Hey brokers, I have a secret insight for you. Most employershate their annual benefits renewal. Which means there’s a goodchance many of your clients dread their renewal every year.

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I realize that’s a pretty provocative thing to say, and I’mcertainly not here to tell you that you suck at your job. But I’vetalked to hundreds of CFOs, CEOs and HR reps, and I hear the samethings over and over.

  • “I dread my annual renewal even more than I dread taxseason.”

  • “The renewal process is so complex and frustrating. “

  • “I never feel confident in the plan decision I make.”

With renewal season in full swing, that may not be the news youwanted to hear. However, I’m not writing to point out negatives;I’m writing to share solutions. Many leading brokers havetransformed their renewal process to align with clients’ want andneeds—and you can too. Here are three ways to make sure yourclients are satisfied with their next renewal.

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1. Ditchspreadsheets

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No one likes spreadsheets. They’re hard to decipher and hardto read when printed out. It’s nearly impossible to compare plansside-by-side with so much data crammed in. If you want to tweak aplan (such as change a copay or deductible), you must create a newspreadsheet and schedule another meeting. Spreadsheets are justplain overwhelming.

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I realize that the “binder and spreadsheet” method is howbrokers have presented benefits renewals for decades, but we are ina modern age, with superior options available. Employers today wantto see plan options visually, so they can clearly understand theiroptions and compare plans side-by-side.

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2. Offer creative plan options

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It’s common for employers to keep similar plans year-to-year.The broker might present a few alternatives, and they may tweak thepremium share or add an HSA. But if there isn’t much cost difference,the employer generally opts for the status quo to keep life simplerfor employees.

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However, with health care costs continuing to climb, somebrokers are going farther than just shopping a few plan options fora better rate. For example, you may want to consider self-fundingfor clients who never have before, or get more creative withpremium share, HSAs/HRAs and other factors.

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3. Start with the budget

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This may seem like a radical approach, but I encourage brokersto start renewal conversations with a budget established, and thenwork within that budget. Why? Because traditionally, only totalplan cost is mentioned up-front, and premium share isn’t discusseduntil after a plan is chosen. That is extremely frustrating foremployers and makes choosing the right plan difficult.

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Instead, establish a budget with your client first. (Forinstance, it may not be reasonable to keep costs flat, but maybeyou decide together to target nothing more than a 2 percentincrease.) From there, you explore plan options, integratingpremium share into the conversation from the start.

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This strategy fits hand-in-hand with offering creative planoptions, because to start with a budget in mind, you often need toget creative. If you’re feeling skeptical, think about all theplans available from different carriers, then all the ways toinclude an HRA or HSA, then different ways to applypremium share. Plan design options become virtually unlimited whenyou approach the conversation this way.

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As you prepare for your upcoming renewals, consider thesestrategies. Your clients will love you for enhancing a formerlyfrustrating process, and will reward you with loyalty andretention.

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