With the landscape of the benefits world constantly shifting, brokers need a competitive advantage to secure a solid financial future. There are many new challenges faced by brokers, which can be addressed by employing innovative strategies that will enable them to remain competitive, differentiate themselves, and thrive.  

The first step in overcoming barriers is identifying the most pressing challenges facing brokers today.  Traditional brokers experience increased competition on multiple fronts.  The implementation of the Affordable Care Act has presented challenges and new companies such as Zenefits, who are redefining what it means to broker benefits, are also a threat. 

Brokers face time constraints.  It is difficult to balance enrollment support for existing clients with attracting additional clients.  However, in order to become broker of record, clients expect a high level of support.  In fact, according to a 2014 Broker Services Survey, the top factor leading an employer to switch brokers is failure to “provide prompt and effective service or answer questions in a timely fashion.”   Ninety-five percent of employers expect brokers to provide communication to help employees make benefit decisions and understand the benefits provided, yet 40 percent of employers are unsatisfied with their broker when it comes to meeting this expectation. 

It can also be tough for brokers to prove value beyond selecting benefits and helping clients through enrollment.  However, one of the top expectations employers have for their benefit broker is to “offer benefit statements to help employees understand the value of their benefits.”  The bottom line is employers want to see real ROI on their benefits and expect their broker to help them achieve this. 

Finally, many employers choose their broker based purely on price, which can place firms and independent brokers at a serious disadvantage.  To combat this and maximize both client recruitment and retention, brokers need a differentiator — something that proves value beyond a mere price point. 

One extremely valuable tool in attracting and retaining clients is providing WOW customer service.  According to a 2014 Broker Services Survey, “To succeed in today’s market, brokers need to go beyond making the client satisfied with their insurance coverage.  To secure client loyalty, obtain referrals and differentiate yourself in the marketplace, growth-minded brokers use exceptional people and service as a starting point, adding in regular communication and valuable services that turn customer satisfaction into customer evangelism.” 

Providing excellent enrollment support is also key to proving value.  In order to fully provide this level of service, it is critical to have in-depth benefit knowledge with multiple points of benefit access, including software and call center support.  High-quality enrollment support with specialists and software that can offer personalized benefit recommendations also leads to increased exposure to voluntary benefits.  In fact, a 2015 MetLife Study revealed that enrollment rates are the most important criteria for 62 percent of employers in evaluating the success of their voluntary benefit program.  

Another way to truly stand out from other brokers is by providing post enrollment support and assistance with benefit navigation.  Connecting and engaging employees with their benefits is a major pain point for many employers.  MetLife reports that over half of employees (53 percent) indicate that they “need more help understanding how their benefits work or how benefits meet their needs.” Meanwhile, nearly 42 percent of employers also indicate that they “did not believe they used their benefits effectively.”  Interestingly, most employers do not provide the tools employees feel would help them with this: 

  • Toll-free help line (64 percent of employees preferred/only 17 percent provided)

  • Company benefits website (63 percent of employees preferred/only 18 percent provided)

  • Online decision support tools (62 percent of employees preferred/ only 14 percent provided)

  • Personalized messages and materials reflecting life events/life stages (53 percent of employees preferred/only 11 percent provided)

  • Live chat online (53 percent of employees preferred/only 11 percent provided) 

Can you imagine if you could provide your clients with all of this?  By providing this extreme level of customer service and benefit support, your clients maximize the ROI on their costly benefit package, and you prove your value, while remaining competitive.  Obviously, it is extremely difficult for brokers to provide this level of service while focusing on recruiting new clients. 

It’s key is work with a benefits call center service provider, backed by human resource information software, who seamlessly supports your clients as an extension of your firm.  Software which documents the increased use of benefits, substantial support of employees, and overall employee benefits satisfaction proves your value. By embedding this service as a standard piece of your offering, you attract new clients and solidify your book of business.  Partnering with a third party gives you more time, while simultaneously providing your clients with excellent customer support.  Unlike other brokers, you will also be able to offer excellent post enrollment support, differentiating your firm and ensuring broker of record status.  

Gene Raymondi is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of eni.  He is a national expert in the field of behavioral healthcare and integrated benefits, with over three decades of experience in the human resources field.  Gene is an innovative leader and active pioneer in behavioral health delivery systems.  By designing dynamic integrated benefit solutions for companies of all sizes, he maximizes employee engagement, wellbeing, and productivity within organizations across the nation.  He has authored numerous articles and presented on integrated benefits solutions at conferences, associations, and webcasts including Employee Benefits News, HR.com, Human Capital Institute, World Congress, HR Management, the Connex Chronicle, SHRM, and the World at Work Total Rewards Conference.  Gene has also authored his first book, Beyond Benefits, which details the concept of benefit integration.  Gene’s vision is to revolutionize how benefits are packaged, delivered and connected to employees in a way that maximizes return on employer investment.