If benefits managers hope to boost utilization significantly, they must follow the lead of financial services, retail and other industries and prioritize the full customer experience.

It's no secret that dumping benefits information onto an online portal is ineffective. The user experience is inconsistent, and health care language is often inscrutable. Meanwhile, go-to tactics like inviting employees to benefits sessions and sending sporadic, company-wide email blasts with links to explainer videos aren't particularly effective. They end up becoming noise in employees' inboxes—too easy to screen out.

In many large companies, employees are overwhelmed by an overabundance of choices, some of which overpromise and underdeliver. There may be dozens of options to choose from, but few of them stand out and drive a word-of-mouth halo effect. Benefits managers see a disconnect between the promise of a new benefit, as advertised, and the actual impact and usage on employees.

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