerman [17:48] Great, thank you.
This next question, [it would] be great to get perspective from both of you on. I’ve often heard from many of our users in the past that topics like saving settings in order to pre-fill forms is a huge timesaver. Do you have any other ideas for timesaving tips and tricks for other users that hasn’t been shared yet?
Jeff Kaufman [18:07] So I will say there are a lot of things exactly like what you talked about: using pre-filled, saving some settings. There are things as simple as saving your login for TAM when you log in in the morning. It just makes it that much easier. It saves you a couple seconds every day to fill in that information to make it just that much easier for you to get in every day.
You know, there are a million different things, all of which Julie probably knows, just in terms of the quick things you can do: tabbing through using keyboard shortcuts. There’s a lot of those little timesavers that you can find throughout TAM.
Julie Levine [18:42] Let me add as long as you’re not saving the password. That’s a security risk.
Jeff Kaufman [18:46] Yeah, no, I absolutely. And I will say just in general, it does not save the password, it just pre-fills your user code.
Julie Levine [18:55] Definitely.
I would say one area is when you’re entering a prospect or client, any of those fields you can really set as a preset. So the agency branch, the CSR, the code, all that I have set for my agents, so they never even have to think about that. A little bit of time. When you’re adding a policy, you can have some of those fields saved as well.
I think an area that my agency doesn’t do a really good job on that I’m trying to do a better job on is form letters. I think that’s an area that people are really intimidated by and I completely understand why. Like, I know Excel but Word? Oh my goodness. So scary.
But there’s some great teachers out there; there’s some great classes. And being able to put some form letters inside of TAM will save your team so much time. We’ve sort of used the memo function a little bit for that of just some common like, “hey, please sign the attached” or whatever the case may be. But form letters? Man…the amount of time that that will save my team. It’s one of the big projects I’ll be working on in the future.
Brian Langerman [20:06] Great. Thanks, Julie.
Jeff, as you know, Applied Client Network represents more than 150,000 Applied customers worldwide. Could you maybe just share a little bit of perspective for our TAM members out there about what might be next around the Applied TAM roadmap?
Jeff Kaufman [20:24] Absolutely, Brian. You know, we stick to some core tenants when we talk about TAM, and at the top of that is meeting the needs of those people that are on TAM. We’ve got a lot of people that are using TAM that have been for quite some time, 30 plus years in a lot of cases. We know that TAM is a system that has had multiple iterations and updates over the past several decades. And so we know we’ve met a lot of needs that people have had, but those needs have changed. So over time, there are new technologies, there’s new integrations, new things that people need in order to accomplish their task.
We’re putting some focus in the coming year on how to find the information that you’ve put into TAM. And that seems very general, and I understand that. But there are a lot of things related to “how do I know how many attachments are attached to somebody? When I look at a group of things, how do I know what’s actually under there? How do I make sure that I’m working on the right attachment or the right customer?”
And so we’re working on some things to make that process a lot easier, to make sure that I can find a client, when I might not have all the information that I need in order to find the specific attachment or file that’s attached to somebody based on something that might have been done, you know, a year or two ago.
So that’s a real big focus for us in the coming year. And probably for, you know, the next year after that. Just to make sure that as you’re putting all this data in, we’re giving you a good way to find it and get it out and use it.
Brian Langerman [21:51] As you know, Applied Net 2020 is just right around the corner. Any specific insights [or] behind-the-scenes access you can give us for any new announcements around Applied TAM?
Jeff Kaufman [22:03] So we certainly will have some specifics and we’ll have some great announcements of some new features and things like that that we’ll see. I’m very, very excited. I’ve been working real hard with some members at the Client Network, to work on the education sessions and the TAM track to make sure that we’re getting some really good information out to the people. There’s a lot of people like Julie, who have been using TAM for a long time and are very knowledgeable about how it works and have a lot of insights into how individuals can maybe get more out of the system. And so we’re lining all those up, we’re making sure those classes are available. And we’re getting really excited for what we might be able to present to people at Applied Net.
Brian Langerman [22:44] Okay, great. Thanks for that perspective and insight, Jeff. Before we wrap up, any closing thoughts that you’d like to share with the group?
Julie Levine [22:52] I’d like to say that I just really appreciate that there’s always a push for more knowledge and education and new topics that are being considered for for classes and webinars. And that if I have a question, I can either reach out on Applied Client Network, or I can even call Applied on something. And I’m never told like, “Oh, why don’t you know that?” or “Oh, that’s silly.” Everyone’s like, “Oh, yeah, hey, let me show you how to do it” or “Oh, that’s a great question.”
And it really just helps my learning and my agency’s growth to have all of these resources at my fingertips to grow and learn. So I never feel uncomfortable asking a question or “Ooh, that might be dumb.” I’m always so welcomed with information that I just love that feeling.
Brian Langerman [23:39] I’ve got one final question for you. Would you care to share a business leader who has inspired [you] or someone you’ve admired throughout your career? And why?
Julie Levine [23:49] I’ll take that. You know, I was thinking about who would be a leader that I’ve looked up to, or maybe someone in the industry that I really liked the way that they run their company or agency and I was talking to my husband about this.
We’re a family-owned agency, my husband and I work together. And he said, “You know, if I had to work somewhere else, I think it would be USLI.” And I was like, “You know, that’s a really good point.” We really love their company culture. And whenever there’s a disaster, they always send out an email that they have a matching program. So we as an agency donate money, that they’re going to help donate money for relief efforts in the Bahamas, Haiti. I mean, anything that happens they are first to jump in and say, “Hey, we’re going to be here to help. Here’s how you can help us.” So I love that culture.
I’ve also been to their campus up in Pennsylvania. Their food court was amazing. [laughs] The cafeteria was spot-on and I love food, so that might have something to do with it. But they also push education for all of their employees. They’re always helping their employees get more designations, helping them grow within the industry. And that’s something that I’ve definitely tried to pass on to our agency, is we help support designations, whether someone wants to get their life insurance license, or they want to get their CIC or ANIS, whatever the case may be. We love that; we want to support our agents and continue that that growth. And and so we definitely look up to Tom Nerney at USLI and how he runs the organization there.
Brian Langerman [25:28] That’s a great story, Julie. Jeff, how about for you?
Jeff Kaufman [25:31] So other than the leadership at Applied Systems, which I feel like I am contractually obligated to give a shout-out to. Frankly, they have, they have all been fantastic. And even with the change in CEO that we saw a little over a year ago, you know, it’s just been fantastic. The way that they’ve supported us in our mission, and supported the people that use the product every day.
I will add, I have made it a goal of mine to go back through and read some of the things from some of the presenters we’ve had an Applied Net the last few years. So you know, if you remember, we had Walter Isaacson, who’s a biographer. We had [Chesley] Sullenberger, Captain Sully. And we also had Scott Kelly. I’ve gone through and I’ve read some of the things from them, and all of them have some really interesting insights into, you know, goal setting and teamwork, and how do we accomplish the things that we want to accomplish?
And while it seems like outer space and insurance are two very different areas to work in, I’ve gotten some really amazing lessons just from reading through some of the things that they have. So while maybe not a business leader, you know, they’re very much thought leaders in terms of how do we accomplish the goals that we’ve set out for ourselves. And it’s been incredibly inspiring. If anybody hasn’t read through some of those stories, I highly, highly recommend those.
Brian Langerman [26:55] Oh, great. Thanks, Jeff. Well, thank you again, Julie and Jeff, for joining me to share your insights with the Applied Client Network community. I’d like to also thank everyone for tuning in today. And don’t forget to subscribe to the show or leave us a review on Apple podcasts or wherever you’re listening to to help others find us. And remember, if you’re not an ACM member, and are looking for even more Applied systems knowledge or want to connect with fellow insurance professionals like Julie or any of our guests, visit AppliedClientNetwork.org to join today. Thank you.