Key fact: 80% of employers1 are looking to add benefits post-COVID
That creates a unique opportunity in the months ahead to build near-term volume – and long-term relationships. Brokers have become increasingly concerned about new technologies and platforms which aim to diminish their value to clients. But now, employers are facing complex employee issues that a standardized, impersonal benefits platform can’t easily address. It’s the perfect time to demonstrate the value of the independent, expert advice – and personalized service – that only a broker can provide. Here are five things you should be doing to make that happen:
Companies are concerned about the return-to-work process. Employees and managers are anxious about staying safe at work, caring for household members left behind, commuting, adopting hybrid work arrangements, and more. Whether your client is a small business owner with five employees or an HR manager at a Fortune 500 company, chances are they are facing issues they’ve never had to deal with before.
If you haven’t already done so, it’s time to embark on a planned series of communications to check in on clients – and make yourself the go-to destination for all their most pressing employee welfare issues.
What kinds of messaging? Don’t just focus on specific product-related issues like “Are your employees accessing all their preventive dental benefits?” There’s a time and place for that, but companies are dealing with big questions about how they will operate going forward and what work will look like. So ask broad questions about the transitions they are going through:
- How is the return to work process going?
- Are your employees having adjustment issues?
- Are you having issues processing leave requests?
- Is affordable health care an issue?
- How do you see your workplace evolving in “the new normal”?
Of course, clients are busier than ever now, so you can’t expect an immediate response to a single call or email. That’s why you need to plan for a series of communications that let clients know you’re available to help – not just for the benefits or insurance products you currently provide, but for a broad range of risk mitigation and employee welfare issues. Keep top of mind by using different media, including LinkedIn and Facebook, which can be great ways to forward articles and invitations to the many current webinars about employee adjustment issues. And, of course, always provide various ways for clients to reach you when they have an urgent question. Remember: each client has their preferred method of communication these days, and it may not be the phone.
When a client does find the time to get back to you – even if it’s about a relatively minor administrative issue – take the conversation to a higher level by asking about how the transition is going for them. You may be surprised at how receptive clients are to having these kinds of higher-level conversations now.
One exercise that can help: take off your “broker” hat and put on your “business colleague” hat. Ask how things are going for them. Share stories about challenges you’re seeing others deal with. And not just benefits challenges – everything. When they respond, listen carefully to their issues. Give them time to explain their thoughts at length, even when it doesn’t at first seem relevant to what you do as a broker. Clients may not necessarily see a challenge related to insurance or employee benefits but want to know if you have any insight into the matter. For example, they may say that as employees take time off to care for sick family members, they struggle with staffing issues. But, armed with a broader understanding of absence management, disability, and FMLA leave problems, you might tell them about software that helps track attendance and relieve administrative burdens. Or, you might introduce absence management services such as Guardian Absence Solutions that help centralize and manage disability and leave management. That’s just one example of the kind of expertise employers are looking for now.
There are so many new kinds of benefit options from which to choose. Even if your clients have heard of them, you shouldn’t assume they fully grasp the value of those benefits. Now is the perfect time to demonstrate a deep understanding of ancillary benefits and how they can alleviate pain points shared by employers and employees. Employers have long been concerned about rising health insurance premiums; however, since the start of the pandemic, they are also increasingly sensitive to the burden of employee deductibles and cost-sharing. After all, companies depend on the health of their workforce. When you explain how critical illness or accident insurance offerings can be tailored to address a client’s specialized concerns, that proves your value as an asset to their business.
When you listen as an advisor and listen well, you’ll also hear about issues that aren’t necessarily related to your role as a benefits broker. But that provides another opportunity to show your value as an asset that technology can't replace.
In the post-COVID era, clients have to address a large number of business issues. Many of the things you hear about may not have anything to do with insurance and benefits. But those issues can still be an opportunity for your business to demonstrate value. One example: as work shifts to a hybrid remote-onsite model, many clients have pressing questions about what to do with their real estate. Even if those things aren’t in your purview, you may have valuable insights from other businesses you work with. You may also be able to connect that client to another client or professional colleague who can help. Remember – you want to build your reputation as an asset to each client's business, not just the person who sells benefits.
Even as you adopt a more consultative approach, you have to remember that you're more than just a consultant. Clients rely on you to do things. After demonstrating your expertise and ability by guiding each client to the right solution, you need to implement their case with as little fuss and drama as possible. Too often, there's a let-down in the relationship when it comes to case implementation. While it is undoubtedly the most exacting, labor-intensive part of the sales cycle, you can’t use that as an excuse for clients who “just want it done.” That’s why you should take advantage of advanced new AI-driven implementation aids that make new business enrollment submissions faster, easier, and more accurate.
Many business wins will go to the broker – or a faceless platform – that brings the easiest solution, as opposed to one who brings the best or most customized solution. That doesn't mean you should compromise the quality of the solutions you provide, but it does suggest that you should adopt technologies that make your brokerage easier to work with. So make a conscious habit of looking for new technologies and platforms that can simplify benefits usage for your clients and their employees. Keep an eye out for process bottlenecks, and look for ways to make them go away. For example, consider a messaging platform like Slack or Basecamp to streamline essential client-broker interactions. And try to work with providers who share a similar commitment to using technology in ways that benefit clients, employees, and brokers.