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In our work, we’ve seen some benefits brokers thrive while others struggle in their relationships with benefits managers. What are the biggest myths surrounding brokers’ use of technology?

  1. Benefits technology will make a broker better. Technology is an enabler of process improvement. As with any other tool, it’s the user’s commitment to mastering the tool that leads to more efficient use and better results. Properly implemented and used, benefits technology can make a better broker. The silver bullet isn’t the technology itself, but rather one’s mastery of it.   
  2. Benefits technology will enable brokers to sell more. Simply having technology available won’t attract new sales. What’s required is a demonstration of how a given software application will solve a particular problem, such as inefficient benefits administration. Benefits managers expect that brokers will demonstrate how the technology has helped others, share success stories, and provide references.  
  3. Benefits technology will differentiate brokers from competitors. All brokers essentially have access to the same carriers and plans, and carrier consolidation has shrunk the array of choices. Brokers who were early technology adopters were able to use their technology as a differentiator. Now that most brokers have access to web-based tools, this point of differentiation has diminished. Now, deploying technology in ways that maximize understanding and build relationships are the keys to differentiation and competitive advantage.   
  4. The value of technology is low because utilization is low. Utilization does not determine value. Although it’s an oft-cited metric used to determine the value of a technology solution, user statistics determine use, not value. Low site utilization has more to do with a lack of communication. Employees can’t use a resource unless they know it exists and understand how to use it. Self-service, the ultimate goal for employees, depends on training, encouragement and reminders, typically from benefits managers.  
  5. Carriers provide free Web sites and online enrollment; employers don’t need more. What carriers provide on the Web — for free — is not the same as what benefits managers expect a broker to provide. First, carrier web resources do not enable differentiation. Second, carriers limit their web sources to the products they sell, while most employers offer benefits packages composed of several products from multiple vendors. This provides brokers with an opportunity to customize a portal strategy that ties disparate plans and vendors into one cohesive platform.   
  6. Online enrollment must interface with carriers or it’s useless. Carriers are generally cooperative in receiving employee data files electronically from larger customers. Carriers have been less willing to accept data feeds from small and medium-sized employers and their benefits managers. New technology solutions are enabling benefits brokers to play a pivotal role in the online management of benefits for these businesses. Employers and employees can enjoy all the benefits of self-service while carriers receive data in their preferred format. The broker becomes an invaluable interface for small- and mid-size employers.   
  7. Brokers shouldn’t have to ‘do’ technology. Technology solutions have become a powerful force in how thousands of brokers engage clients and their benefits managers, provide information and deliver value. While advising will always be the principal competency, increasingly it’s the delivery of information and support of benefits programs with value-added services that separate the best from the rest. Those who embrace and master these powerful tools are growing their businesses and raising the competitive bar.

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