Health care reform is poised to fundamentally change the way benefits brokers do business. With all these changes, employers are looking to educate themselves on the financial and cultural impact health care reform has on their businesses, and they will increasingly look to their benefits broker to help them understand the related complexities.
As a broker, this means you’ll likely need to make more time to spend one-on-one with your customers. So the question then becomes: What changes will you have to make in the way you do business in order to spend less time on administrative tasks and more with your clients? That’s where a benefits management system comes in.
This technology will help you become well poised to navigate the road ahead by automating critical tasks and work in a platform that allows better collaboration across your entire business cycle including your agency team, carriers and clients.
This enables workers at every level to spend less time on administrative tasks (paper pushing, anyone?) and more time on creating and maintaining client relationships. While there’s been attention placed on the benefits a management system can offer the individual worker, let’s examine how it can be used to help you collaborate better with your colleagues, carriers and clients, giving you time back to take your business to the next level.
Benefits management technology can offer much more than helping you work smarter; it can improve the way you work together as a team with your colleagues, carriers and clients.
Benefits management systems can increase efficiency and collaboration by helping employees communicate better as a team. This can be done through a variety of tools available within most benefits management systems. Through a dashboard, you can easily have visibility into what your team is working on so you know the status of any deliverable. This can significantly cut down communication internally such as emails and internal meetings to discuss questions that can be answered simply by looking into dashboard. This insight can also offer owners of brokerage firms to have greater visibility of the capacity of their work force.
Another way your team can collaborate better is through automatic, event-driven workflow capabilities that are available in most systems. Traditional workflow applications provide you with a checklist of tasks that need to be accomplished. This helps standardize the way work automatically flows throughout an agency with the ability to customize it for different processes, such as processing client claims, renewals and cancellations. For example, when onboarding a new client, you may have a standard set of 20 steps for setting up them up in your system. With workflows, this standard process can be created within your system to automate this checklist so it’s clear how work is being accomplished and in what order.
This helps streamline business processes by engaging the right person for the right task at the right time. At a high level, intelligent workflows:
- Send the tasks to the appropriate person along with all the documents they need to complete that piece of work.
- Automatically move the document to the next person in the process chain, managing task assignment seamlessly.
- Remove the barriers presented by email through a platform designed for simple communication—no longer will a process become “stalled” when it sits in a broker’s inbox for any length of time.
- Enable you to only focus on your own component of the workflow, no longer needing to manage the overall process
- Improve accuracy and consistency of your work .
- Reduce errors and omissions.
In additional to intelligent workflows, benefit management systems’ task management activity log replaces “while you were out” notes with a platform where brokers assign tasks and status updates for colleagues in the system. You can practice better customer service if all of your tasks are compiled in one place online with automatic deadline management instead of having to manually keep track of your tasks.
As you can imagine, intelligent workflows and task management can be invaluable assets to benefits agencies with multiple offices and in training employees for new account duties. Visibility into other teams’ documents saves you time by making sure that no one has to reinvent the wheel, so to speak.
In order to retain and grow your business, it’s critical to spend time communicating with carriers in order to provide the best options for your clients. Imagine the possibilities if collaborating with carriers weren’t such a headache. With a benefits management system, you can have:
A central repository for accessing carriers contact information and details.
An improved way to automate the RFP process. RFP passes between brokers and carriers is much like a volleyball game: Quotes are passed from brokers to carriers, back to brokers and clients until finally a decision has been selected. With technology, this process can be done electronically in a secure platform with efficient communication and document integrity.
Additionally, some benefits management systems have a “reverse auction” capability to solicit quotes from carriers as part of an RFP. You set an expiration time for carriers to provide quotes, and until the expiration time, carriers can see how their proposal ranks among other bidders. This option saves time during the negotiation period of the RFP.
The most widely used solutions today are developed by innovators that not only understand the way brokers work, but also provide the tools needed to work smarter. An even greater advantage is when the provider anticipates the changes ahead. For example, most markets outside of the insurance industry have already taken care of negotiation inefficiencies, such as through stock market exchanges. As part of health reform, in 2014, all states will begin to address this industry inefficiency by establishing health insurance exchanges. Online quoting capability is an example of how technology exists today to prepare for the changes of tomorrow.
Benefits management technology eases collaboration with employers whom you have as clients. You can automatically share content with employers and their employees, such as what benefits individual employees have under their current plans. Some benefits management solutions also allow employees to communicate directly with brokers, through completing tasks such as updating their benefits plans.
Vertafore, for example, has helped many agencies use benefits management technology to maximize collaboration with colleagues, carriers and clients. Since adopting BenefitPoint in 2007, Bancorp South Insurance Services says they’ve noticed improvements in communications efficiency, giving their brokers more face time with clients and each other.
“With our benefits management system, our processes and reports are unified across our 22 offices, enabling our brokers to work more intelligently together as a team,” says Rosa MacIntire, Bancorp’s operations manager, employee benefits division. “Technology has improved the way we collaborate with each other as well as our carriers, enabling us to focus on supporting our customers.”
Preparing for the future
Given the rapid evolution of our industry, what’s next to come from what a benefits management system can offer? Secure data continues to be of critical importance to most industries. In insurance, making sure confidential information is shared in a secure way is going to continue to be of utmost important moving forward as more and more agencies/firms, their clients and their clients’ employees share this information online.
Today, there is no standard, secure platform in the cloud that enables benefits brokers and clients to manage document sharing. This will be the next step for benefits management systems to increase the collaboration and security between benefits brokers and their clients for secure document management.
Some brokers worry that benefits management technology is designed to replace human interaction. But actually, the opposite is true. You really need to show your value amid all the competition, and improving inefficiencies and empowering digital collaboration allows to you spend more time working on your client relationships and less time keeping track of document locations and processes. Customer service is the cornerstone of what a benefits brokerage offers; through collaboration, investing in a benefits management system will help you work more intelligently as a broker and as a firm for success.
Brent Rineck leads the Vertafore account management teams, primarily focused on customer relationships and matching customer needs with Vertafore agency solutions. He can be reached at BRineck@vertafore.com.