Consumers are used to instant communication, real time updates and clickable links to portals -- all sorts of ways that retail and services engage with their customers. That is until it comes to employee benefits.
The quality of the benefits might be high, but if the engagement is low, employees might not appreciate the benefits. In his presentation, "Employee Engagement – The Current Marketplace and Today's Plan Designs," during the National Association of Health Underwriters virtual annual meeting, Eric Silverman dispelled a few myths around engagement and showed how employer clients can up their game.
As founder and owner of Voluntary Disruption, an employee benefits marketing organization in Fallston, Md., Silverman said employers and their benefits brokers need to be where the employees are.
That is something he learned from Jerry Seinfeld, who revealed in an interview why he was releasing his legendary series through streaming services when it was already available in DVDs. Seinfeld wanted to reach younger generations and needed to be where they would see him. Of course, he was ahead of the curve in the impact streaming services would have.
“He used the words, ‘The message is in the medium.’ So, I use that term all the time,” Silverman said. “That is what I talk about with employer groups and broker partners. In order to communicate your benefits effectively and efficiently, you have to go where your audience is. Most employer groups still just send out a big email and say, ‘Hey, open enrollment is coming.’ You can't just rely on email.”
During his Monday morning presentation, Siilverman discussed at least three ways that brokers and advisors can help employer clients engage with their employees.
Silverman acknowledged that not everybody wants to jump on board with video. People might think they need to build a studio or otherwise bring on professional equipment and staff. But Silverman said a professional look is not the best way to go.
“You whip out your smart phone, your remote control of the year 2020, and you record a video,” Silverman said. “Let's say I'm the CEO, or HR director of ABC Plumbing. The video is, ‘Hey guys, it's Eric. Just wanted to let you know how excited we are for this year's open enrollment celebration. You're going to get a text message, make sure you click on it and start your enrollment process. Deadline is the 28th.’ And then he just turns over to the broker. ‘Eric, what do you have to say?’”
Silverman recommended this approach not just because it is inexpensive, but also because it is genuine. With a slick production, the message can get lost under a glitzy, disingenuous layer.
But this is just a minute or so video with a simple message and captions running along the bottom so that sound is not required. Silverman said 97% of video content is consumed without sound.
Then the message is sent out in various media, not only in employee email and intranet, but also in social media.
“It's public facing,” Silverman said, adding that it can even help in recruiting. “If I'm an employee looking for a job in the plumbing world and I come across the Instagram page that has a message from the COO talking about the benefit celebration, when was the last time as a plumber I saw that from my current plumbing company over the years? So again, it's all about being different.”
In an era when consumers are used to tracking their FedEx, pizza and appointments by text, it no longer makes sense to say all texting is intrusive, Silverman said.
“If my haircut can say, ‘Hey, press C to confirm you have a haircut next week, why on earth aren't benefit advisors and brokers embracing the new technology?” Silverman said before adjusting his description. “It's not new, but the technology that's out there at their fingertips. It's ridiculously affordable.”
Employers and benefit advisors can send a text reminding employees that enrollment is coming up and follow up with a text that includes a link to start the enrollment process.
Texting can be combined with other efforts such as video. So if an employer did a video message as described earlier, they can send out a text to employees with a link. It can even take the place of the often-ineffective HR outreach.
Another feature of life today is the Amazoning of everything. Self-service, getting what you want when you want is key to customer relations today.
Adopting this practice can do away with one of the most dreaded moments for benefits brokers and employees – the benefits meeting.
“Long gone are the days of your need or want or wherewithal to go in person and do a dog and pony show -- a group meeting with 30 employees where they're half asleep anyway and not paying attention at the back of the room, and they're already texting their friends that they're bored,” Silverman said. “Why are you doing that? You can record it on Zoom and you can download it. You can put a link right on the text message.”
That link can go to technology that allows people to serve themselves, Silverman said. His company implements the technology for its clients serving employer groups. The shift away from the benefits meeting has been a trend for the past few years, but COVID-19 accelerated it.
The tech allows people to find the information but also to schedule a one-on-one call if they can’t find their answers.
“We set up a call center where there's an auto scheduler,” Silverman said. “So an employee says, ‘Well, I'm confused. I'm a little more old fashioned, I would like to talk to a counselor, a licensed professional.’ No problem. Click here to schedule your one on one counselor session via phone, or Zoom, or Facetime, or whatever way you want to do it.”
Silverman said the technology has been available for a while, but benefits brokers have been slow to adopt it.
“These are things that are already available and been in use for a long time now,” he said. “And sadly I would literally say 95 percent of the brokers and advisors in NAHU aren't using this technology. They're still driving out to their clients. In this day and age, they're throwing a mask on, doing a dog and pony show, and their administrative staff is bogged down when there are questions. You just don't have to do that. Let the technology do the work for you. And the message of the presentation is really, it's no different than anything you hear nowadays. You just can't live in the past. You have to embrace the future, and this is the future.”
Steven A. Morelli is editor-in-chief for InsuranceNewsNet. He has more than 25 years of experience as a reporter and editor for newspapers and magazines. He was also vice president of communications for an insurance agents’ association. Steve can be reached at [email protected]
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