As this is written, it is the interminable period of time beforethe Super Bowl, and those of us who are sports fans have doubtlessheard the truism “defense wins championships.” As I pondered this,it came to me that there is a defensive side to selling benefits,one we might overlook as we arm our offense with products,services, and PowerPoint presentations.

The defensive side is managing to retain and build on ourcurrent client base. This is not just a matter of deliveringrenewals. Defensive thinking starts with a strategy for clientmanagement and continuing development. Elements of a customermanagement strategy might include:

  • Post-campaign wrap-up sessions to evaluate thesuccess of enrollment campaigns, to assess employee reaction of toany new benefits, evaluate possible problems with the process ofhaving coverage underwritten and issued, and whether there are anybilling/deduction start troubles. It is always best to identifyproblems early, and you may not find out about them until it's toolate if there is no immediate wrap up of each campaign. Rick Cassof EOI Service Co. (subject of a recent Benefits Selling coverstory) has identified that over 90 percent of all dissatisfactionwith voluntary benefits plans takes place within the first threemonths after enrollment. That's the time to address issues so thecustomer has a positive picture of your service.
  • At the end of the wrap up there should be a “firsttake” on plan design ideas the customer should considerfor the next benefit cycle. There is a broad range of ideas youwill want to be ready to discuss. There may have been employeefeedback during a campaign that provides guidance on changes toconsider in current benefit design. There may be additionalproducts to consider, especially if the employer has a limitedvoluntary product package.
  • Naturally, there will be further meetings set as“milestone dates.” If problems are uncovered, immediatefollow-up sessions are scheduled to make sure they are resolvedproperly. If new products or features are being contemplated, youwill want to set a timetable for decisions so there is sufficienttime to add them to the next campaign. If the enrollment processdid not go as well as planned, follow-up idea generation/planningsessions will be scheduled.
  • Ideally, you will give the customer a schedulelisting the dates you plan to meet on the next renewal for corebenefits, final enrollment dates for next year, and a timetable fordecisions on benefits to be shopped or added in the nextcycle.

In essence, defensive thinking in benefits is customer-centeredthinking. Your purpose is to retain customers and build the folioof benefits you provide to them. You are defending against a clientfeeling neglected. You are defending against others offeringadditional benefits. You are also able to use your defense as anoffense by having your customers so satisfied with your level ofservice and support that they are willing sources of referral andendorsement.

There is an old story about the difference in the way vendorstreat prospects and customers. The defensive mindset understandsthat prospects are potential sources of value whereas customers areassets. In fact, your customer base is your most important businessasset. Defense not only wins championships; it also wins morebenefits business by growing the value of that asset.

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