Dustin Boss, CEO, Emerge Apps on the Connected Insurance Podcast presented by Agency Revolution

Dustin Boss, CEO, Emerge Apps

Built by agents for agents, Emerge Apps partners with the nation’s leading insurance agencies to provide their clients and prospects with amazing software, sales tools, and resources to help them win with value… not insurance quotes. Dustin Boss knows the importance of using the right technology to get the job done. Listen to this discussion to discover: 

  • How a technology platform can help agents do all of their OSHA record keeping.
  • When the right time is to “poke the bear” with your prospects.
  • How to show your clients that you care about more than just selling policies.

By investing in the right technologies, you can offer your clients real value and benefits that will tip the scales in your favor when it comes time to purchase. 

Presented by Agency Revolution, the Connected Insurance Podcast provides weekly opportunities for listeners to dive deep into the trends affecting insurance agents and brokers today and to gain proven strategies and tactics for agency growth. Our hosts facilitate thoughtful panels and 1:1 conversations with a variety of prominent thought leaders, with a focus on how to streamline and drive operational efficiency for your independent agency through the intelligent use of technology.

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Joel Zwicker: Dustin Boss, thank you for making some time today. I appreciate it.

Dustin Boss: Hey, no problem, sir. I’m glad to join you.

Joel: Hey, listen. I may know by day you spend a little bit of time being an independent insurance agent. Folks out there listening, this is a guy that not only he lives in, he knows, he sits and he walks in your shoes every day but if you will, sometimes he spends a whole lot of time being CEO of Emerge Apps. That’s where this conversation wants to- that I wanted to have today is a about emerge apps because I know you guys are doing some amazing things. Just Dustin, tell us what is Emerge Apps.

Dustin: Emerge Apps is a software company that we built to really help me write more business. That’s how it started. We built these tools and resources that we used at our agency, and they really took off because I had so many friends around the country with different groups. We’re part of different insurance groups. They started saying, “Can I access these tools as well? We started to contract with other agencies around the country. That’s really where it started. The whole concept of the company was to build software tools that employers love, that fit into the realm of risk management and insurance and provides us as agents an opportunity to engage as many employers as we possibly can, prospects, and then to help us write that business by exposing what their current agent isn’t doing for them and eroding that current agent relationship. Then, of course, implement these tools so we retain clients for as long as we possibly can with good customer service and good service plans around that.

That is really the vision and that is really what Emerge Apps is. We started with a software called OSHALogs.com. If you do any worker’s comp insurance, there is a big overlap into the OSHA safety realm, and we built OSHALog.com to be a platform that employers can use to do all their OSHA Recordkeeping, create all the first report of injuries and that’s really what started this whole thing, Joel. We have a lot of fun with it. A lot of people think I’m nuts doing both of these things, but I love it, I live it and I get to meet nice folks like yourself around the country at different trade shows. It’s been a lot of fun.

Joel: Very cool. There’s no big secret here. Personally, if you’re a fan of the podcast, you’ll know that I certainly talk about it. I know when Michael’s on here, he talks about it a lot here. Here at Agency Revolution, we’re a big fan of this and it’s that customer journey and that is where the independent agent can really define themselves in the marketplace, what separates your agency from the one down the street or some.com or some 800-number where someone could reach out and get their solution. You guys are really good at doing that. Give me a specific example about maybe you have a client or a partner that’s really changed that customer experience leveraging the apps.

Dustin: Here’s the idea. I want to, as an agent myself and the agents that we work with and we really talk about, we want to write those companies, these large commercial middle-market companies, and guess what, have a pretty damn good relationship with our current agent. These are the type of clients I want. I don’t want these clients that switch every three years, they want a bid and quote. I want to be purchased for what I do. This customer experience that we implement and what we teach our agents and really designed to and engage employers on a non-insurance topic. Yes, it overlaps, and that’s how we start to engage on the insurance side, but when we engage with an employer, we want to focus on prevention first. We’re telling them, “Hey, I may not even write your insurance right now. I want to give back. I want to help you. I want to show you where if you just focus on the insurance side of things, you’re missing out on the full spectrum of risks and the things that are going to impact your organization.” We really say, “Why don’t we start on prevention?” We actually work outside the insurance renewal process when the other agent is right sleeping, I always tease. My little analogy is like a grizzly bear. When do you want to poke the bear when these on his hind legs hungry or do you want to do it when he’s hibernating? These tools, we can start to engage with an employer.

A one example with the OSHALogs product, we are working with an employer that had a really good agent relationship. We met them at ABC Contractor. That’s a group of contractors here in town and a really good agent relationship. We said, “Why don’t we come and show you what our OSHALogs app is all about? You can complete all your OSHA records. It does your first report of injury, does all sorts of entry metrics, notifies you when there’s an injury. Why don’t we come in, we help you with that, and guess what, we’ll scholarship for you? It’s just we feel it’s the right thing to do, we help the community, and guess what, if you do like what we do and you want to switch your insurance to us down the line, great, but you don’t have to.” That’s how we get in the door.

What we found was when we start helping them with OSHA records, you get to see all the different injuries and you can just see how many days away from work that are on these OSHA records. If you know anything about the workers’ comp world, the days away from work is a huge, huge impact on the experience mod and the cost to the insurance plan itself. We are very quickly able to show where this agent, their current agent was dropping the ball. They had a bunch of injuries, they were seven to 14 days away from work.

Again, this is one of the largest contractors in our area, actually in the all of the state of Michigan. We took that over and an agent record letter. Again, this was a really good competition. People would know this agency, it’s a national agency that we took it away from, but we would not have gotten in there if we didn’t show them a different customer journey, a different experience. Instead of just focusing on the insurance sale, we wanted to work with them. We wanted to see what really popped the hood on their claims and their OSHA records, and that OSHA record discussion is what started that whole piece. We didn’t even start on the insurance, but we were able to engage and then erode that agent relationship very quickly.

Joel: Dustin, if I’m not mistaken, I think you just showed value is what we’re talking about. You showed extreme value. I think in this world, when we talk about great relationships, I think people often mistake in the buddy relationship from the business relationship now. Maybe I need to define that for you. There’s the buddy relationship where, “I’ve known this person for a long time, we’ve gone golfing, maybe our kids are on a softball team together.” Whatever the case may be, but then there’s the business relationship showing extreme value and helping them in their business because at the end of the day, their business is what provides for all the things they love. I see that you just totally flipped that script where you can maybe eventually build that buddy relationship, but I think at the end of the day, it is even more important to have that business relationship. Does that make sense?

Dustin: Yes. We’re in this business and agents are friendly, friendly people. I was teased. Once I get to know somebody, a prospect say, I can be your buddy too, we have a lot of fun, but whether you’ll work with me as your agent, I’m going to be okay. Guess what, whether you work with your current agent, he’s going to be okay. I always say what’s best for the business. That’s really the conversation we have to make them focus on the business. You’re right. If all I have to bring value is just another relationship, another buddy, that’s not where I want to compete in that space because we’re just trying to out buddy each other and that’s not the way to do it.

Joel: Dustin, tell me how this gets in the hands? How does this work for an agent? How does this get in the hands of employers? You mentioned scholarshipping it. I’m just for the listeners so they know, “Okay, I got this app, but what do I do? Do I sell it or do I scholarship it?” How does that look like?

Dustin: The software is designed to, we want to get this into the hands as many different employers as we possibly can. An agency who subscribes for app, they can give it to two people, they can give it to 20 people, they can give it to 2,000. It’s going to cost the agency the exact same thing. I want to get this into the hands of an employer. I want to say, “This is a value of our agency.” We feel it’s the right thing to do. We want to give back to the community. Guess what, if you decide that based on our relationship and we started working together, that I’m a fit on the insurance side and you want to give me some opportunity on that, that’s great.

What I’m starting, I want to engage. I want to get my foot in the door and I want to be able to be a giver. That’s been a big part of our success because once you give the software, then we train agents how to then treat that employer as a client of their agency. Just because you don’t sell them insurance yet, doesn’t mean they’re not a client. How much easier is it to sell them on the insurance when you can cross-sell them into the insurance? When we write somebody, if we work with somebody on the OSHAlog side or one of our other apps, it fits very well and we can start to have these discussions on the insurance because of how it overlaps, but we start to treat them like a client. They get to know us, they get to like us, and lastly, they get to trust us. How much of a better position are we in to start taking off that incumbent agent. As we use a software with them, as we start to do analysis, it opens up these conversations about their current agent isn’t doing for them what they should be doing. Guess what, we can start to erode an agent relationship. Based on what we find, the problems that we find, we can either erode it very quickly or it might take some time. The whole idea is we’re in there, we’re working with them, instead of trying to bound on the door or call them and cold-call them to work on their insurance. It’s a very proactive way to engage with these employers.

Joel: I love it because part of my, I guess I can almost call it, ignorance of this, so I come in thinking I knew enough about your solution, and say, “This is a great way for insurance agencies to improve the customer relationship, to really define that customer journey at extreme value.” Realistically, this might be one of the best marketing tools that an agency can have at their fingertips.

Dustin: Again, what am I by day? I’m an insurance agent. I’m a producer. I’m a commercial producer. I have my sales goals. I build these for me. I am out there every day using these tools and I bring these concepts of what I’m learning, being on the cutting edge, being out in the field, and then bring these down to our 250+ agencies around the country that subscribe to the apps. It’s been a lot of fun, a lot of work and lots of fun.

Joel: Very cool. Now, I hear you saying apps. We’ve talked about this OSHA compliance one which is incredibly interesting, huge value. I hear S on there. I hear the S. I’m assuming there is another one that goes hand-in-hand. Tell me about it.

Dustin: When the OSHALogs thing came in, it’s around this fundamental philosophy. Again, regardless if you use my apps or not, I want to give you guys some really cool tips here and how to look at marketing and prospecting is. There is so many insurance agencies that are out there trying to compete in the insurance space. They want to sell. They want to bid. They want to quote. That’s where you mentioned earlier, the body system where we want to out-body, we want to build that relationship. Again, critically important, but another agent, it’s just the same deal.

Then there is some folks that really have spent good quality resources on containment strategies. When something bad happens, we have resources at our agency that can jump in and can help mitigate the problem. Claims folks, claims adjusters. You have safety professionals, workers’ comp claims management. All important, but when something bad happens, that’s when they jump in. There is a very small subset of agencies around the country, very successful agencies that take it one step further and say, “We want to focus our attention on prevention.” We prevent first. Then, we contain when something bad happens. Then, only then do we focus on insurance.

We flipped that whole concept. Instead of focusing on insurance first, we want to do prevention. That is what is going to lead to success down the line. Our apps are all designed on how to have that vision, how to have that discussion with the employer to make their current agent look like, “All he cares about is selling me the insurance policy.” I need to do the things that are going to prevent me from even having to use our insurance. The OSHALogs was really a first-floor ride into that because of the impact it has on the workers’ comp. It allows us to expose what their current agent is or isn’t doing for them.

On these OSHALogs, Joel, what our software does, it creates all the OSHALogs as our first report of injuries. These OSHALogs for those who haven’t seen these, that are listening to this, they’re basically loss runts. You can get loss runts and work with an employer and see all the injuries that an employer has. Even more so because there is a lower barrier to entry on these OSHA records. Most importantly, it shows a number of days away from work an individual injury causes. If you know anything about the workers’ comp realm, days away from work has a huge impact on the claim cost. It can be a two to three times multiple on the experience mod.

If I’m working with an employer on these OSHA records talking about prevention, how do we use this as an injury-clue system? How can we look for patterns? How can we look at other injury statistics? I’m going to see their results without even tipping off the other agent by requesting loss runts, and I can start to have those conversations.

We had such great success with the OSHALogs product. We started looking at these other prevention tools, other prevention areas. Then we built a product called the Wellness401K which was our approach to how can we then cross out into the employee benefits? All around this concept of health and safety at home and at work. You want to prevent bad things from happening. Where does healthcare utilization come from? It comes from the health of an individual.

When we talk to the HR folks implementing wellness programs, a lot of frustration to continue to develop and to continue to implement these programs. We built a term key model where an HR person basically, they’re logging in the system. They upload their employee emails. They can schedule wellness content to go directly to their employee’s email inboxes, wellness programs, videos, hand-outs, reading material. They do about 15 minutes or less. The HR folks that use our platform absolutely love it. Again, the way we structure the service plan, it provides us an opportunity to engage with that HR person throughout the year.

If it’s a really big prospect of mine, I may work with them, “Hey, let’s send a calendar for the next quarter. Let’s see how it goes.” Guess what. Then I’m coming in there a quarter later and saying, “Hey, why don’t we look at the results? Why don’t we then schedule the next quarter’s worth of content?” That allows me to develop that relationship with that HR person. They get more comfortable with me. Then I can start having these further discussions as to how this can help them with their insurance plan. That was our second application.

Then we took one step further on the safety side, as we started working with employers, again, on their OSHALogs. That really helps, it’s an indicator of how well they’re implementing safety at the workplace. We saw a need for workplace safety training. A lot of employers will do safety training either once or twice a year. They may put it in the hands of supervisors who may not be the most eloquent when they train on safety topics. We built a platform where employers once again can log in, they can add all their employee emails to the system. They can schedule safety content, safety training that meets all OSHA training requirements. This goes directly to the employee’s inbox.

They’re done in such a way that you could literally send 52 messages a year, one every week. It’s not going to feel overwhelming to an employer. Each message has a quiz functionality, so we can track who is taking the training. Again, it’s all designed to meet these compliance requirements, safety compliance requirements that dovetail right into the insurance that’s going to have an impact that their current agent may not be doing or may not be doing effectively. We want to, again, position, we’re going to help you with prevention first and all these compliance issues. The safer your folks are, guess what, it’s going to be less insurance down the line. Is this the type of agent you want to work with? Whether you work with me, I’m going to be okay either way. Whether you work with your current agent, we’re going to be okay either way, what’s best for the business.

Again, these apps are all designed to have with those conversations without starting with an insurance bidding opportunity within the insurance renewal cycle. That’s been very key to our success.

Joel: This is cool. As I’m sitting here, I’m all about the customer journey, I’m a commercial producer, what do we do? I’ve got to do all these things. All of a sudden now, you’ve laid out that you need a customer journey for somebody. Not only that but to say that you’ve added value to the commercial world of our producer or agency’s geographic area, wherever you do business. You’ve added value to that whole world. This is how it’s done. Dustin, I’m sorry. I know you’re on the podcast, but I’m blown away about the resource that an agency has at their fingertips here. Kudos to you guys. I love it.

Dustin: Some people think we’re probably not the most fun dad to hang out at a party, but we live and breathe this stuff. We love risk management. We love insurance. There has been so much development in the insurance space. We really wanted to help agents. That’s who we love to engage and work with. So much of agents approach it from an insurance first perspective. That’s a really tough way to go at it. If we can just bring value, if we can show them that we care, and we can expose what the current agent isn’t doing for them.

I’ll tell you, Joel, that right when we launched the OSHA product, this is for those folks who whether they use the OSHALogs or not, I highly encourage them to look at this. In 2016, OSHA passed new regulations. Any employer with 10 or more employees in the great United States has to complete these OSHA record forums. OSHA passed these sweeping changes that fundamentally change the compliance requirements of employers. If you have 20 or more employees at a particular employer location, they must also file their injury data directly with the department of labor. This is a huge change. Most employers aren’t going to realize it. Most agents aren’t even talking about it. Think of it this way, just like an employer we had to file our taxes by April 15 of every year, will have to file their injuries with the department of labor by March 2nd of every year. We teach our agents, I’ve been working with employers say, “Hey, how did it go and your agent helped you submit your injuries to the federal government this past year?” Half of them were going to go, “What are you talking about?” We can jump in, show them the compliance and say, “Hey, if your agent isn’t helping you with this, what else aren’t they helping you with? Would you like to have a discussion on how we help employers maybe take a deeper dive into the risk issues that your company has?” That is just a huge date in the calendar that I highly recommend agents look at because it’s been a huge help for us.

For those who use the OSHALog platform or software, then completes, think of it like the turbo tax of OSHA Recordkeeping. It does automatic submission directly to the federal government. We make it super super easy for that employer. We get access to all that information. We have a reason to see them. Whether we write the insurance or not, Joel, they’re clients of ours and we’re going to work with them, we’re going to see their injury data, we’re going to help them and it’s so much easier to cross-sell them into the insurance.

Joel: Hey, Dustin. Something you just said really resonated with me and maybe it doesn’t resonate in the insurance world. It’s been a while since I was a frontline agent myself. Here in my world, the key thing is always having a reason to call. I think in the insurance world, if your reason to call is your renewals are going to need a check, you better reevaluate things. What you just provided is a very engaging, very real reason to call.

The reason for my call is your OSHALogs are due, all these things need to be reported. That is value add that has nothing to do with insurance but has everything to do with the customer experience and will have everything to do with why they choose you to be their insurance provider of choice. I love it.

Dustin: I’m going to give you an example because people love examples. We were working with an employer that had a great relationship with their agent. This was last year. We did a seminar for a local business trade group and we talked about the OSHA records. We talked about the opportunity. We actually partnered with this builder trade organization to say, “Hey, we’re going to scholarship this for all of your members.” Association loved it. We said, “All we need in return, get us up in front of the group and we’ll educate them or we’ll offer access.”

We had current 150 people in the room. We had 80 companies represented, we had 55 employers sign up for free access to OSHALog.com right there. I will tell you, that was my prospecting list for the rest of the year.

Joel: No kidding. I mean, wow, a gold mine.

Dustin: Within six months I wrote six six-figure accounts, and I didn’t have any relationship with these folks. What that allowed me to do, part of the rollout was we helped them with their OSHA record, we put it on the system. The purpose of this conversation there was one of these employers was one of the largest cement contractors in Michigan. When we help them with their OSHA records, we saw all sorts of injuries listed there and they had a bunch of injuries that were anywhere from seven to 14 days away from work. As I mentioned earlier, that has a huge impact on their experience mod and their costs when a claim goes last time.

We were able to show them very quickly that their current agent is less concerned about impacting their costs and they are about Southern insurance policy taking them golfing. We took that over to agent record letter and that was a huge huge account. It all started by bringing value, not talking insurance. They thought they had a great relationship with the region, and those are the type of accounts I want to write. I don’t want to write those accounts that hate their insurance agents, hate insurance, always looking for a better solution and blaming their insurance agent for all their problems.

I want those accounts that had been with our agent for 10, 15, 20 years, because guess what, they’re probably going to be with me for 10, 15, 20 years. I’m a young guy. I want to write these. I don’t want to keep them.

Joel: There’s a part of me that’s sitting here believing a 100% unless they are with an incredibly incorrect carrier. You could leverage these solutions and clearly do agent record. I can’t imagine why you would ever need to do an application unless you just didn’t have access or that was totally wrong carrier, like agent record [crosstalk].

Dustin: Right. The only time we don’t is if we don’t have access to the carrier as an agency, if we don’t, we’ve built such a relationship and they see the value. If they see the value then they’re asking you, “Hey, how can we work together?” We tell them, “Hey, we just need an entry point.” We say if we can be at or below what you’re currently paying, we just need an entry point to start working with you, to start working on the insurance, to working on your risk management plan, because they’re not buying insurance policy price. They’re buying me, they’re buying a service plan and they know that the things we’re going to work with will lower their insurance costs. They realize you can’t get that just by quoting. There’s all sorts of things we can do behind the scenes, and that builds that ability for them to say, “Hey, I want to buy you, I want to going to buy your process not that insurance quote.”

Joel: Absolutely. People only buy on price when that’s the only solution, that’s the only evaluation tool they’re given, and so you’re taking that later to the equation.

Dustin: If I went with price, I’m going to lose on price, and that’s not the way I want to compete.

Joel: Absolutely. Dustin, I know you’re a busy guy, so I’ll let you get back to it. I appreciate your time. If somebody’s sitting there and they’re like, “How do I track down Dustin Boss?” What’s the best way for people to find you?

Dustin: Go to emergeapps.com. You can reach out to me there. Otherwise, shoot me an email [email protected], and I’ll be happy to chat with you.

Joel: Awesome. Dustin, thanks again for your time. I’m sure you and I will cross paths on the trade show floors through to probably the next 30 years.

Dustin: We compete at who’s got the best swag. I think you got me beat– I think I always steal three or four of your mints. I’ll try to try to out swag at this time. We’ll see if I got a shot. All right, sir.

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