Four Solid Ways Brokers Can Grow Their Businesses
In this article published on October 18, 2016 in BenefitsPRO, Sutter Health Plus Vice President of Sales Rob Carnaroli explains how brokers who focus on four key areas can jump-start their path to long-term success in the benefits arena.
Building a successful broker business requires diligence — before, during and after the sale. Being deliberate about using data, deploying automation and communicating regularly with employers and their employees can attract and keep customers over time. Brokers who focus on four key areas can jump-start their path to sustainable, long-term success in the benefits arena.
Too often, brokers neglect a gold mine of information that resides with carriers. For larger accounts, carriers can provide aggregated medical and health reimbursement account data on employee benefits utilization. Knowing trends and understanding how insurers are applying benefits to their families can help guide future plan designs.
Use available data as you work with employers to build upcoming programs, leveraging employee behavior and filling gaps that may exist. Just as important, use the information to tailor messages before open enrollment to ensure you reach the broadest possible audience with relevant information.
For example, you may find that many employees are not using their annual checkup benefit. Help your clients build a theme around the importance of preventive care to highlight its value. Encourage your clients to schedule a “benefits fair” where nurses can conduct blood pressure or cholesterol screenings, or offer flu shots. Involving employees in their own health care can lead to broader engagement down the road.
Again, in advance of open enrollment — and probably throughout — consider how digital tools can support and grow your business. More and more brokers are hosting webinars and creating online demos to reach more people. Technology allows you to go beyond (or enhance) one-on-one engagement and group meetings, with a goal of capturing the largest possible audience.
Consider hosting after-hours webinars, as well. As we all know, employees are not always the sole decision-maker when it comes to selecting benefits. Make it easy for others to view and understand plans and options. And consider bringing in outside experts — for example, a tax professional who can explain with authority implications of health savings accounts and other tools — and post webinars of their presentations.
Make information available on a broker-hosted website or on the employer’s intranet. That allows people to view it on their own time and at their own pace — as often as they need. In the new world of health care reform, employers are required to distribute a host of documents to employees. Posting information online ensures that employees can access information easily. One side benefit to online access is that information can be updated in real time, without the need for print updates that may be few and far between.
The more you can get people to engage and spend time looking at their employee benefits decisions, the better the outcome will be for you and your brokerage. Most of us spend more time shopping on Amazon for a shiny new gadget than we do for employee benefits. Finding creative ways to share information and make it easily accessible will help employees devote more time to making decisions about this very important purchase.
Believe it or not, I’ve found that many group benefit administrators actually prefer email communication, phone calls or face-to-face discussions. While you want to take advantage of using your website and social channels as communications vehicles, don’t neglect the tried and true traditional methods of communications.
Use real-life scenarios
In advance of and during open enrollment, use messages that people can relate to. It’s important to make sure the benefits plan — a key recruiting and retention tool — is easily and broadly understood. This is particularly true in our business, which is rife with alphabet-soup descriptions and unfamiliar financial terms like out-of-pocket costs, copays and deductibles.
Most people relate best when they see real-life situations that may be similar to their own. Talk about the family of four who has very little health care expenses. Explain what their health spend universe might look like in a typical year. Then, highlight a medium utilizer of health care. Show what their universe might look like with, for example, a couple of emergency room visits, some preventative care and a surgery. And then show what a high utilizer might look like — someone with high-cost surgeries or chronic conditions, explaining what they might expect to pay in the course of a typical year.
Such scenarios will help people choose based on their particular family situation, their finances, and their preferences. My experience tells me that unless you can put something into a real-world scenario, it’s nothing more than words on a page — and that page might be missed.
Share real-life information on overall health care costs, as well. People may understand family costs, but they don’t understand the true cost of actual health care — the premium dollars being charged and how much employers spend on them. Find benchmark data, perhaps through the carrier, and then compare and contrast that with what individual employers contribute. This perspective can be useful in helping employees understand they’re not the only one with skin in the game.
Communicate early and often
At the outset, it’s vitally important to communicate clearly with employers. Make sure that you as the broker, as well as the carrier and employer, are crystal clear about expectations. Map out the transition, if there is one, and address roles and responsibilities. Solid communication before enrollment goes a long way toward ensuring success during the process and beyond.
Don’t stop communicating once the sale is made. The success of your business requires keeping customers on the books. Retaining customers is often easier — and less expensive — than finding new ones. Communication between enrollment periods can help strengthen relationships and boost persistency.
Employers and employees want to know you care about them at times other than during open enrollment. Consider connecting with employers — and maybe workers, as well — throughout the year. Quarterly status meetings may provide an opportunity for employers to address issues that have come up recently. For instance, there may be a coordination of care issue, or a pharmacy, lab or specialist access issue. If you show up once a year, the employer may forget about it or, in the interim, get frustrated. And frustrated customers are less likely to renew.
Being there for customers does more than keep problems at bay. It also provides opportunities to help clients boost their knowledge and expertise — or at least comfort levels. Take the opportunity to help clients navigate the health care system. Being present every quarter or even a couple of times a year reinforces your commitment, and sharing expertise bolsters your value.
Consider connecting during off-enrollment times with employees, too. Lunch-and-learn sessions about coverages or health issues leads to more informed and satisfied employees. Food typically entices people to meetings; but even if you don’t provide the meal, bringing expertise — yours or that of a medical expert — can help build better health outcomes and confidence among employees. Healthier employees lead to happy employers, and happy employers tend to stay with their brokers. It’s a true win-win-win.