Customer retention: ClientCircle & Cowart Agency 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 ClientCircle, where HawkSoft host Kenny Hendricks interviews Torey Maerz of ClientCircle and Donna Cowart of Cowart Insurance Agency, which uses the ClientCircle platform.

Torey and Donna discuss how ClientCircle works with HawkSoft to effortlessly automate communication touchpoints for both customers and prospects.



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In this article:



Part 1: ClientCircle (Torey Maerz)

Watch the video podcast - Part 1


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

  • Kenny welcomes Torey, a CEO and co-founder of Client Circle (formerly Rocket Referrals), which has been one of HawkSoft’s longest partners.

  • Torey introduces ClientCircle as a platform that helps agents get more customers, retain them longer, and win them back, all using automation. He describes this circular sales and retention process as the inspiration behind the platform’s name.

  • Torey talks about how he and his brother Karl started their own company because they wanted to do something great, and they started by talking to a number of independent agents to see what problems needed to be solved.

  • The intent of ClientCircle is to help agents provide great customer service and communication touchpoints without having to think about or spend time on it.


“The client relationship doesn't start when they come to your website and end when your policy is done. It really is a full-circle experience, and that’s what we're trying to bring to the table: one platform that you can use to help get more customers, keep customers longer, and also win them back.”



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

  • Torey says the biggest differentiating factor of ClientCircle is its people. Their customers feel like ClientCircle’s team acts as partners or colleagues to help them solve their problems, rather than a vendor motivated by profit.

  • He also mentions that the NPS feature is particularly powerful in providing meaningful feedback to the agency. He notes the power of positive feedback in boosting agency morale and efficiency, since staff often only hear from customers when something goes wrong.

  • Kenny agrees that often we focus on the negative feedback without realizing that the majority of customers are actually satisfied.

  • Donna agrees that she’s loved the service from ClientCircle, telling a story about how her account manager went above and beyond to help them update their agency’s setup after several staff members retired.

“A lot of times they [agents] focus on the negative feedback from a retention standpoint. But the positive feedback is what keeps that agent and that customer service rep doing what they're doing on a regular basis.”



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

  • Torey stresses that ClientCircle does not claim ownership or make money off of customer data. He feels this is unethical and that agents should consider carefully before using services that do so.

  • Donna adds that one of the main reasons her agency chose ClientCircle was because of their stance on data ownership. After doing a deep dive on her tech stack, she realized that some of her tools were using her data in a way she didn’t agree with, and she made the commitment to replace them with partners she felt she could trust.

  • Kenny emphasizes the importance of researching a partner before signing an agreement so that the agency can give “informed consent.”

“You're giving us your customer data to do something, to use it to communicate, but not for our own gain. We're not making money off of data. We're making money off of services. That's why they call it software as a service.”



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

  • Torey feels that one of the biggest pain points in the industry is not with agents, but with technology providers not facilitating integration and connectivity between systems.

  • Torey would like to see the industry make a collective effort to focus on data integration, which would help both the agents and the technology providers.

  • He notes that direct writers have seamlessly integrated systems and don’t face this problem, so it’s an area where independent agencies risk losing their competitive edge.

  • He feels all-in-one systems aren’t the answer either, because they silo agencies in one system and don't facilitate specialization and innovation. Ideally, he feels software should be specialized but easy to connect to other platforms.

  • Kenny adds that HawkSoft has made a deliberate decision not to be an all-in-one system and to instead be open to integration with vetted partners, because it allows agencies the flexibility to set up their business in whatever way is best for them.

  • Donna adds that she loves how easy it is to implement integrations with HawkSoft, and that her agency has several different integrations enabled.

  • Kenny and Torey discuss the importance of having open API documentation so that partners can easily build integrations.

“We as an industry need to be integrating our data better together. It's such a pain right now for agents and for us to be able to integrate with different services. I see so much opportunity in this industry if we all realize that it's better for everybody if we can come together on how we integrate and allow agents to use their data.”


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

  • Torey admires how focused agents are on helping their community.

  • He observes that agents usually aren’t trying to solve problems only for themselves, but for their clients and for other agencies that might be experiencing the same issue.

“I really admire what agents do in their communities and how they help people, and I also think that translates into wanting to talk to us about how to make things better, not just for them, but for other agents using it.”



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

  • Kenny observes that ClientCircle has one of the deepest integrations available with HawkSoft, and that they have done a lot of work to make the integration seamless and simple.

  • Torey mentions that ClientCircle had developed ways to import HawkSoft data into the system even before the Partner API was available, and that they were able to start building their API integration with the advantage of having prior experience with HawkSoft data.

  • ClientCircle continues to innovate on how they can integrate even deeper with HawkSoft. This was the genesis of their Sidecar feature, which displays inside HawkSoft and lets users see information from both systems without switching screens.

“One of the things that I love to do is stretch the limits a little bit. And that's where Sidecar came from. One day it just kind of hit me that we could have a tool that's monitoring what is on the screen and showing you extra details from ClientCircle. It's really become this question of, how far can we stretch it? We want to take it to the next level, and your platform allows us to do that.”




Part 2: Cowart Insurance Agency (Donna Cowart)


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?

  • Donna Cowart is the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Operations at Cowart Insurance Agency. Donna began in underwriting and software training for carrier reps.

  • The agency is a second-generation family-owned agency that has been in business for nearly 50 years, and came to HawkSoft in 2021.

  • Donna initially worked at the agency, which was a captive agency at the time, while in high school and returned after college.

  • The agency eventually became independent, and now has five employees in addition to using automation heavily. The agency has a mix of personal and commercial business, with more personal lines since the pandemic.

  • What excites Donna most about insurance is seeing the transformation that has taken place with the advancement of technology, as she spent many years doing software training for agents.

“I used to be a software trainer. And then on the agency side, I was always encouraging people to use an agency management system, to get rid of all the paper files. We were paperless before just about anyone else. So just where we're at now compared to where we were ten years ago, 15 years ago, it's incredible.”



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

  • When Donna onboarded with HawkSoft, she had already planned what CRM the agency would implement in the next year or so. After working with HawkSoft, she became more aware of the importance of data ownership, and realized the CRM did not share her same values.

  • At this point she began considering ClientCircle, and chose them due to their values, level of service, and focus on innovation.

  • The agency was looking for marketing automation as well as reputation management, and was excited to be able to do both with ClientCircle. She appreciates the flexibility of ClientCircle’s NPS solution for helping them stay aware of client sentiment.

“The NPS score is very helpful and the way they have it formatted is very useful because you can see what the clients are saying. They have a scoring system, but it's also flexible enough where if you don't want to use it the way it's designed, you can do it a little differently.”



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

  • Because the agency has such a lean team, Donna wants them to be able to rely on automation. She loves the communication templates that make it easy for agents to keep in touch with clients without taking a lot of time.

  • The agency has also used ClientCircle’s Journeys feature to develop complex multi-year campaigns, in addition to simple campaigns for renewals or birthdays.

  • Torey shares how the intent of Journeys is to create long-term goal-oriented campaigns, such as increasing the number of products per customer.

  • Donna discusses the importance of keeping an eye on the big picture and having a long-term plan and strategy for the agency, rather than getting distracted by what’s happening at the current moment.

“You can develop highly complex multi-year campaigns [in ClientCircle]. And at this point, we're running quite a few of them. We've got things as simple and straightforward as birthday campaigns, all the way to renewal review emails, and I've got them formatted over several years.”



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

  • Donna would love to see even more functionality in the Journeys feature so that the campaigns can incorporate additional data, such as knowing whether a home policy is a condo or a renter, or being able to look at specific auto coverages.

  • Torey and Kenny appreciate Donna’s specific examples and discuss how it can sometimes be difficult to improve a product when users don’t provide specific enough feedback

“Now that I understand and see what it [Journeys] can do, it could do a whole lot more if it can grab just a little bit more information. The sky’s the limit if you can give me more data.”



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

  • Donna feels that ClientCircle helps her agency build small campaigns and automations that help them work toward their larger goals, and ensures that important communications always go out despite how busy the agents may be at the time.

  • Torey shares one of his favorite sayings: the most expensive piece of communication is the one that doesn’t get sent.

“Most of our days are just task-intensive, and some things that just don't happen are considered lower hanging fruit. That's always been a pain point for us personally, and I imagine for a lot of agents, to make sure certain things are done and the documentation is there.”





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HawkSoft Marketing Editorial Team

Author: HawkSoft Marketing Editorial Team

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