Jeff Cole

Cole Harrison Insurance

We continually recommend them as a trusted partner and top-notch system.

Cole Harrison Insurance

  • Three locations in Kennebunk, Kittery, and Carrabasset Valley, ME
  • Agency Founded in 1882
  • Serves both personal and commercial lines

Jeff Cole and his family have been a staple in the southern Maine insurance industry for over 100 years. It’s the agency’s commitment to gaining and keeping the trust of its community that has made Cole Harrison what it is today. When an SIS representative contacted Jeff in October 2014, he wasn’t looking to make changes to his management system provider. But, after seeing a Partner XE demo and meeting with the SIS team, he saw in the Partner XE community what he emulated in his agency: trust and partnership.

We sat down with Jeff to hear what brought him to the Partner XE community, and why he continues to recommend SIS and Partner XE to his colleagues.

We’ve been serving our customers in Southern Maine since 1882. I’m fifth generation in the family business. Our footprint – our visibility – here is pretty deep-seated. We owe that longevity to two things: regular investment in relevant resources and our skilled team that’s been serving the community all those years.

It’s meaningful to folks to see that level of continuity. They’re trusting us to manage their particular insurance interests, and we’ve consistently earned and kept that trust year after year.

It’s an interesting story. We’d been with our old system since 1985 – almost 30 years without any break at all –and never considered anybody else. But, back in 2014, I got that initial call from SIS. The sales representative wasn’t aggressive or overly assertive. It was a very informative, congenial call.

I listened, and we caught up a few more times. We weren’t immediately ready to make a move, but at the time we were getting frustrated with our vendor for a number of reasons. Finally, the SIS rep said, “Why don’t I just come and do a demo?” No commitment. And he did. That was the start. That demo enabled us to see what Partner XE could do, and that helped us envision how it could work for our agency.

The graphical, web-based interface that Partner XE offers. It is more intuitive than our old system. And the opportunity to move our data offsite. With our past provider, we didn’t have that option. It was economically disadvantageous for us to move our data to one of their data centers. That was disappointing. With Partner XE, we not only got the tools we needed, but we were also able to streamline our workflows and process. It was a profound economic advantage for us.

We also saw SIS wasn’t a monolith encumbered by their size. True to form, (SIS President) Michael Doran and (Client Services Manager) Jake Thaxton came up to help us transition to the new system. They were incredibly nimble and able to turn on a dime for us, without delaying a process for a problem. It’s been remarkable.

Anybody in our agency can reach out to the folks in Columbus, and we connect immediately. There’s no five or six day or week wait. It isn’t putting a ticket into a service center where it gets lost. We get a voice and a name and a face we know. That has been a real delight for us.

(Customer Support Associate) Kevin Belt has been here a few times as we went through the install. And Mike himself has come up to see us a few times since then, too. In fact, he’s coming out next week to visit a collaborative agency in our local five-agency alliance. The President of the company is coming up and making the visit! It’s that real interest in clients and what Partner XE can bring to the table that was meaningful for us, and I know the same is true for our associates.

We started with online, do-it-yourself training to get familiar with the system. That was really helpful, but it’s always better to have a face and a voice to help you out. SIS knew that, and a team of three folks came out for a week to assist us. It was hands-on, in-person training. That was icing on the cake. It helped us become comfortable with the system so we could use it on our own. And they were always accessible after the fact.

One thing I remember about their visit is that the SIS team had never been confronted with a Maine whoopie pie. It’s a half-round chocolate cake with this big gob of white frosting in the middle. Kevin and Jake loved them! It’s that personal connection that really went above and beyond.

Our trigger points were the price and ease of use; Partner XE made our daily workflows intuitive to process. We also wanted a system that used ACORD forms as its foundational sources of data, in a bi-directional way. By that I mean data going into the management system via an ACORD form and coming out of the system that way, too. Partner XE had that.

We did. With three locations, we need data to flow back and forth efficiently. Our old provider was cumbersome with that. To be utilized at our local location, all the data had to flow downstream into their centralized system, be manipulated there, and flow back to the locality. It took a while to process. One of our locations is up in the western mountains – it’s pretty remote. There’s not a lot of fiber optic up there! Partner XE’s web-based system really streamlined that data processes for us.

The responsiveness is the key trait that I would point to. And their willingness to solve a problem, no matter how big or small. Just last week I had questions on the reporting features. The system didn’t seem able to drill into the information I needed. I called up Jake, and he worked through it with me, providing me with a report template to extract that data I needed.

But it didn’t stop there. He wanted to correct this issue for good. He’s connecting me with an SIS team member who’s working to improve reporting, so they can hear from me first-hand what I need. It’s that nimbleness, that connectivity to clients that is appealing and refreshing.

First, recognize there isn’t a perfect system. From there, it’s up to the agent to determine priorities. For us – and I think for most agencies – it’s in the day-to-day transaction efficiency. If the efficiencies are there, you can easily adapt them to your agency. It may not necessarily be workflows you embrace today, but consider why a vendor uses certain process. Think about whether or not you can adapt a system to that.

Absolutely. And we have, on a number of occasions. Partner XE has brought us so many benefits, especially with workflow efficiency. It brought us direct bill commissions downloads – and boy am I glad! It has been a godsend for us. We don’t have to create internal invoicing for a particular policy premium; we patch it through download. It’s great.

And that’s just one example of the many ways Partner XE and SIS have benefitted us. We continually recommend them as a trusted partner and top-notch system.