I recently faced an insight I didn't want to. The brutal truthcame to me: I may have more ex-customers than I have customers. ButI defy anyone who's been in the voluntary business for 30 years, asI have, to deny it.

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Think about it. Whether you call your products group voluntary,individual or hybrid, you lose 10 percent or more of your voluntarybenefit customers every year. Why? There's employee turnover, whereeven fully portable products are left behind.

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There are products dropped due to the employee's financialpriorities. There are products left behind when an employeeretires. There are employees who purchase and decide to dropproducts because they cannot afford them or don't really understandthem. So in thinking about the hundreds of thousands ofex-customers who had protection and lost it, I asked myself: “Whatcan we do about it?”

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Yes, there will be new lives to sell, replacing the ones thatwent away. But in most cases this ongoing re-enrollment trades onecustomer for another. Voluntary enrollment participation within anemployer tends to approach a steady number of unless the group sizechanges significantly.

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Improving the percentage of employees who retain our products isa matter of customer focus. This starts with product selection andpositioning. There are several things to keep in mind here.

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One is the priority of needs of employees. Think how the coreneeds of employees and their families are answered first, and keepin mind that people may not understand their needs as well as wedo. The classic example of this is disability income protection.Most employees undervalue disability protection, even those whohave gone through an enrollment process. Portability of disabilityproducts is often overlooked because employees may not realize theyhave that right.

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A second product positioning is affordability. Many times, highcost relative to perceived value is the reason employees dropcoverage. Employees are more likely to keep a product with a lowprice point.

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And contrary to the opinions of the kids on those ubiquitouscell phone commercials, more is not always better. During thefront-end enrollment process it is always important to refrain fromoverselling voluntary products. Many times it is appropriate tooffer multiple voluntary products during an enrollment, but it isnot appropriate to encourage specific employees to buy them all,especially not all at once.

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We have an obligation to help employees understand their needsfor voluntary products in light of their ability to pay for them.An oversold customer is likely to become an ex-customer.

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What can and should be done here? How can we as a businessretain more of these lost customers? Let's crowdsource a bit.Please send me your ideas at the email address below, or contact mevia LinkedIn, and I will compile your ideas into a follow upcolumn.

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