In a Webinar with Benefits Selling - "Maximize Your Voluntary Benefits Sales" - I covered some of the pitfalls observed over the past 25 years in the voluntary business. Given our time frame, I necessarily kept my comments at a high level. But it's important to spend more time discussing these pitfalls, and some techniques for avoiding them whenever possible.
Poor enrollment conditions
Poor enrollment conditions result in everyone being unhappy. The primary consequence is poor participation, but this is a driver of all-around unhappiness. The underwriting insurance company is unhappy with the risk spread and may want to decline to issue the case, raise the rates, lower the commissions, ask for evidence of insurability, or all of the above.
Eligible employees are unhappy. They may question why their employer allowed enrollment of the product. Depending on how the insurance company reacts, employees may be upset about changing conditions (such as requiring evidence of insurability) or prices. The employer is unhappy because they didn't bring in a new voluntary product and invest time in supporting an enrollment campaign just to satisfy a small fraction of their employees.
Finally, the broker is unhappy because their employer customer is unhappy. This translates into case revenue that falls short of projections, and additional work.Avoiding this pitfall, and most pitfalls we will discuss, centers around three key concepts: planning, communication and commitment. Pre-enrollment planning is essential. Every detail needs attention to make sure the eligible employees are seen in the right place, at the right time, receiving the right message.
Communication between carriers, brokers and employers must be efficiently coordinated at every stage to make sure there are no issues. This includes making sure the employer's management team has a clear picture of what to expect during the enrollment. It is essential that there is commitment to the program on the part of the employer's team. And finally, the employees to be enrolled should enjoy a personal connection with enrollment staff in group or private meetings, or via an educational system backed by a call center.
The employer does not understand their role and the work involved in supporting the program
You might ask: how would an employer not be aware of their role in supporting a voluntary benefit plan? You might be surprised. Many times the initial presentation to an employer oversells the fact that voluntary benefit programs are "virtually no work for the employer." But when the expectations of the employer are not managed properly, the employer can become very unhappy - and that makes us all unhappy.
In more than 25 years of experience, I've seen that employers whose expectations were not met are by far most likely to change brokers, change insurance carriers, or drop their voluntary benefits program.
Again, planning, communication and commitment. Planning for success with the employer's team centers around realistic and accurate communication so they understand the work they are committing to in support of the program. This includes the preparation, approval, and distribution plan for any pre-enrollment communications.
The understanding of, timetable for, and accommodation setup for group or individual meetings is essential. The screens supporting a computer-based enrollment must be reviewed and approved. If a call center is involved, call center processes should be tested before they go live. Finally, there will be support of payroll deductions, deduction change processes, and processes for new hire enrollment.
In the big picture, this is work that should be minimal and routine, but installing something new is never as simple as I have heard voluntary benefits described. Beware setting unsupportable expectations. Set out a plan and re-communicate it at every stage.