Becoming a Benefits Administration Advisor to Get Ahead in 2020

Becoming a Benefits Administration Advisor to Get Ahead in 2020

Over the course of the last few months, we have experienced the worst global pandemic in more than a century. In many ways, it feels as though we are collectively experiencing the test of a lifetime. While there might be a high number of brokers adapting to the new normal, most continue to act as if the coronavirus outbreak didn’t introduce fundamental changes in the way business is conducted and didn’t have an impact on their clients’ decision-making. Do you believe the right strategy is to continue to act like it’s “business as usual”? In this week’s Broker Tool Belt, we explain why the future of benefits administration resides on the brokers’ ability to shift their role from a product vendor to a trusted advisor.

Your Benefits Administration Business Model Needs an Update

While you were accustomed to frequent in-person meetings and on-site visits, over the last few months you had to shift to a new way of doing business. Today, you can no longer simply drop forms off to your clients, nor can they rely on email as a secure means to connect. However, this uncertainty caused by the global coronavirus outbreak creates an enormous opportunity for forward-thinking brokers. Those who are able to step up their game and become a benefits administration advisor will be prepared to confront the challenges—and opportunities—of what lies ahead. You are in the unique position of actually becoming more valuable to your groups, helping them navigate circumstances they have never had to deal with before.

Coronavirus progression in the US
Source: Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Last updated on Thursday, July 16, 2020

This open enrollment season, your clients are going to need a roadmap on how to navigate the next normal. Businesses are seeking out new strategies to keep their doors open, including contingency plans to prepare for all possible scenarios. For this reason, in the current environment, your primary value proposition can’t only be the access point to products. It’s time for brokers to shift their role from product vendors to trusted benefits consultants.

Reinvent yourself to remain relevant by offering counsel, expertise, and the tools to survive in a very fluid reality. By doing so, you’ll be able to start building long-term, consultative relationships with your clients and genuinely serve as trusted partners. But how can you update your business model to shift away from being a product vendor and actually help employers plan their benefit’s decisions? Below, we share the two key strategies to become a benefits administration advisor:

Craft the Benefits Administration Strategy with Your Clients

The first wave of the pandemic brought with it skyrocketing unemployment rates, market volatility, and the disruption of the modern workplace. Beyond that, collectively, society has been fractured in its approach on how to best navigate a post-COVID-19 world. Do you know the business challenges each of your clients are facing and how you can help them be more successful?

If you want to become the benefits administration advisor your clients need, help them think strategically about their benefits program. This is not the time to sell insurance, it’s the time to plan. Rather than delivering your sales pitch, lead the process by asking your clients strategic and open-ended questions, and engage them in meaningful discussions about their goals this open enrollment season. For example, ask employers:

        • What do you want to accomplish with your benefits program? 
        • What’s important to your business and culture? 
        • Are employees more receptive to trying out something new and more cost-effective?
        • Will your competition offer benefits?

This will enable you to make more informed recommendations that are in line with your clients’ values and needs. Once you have identified their challenges, you can turn your attention to solutions and become the benefits administration advisor they need. For example, some of your clients might require a specific group medical insurance plan design, while others need more help with benefits communication and enrollment strategies for open enrollment season in 2020. A possible scenario you may encounter is a client who wants to run the business at the lowest possible cost at the moment, how can you help them build a benefits program that supports their goal? Could telemedicine be an effective approach in this case? 

Leverage Technology and Forecast the Future Needs of Your Clients

In 2020, your groups have become increasingly more dependent upon online solutions that have enabled them to conduct business and meet their employees’ needs virtually. Now, they will look to you for helping them create an open enrollment experience that is virtual, safe, and effective. This busy season, face-to-face will decrease significantly and contactless enrollment processes will become the new normal.

Employee enrollment progress dashboard
Example of employees’ enrollment status list in the Ease system.

Before the coronavirus outbreak, you had to drop off, collect, and send out paper forms to employers and carriers. Leaving blank fields or making mistakes on a form was very easy for an employer or employee, which meant you had to drop off and collect forms more than once. This open enrollment period, you need to support companies that are trying to return to full speed. The worst isn’t over yet; we know there is more to come, but leveraging benefits administration technology will empower you to define the next normal, rather than be at mercy of what still may come. Even more, brokers who ramp up their digital offerings and become benefits administration advisor will not only retain clients, but are positioned to actually win new business from those who fail to evolve.

By leveraging benefits administration technology, you will be making the enrollment process safer for everyone. In addition, employees will have the chance to make better healthcare decisions by putting copays, coverage, and actual costs at their fingertips. With a benefits administration system, you’re able to streamline enrollment, reduce errors, cut the paperwork, and give your clients an easy-to-use tool to manage their own changes throughout the year, since we still don’t know what could happen in six months. A return to sheltering-in-place this fall is a possibility, which means that right in the middle of open enrollment season, you may not be able to serve your clients in person. It’s time to adopt online benefits administration and protect yourself against the unknown. 

Final Thought About Becoming a Benefits Administration Advisor

While change seems to be the only constant for the foreseeable future, one thing is clear: brokers need to become more of a consultant, rather than a product vendor, if they want to get ahead in 2020. By shifting your business model to a more consultative area, you are making yourself more relevant and valuable to your clients. Employers are willing to talk to anyone that has some plan in place for coping with the uncertainty. If you are able to install confidence and build a solution to get them through the unknown times, you’ll guarantee a seat at the table as a benefits administrator advisor for years to come. Are you prepared for an open enrollment season unlike anything you’ve seen before?

Author: Ryan

Ryan is the VP, Marketing and Growth at Ease. Ease helps insurance brokers offer their SMB clients better service through simple technology. To date, more than 65,000 companies have enrolled in benefits with Ease.

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