Communication integration: Bridge & Cobos Insurance podcast recap

The Insurance Perspectives Podcast involves contributors outside of HawkSoft. The participants' views are entirely their own and may not reflect the views of HawkSoft.


This recap of the Insurance Perspectives Podcast summarizes highlights of the two episodes about HawkSoft partner Bridge, where HawkSoft host Kenny Hendricks interviews Charlie Griffin of Bridge and Christina Bernard of Cobos Insurance Center, which uses the Bridge business communication platform.

Charlie and Christina discuss the importance of having a business communication platform not only for working with clients and prospects, but also for keeping agency employees connected and able to work efficiently.



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In this article:



Part 1: Bridge (Charlie Griffin)

Watch the video podcast - Part 1


Question 1: Why does Bridge exist? What is your reason for participating in the independent agency channel?

  • Kenny introduces Charlie Griffin, who started in the VoIP space with a company that eventually merged with Bridge. He mentions that Bridge has been a partner with HawkSoft for many years.

  • Charlie shares that Bridge’s vision is to be an integrated, all-inclusive communication platform. For independent agencies, this means handling everything outside of policy management, including VoIP, e-signature, and contact management.

  • Charlie points out that agencies often end up having multiple systems for all these items, which may not all work together.

  • Charlie’s VoIP company originally started by serving captive insurance agents, and later decided to move solely into the independent agent space because they found them to be a better fit with their own company’s model and vision.

  • Kenny remarks on the different mentality of independent agents, who live and die by the consequences of the decisions they make for their business, from captive agents who have many of their business decisions made by the carrier.

“The independent agents that we had as customers, they were just like us. They were entrepreneurs, just like I was with my partners, so there was this one-to-one alignment. We went whole hog into the independent space because our stories were the same.”



Question 2: If you had to pick one aspect of Bridge that draws in and keeps agencies working with you, what would that be and why?

  • Charlie feels Bridge’s differentiating factors are how they treat their customers and their availability to speak with, help, and partner with their customers. He finds it rare in today’s modern technology landscape for providers to be willing to speak directly with customers.

  • Christina agrees that all the people she’s worked with at Bridge have been responsive, easy to get ahold of, and willing to listen to her ideas. She appreciates that Bridge is invested in the real problems their customers are dealing with.

  • Kenny adds that channels of communication are very open between HawkSoft and Bridge as well, allowing them to solve problems for mutual customers quickly.

  • Charlie says his goal is to have the same quality of relationship with his customers in the digital age as he would if he were meeting and speaking with them in person.

“What separates us from the big box stores is the same thing that separates our customers from the big box stores in their space: you're only a phone call away from an owner, a partner, with our company. And I think that is what really sticks with people—that relentless pursuit of customer satisfaction. Nobody's too good to answer a phone or a live chat in my company.”



Question 3: How does Bridge approach data ownership with regard to your customers?

  • Charlie explains that Bridge doesn’t claim any ownership over agency data, and acts mainly as a conveyor of data from one place to another.

  • Any data that is imported to the Bridge data can be exported back out, and the company can do bulk exports for a nominal processing cost if needed.

  • Bridge is SOC II compliant and takes data security very seriously. After a customer leaves Bridge, their data is purged, not retained by Bridge.

  • Charlie mentions that in the future, Bridge could potentially consider tracking data anonymously in the system to help customers view trends and benchmark their agency, but it would only be used for the benefit of the customer.

  • Kenny points out that many customers don’t even realize they can’t export their data out of a system until they want to leave or move to another system, and he appreciates that Bridge puts their export functionality front and center to give customers peace of mind.

“Our stance is we don't own data. So what someone puts in, they can get out. We give lots of ways that customers can get their data out in real time.”



Question 4: What is the hardest part of working with insurance agencies?

  • One of Charlie’s frustrations is that sometimes agencies (like other businesses) want technology to be a cure-all for every problem, without investing any time or effort into it. He adds that businesses will get out of their technology what they’re willing to put into it.

  • Christina adds that she finds agencies often want to cut corners when investing in technology, but choosing to invest in quality products and solutions will serve them much better in the long run.

  • Charlie mentions that the increase of remote work during and after the pandemic has brought about new problems for both technology providers and consumers, as users are now accessing tools from their homes on personal equipment, not just from the office. It’s become more difficult to find one standard solution that works for every user.

“You cannot buy any software that you don't have to invest energy to set up, to train people internally, to make workflows around it, and to manage it throughout its lifecycle to keep it doing what it's supposed to do. The thing I think we run into the most is the idea that software is magic, and whatever ails your agency, this software will fix it.”



Question 5: What is the best part of working with insurance agencies?

  • Charlie loves that his independent agency customers have a desire to keep learning and innovating to find better ways to do things. He enjoys getting to help them solve different problems every day, and discovering new ways to enhance Bridge’s products.

  • Kenny observes that many independent agencies are at the intersection of the more conservative insurance industry and the desire to innovate and modernize, which results in a healthy compromise between the two.

“There's an energy that most agents have. There’s always something weird or new or some idea that's moving. Our product is built by our customers. Over the years, that's how Bridge evolved, was by folks going, ‘I'd love to see this do this.’ I love the innovation that comes out of the group as a whole.”



Question 6: How does Bridge work with the HawkSoft management system? 

  • Charlie says Bridge functions as a communication hub, allowing users to communicate in multiple ways through Bridge’s products while bringing the data from each channel back into HawkSoft as the source of truth.

  • He mentions that in the future Bridge is looking for more ways to add functionality for two-way integration with HawkSoft.

“We have a HawkSoft button, everywhere you can go in Bridge, to take data and format it in a way that can move it into HawkSoft relatively automatically. We give your customers the ability to communicate in other platforms and other ways through Bridge, but then bring it back to HawkSoft as the source of truth.”




Part 2: Cobos Insurance Center (Christina Bernard)

Watch the video podcast - Part 2


In this episode:


Question 1: Tell us about your agency. How long have you been in the business, and how did you get into the business? Do you have any specializations? What gets you excited about insurance?

  • Christina Bernard is involved in sales and agency development at Cobos Insurance Center in Cleveland, Ohio. They have been using HawkSoft as their agency management system since 2011.

  • Kenny shares that conversations he had with Christina as far back as 2011 still guide the way he approaches his work today.

  • Christina says HawkSoft is the backbone of her agency, and their motto is “If it isn’t in HawkSoft it didn’t happen.” She chose Bridge because it supports and integrates with HawkSoft so well, allowing her agency to document everything easily.

  • Cobos Insurance Center was started back in 1947 and has been owned by Christina’s father since 1978. The agency has 16 employees with three different locations, as well as virtual employees.

  • The agency is 25% commercial lines and 75% personal lines, but is making an effort to move more into the commercial space. The agency decided to specialize in not-for-profit businesses, due to the community work the staff was already doing.

  • Christina shares that the agency is driven by the desire to help others in their community, and they make an effort to facilitate connections between their clients, such as recommending a client they know is looking for work to a business owner they know is shorthanded.

  • With employees working in different locations as well as remotely, Christina emphasizes how important it is to have technology like HawkSoft and Bridge that helps them communicate and centralize data.

“What makes us wake up in the morning and what drives us is the ability to help people. And we do that by selling insurance, but really we pride ourselves on the ability to make connections. We really, truly believe that we are a center of influence for our small communities, and we can do that with software technology like HawkSoft and Bridge.”



Question 2: What was your agency looking for when you first encountered Bridge?

  • While Cobos was an early adopter of VoIP, they were still looking for more flexibility in being able to access email and voicemails from any location, and centralize faxes and text messaging.

  • Christina appreciates that Bridge was able to make multiple phone lines, emails, and office locations work seamlessly together and be accessible by multiple people in multiple locations.

  • The agency was also looking for a texting provider, as they knew they could get far better responses through texting than email.

“Bridge will let us put all of our faxes from multiple lines and multiple locations into one central platform, with the ability to checkmark that someone was handling it or assign it if that needed to happen. It just took a big chunk of work off our shoulders.”



Question 3: What is your agency able to do now with Bridge that you couldn't do before?

  • Christina loves Bridge’s features for call recording. Previously, the agency used to collect signatures for every endorsement, but now they can use on-demand recording to record the verbal conversation and upload it to the management system for E&O purposes.

  • She also loves being able to do video proposals through Bridge, and uses their sales pipeline tool.

  • She appreciates that Bridge integrates with so many other partners, so the agency can automate things between systems.

  • Christina shares an example of how Bridge’s tools helped her agency respond quickly to a flood in her area. The agency was getting too many calls to take at once, but using Bridge she was able to quickly make a video with tips for clients, as well as send out quick links via text.

  • Charlie adds that he loves seeing the creative ways that customers think to use Bridge products.

“We had historic flooding hit our territory and we just couldn't take as many calls as we wanted. So using Bridge, that morning I made a small video of how to clean up, who to call, what to do. And then we texted them the contact information and the list of people they could get for trees and restoration.

It was such an amazing feature and it was so well received. It saved us so much time and people were really pleased to have that kind of communication and direction.”



Question 4: What is one thing that you would change about Bridge if you could?

  • Christina would like some of the email configuration to be easier for her to manage, because the agents can’t always make the changes themselves. Other than that, she finds the email solution very simple.

  • She adds that she uses the proposals and sales pipeline platform daily, and would love to see them built out with more customization options. She has significantly improved her close ratio with these features, and thinks she could improve it even further with additional options.

“I would love more pipeline and proposal features because I have significantly improved my close ratio by using these features, and if I could get anybody else to improve their retention the way I've been doing, it would pay for itself.”



Question 5: How would you describe the value that Bridge brings to your agency?

  • Christina credits Bridge for enabling the agency to keep working during the pandemic, because they had everything in place that they needed to be able to work remotely and keep helping their community without missing a beat.

  • Kenny and Charlie add that this is why Bridge and HawkSoft do what they do: in order to help businesses help their communities.

“It [Bridge] gave us the opportunity to help our customer experience, reduce our expenses, improve our employee work-life balance. I can stay home and not risk losing my job or a sale or disappointing someone. And I can only do that because I have software partners like Bridge.”





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HawkSoft Marketing Editorial Team

Author: HawkSoft Marketing Editorial Team

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