3 Shifts For Group Benefits Business In A COVID-19 Landscape
By Garrett Viggers
Is this the end of in-person meetings as we know it? After ending a back-to-back quarantine week filled with Zoom calls and virtual face-to-face connections, I realized this landscape for selling will become the new normal.
I have enjoyed meeting with group insurance carrier customers and potential customers as we press through the typical technical difficulties. It felt as though there were more grace and patience extended to all, as this was our only opportunity to connect.
At that moment, we didn’t have the luxury of knowing when we might meet in person, or talk strategy over dinner, or connect at an upcoming group conference. We all seemed to echo a similar desire to push the group industry forward with a better customer experience and eliminating the bottlenecks that hold back growth.
Group carriers and group technology partners continue to cast their vision around the need for digital transformation from a customer-centric viewpoint. It comes down to meeting the customer where they’re at and providing an experience that enables them to make the best decision. In this new landscape, these three shifts, in particular, will cause some to shrink back and others to rise to the occasion, increasing the speed of innovation and technology adoption as the new normal.
The way group benefits are presented and sold to an employer will change.
I’ve always felt the weight of the single group benefits buying decision made between an employer working with a broker or a carrier sales representative. It’s the one decision that will impact the lives of each employee and their families, either for better or for worse. From the looks of today, it’s clear that employers will make more decisions virtually, and that will include their benefits decision.
This means brokers and carrier sales reps must get comfortable and embrace technology that empowers efficient decision making. Imagine you’re a business owner buying new Apple computers for all of your employees, and in order to make the purchase, they had a nice big button titled “Download Computer Comparison Spreadsheet Here.” When you think of it this way, it’s hard to understand how that is possible. However, for others who have spent their careers serving the group market, it’s easy to understand why we are where we are.
Due to all the complexities handled by the carrier as well as by brokers and distribution partners, doing their best to shop the market and understand the value differences is extremely beneficial apart from just a benefits and rates decision process. I will call out the elephant in the virtual benefits sales meeting room, which is how to keep employers’ attention. Technology has the potential to engage the decision-making process on a whole new level, and it seems clear that now is the time to embrace the opportunity.
The way group benefits are enrolled, with employees selecting their desired coverage, will change.
It’s clear that both employers and employees – especially those in small businesses – will ask more and more online enrollment experiences. Online has become the norm for every other service they sign up for.
Imagine trying to sign up for Netflix during this pandemic, and seeing a big button titled “Download Paper Enrollment Form Here.” I believe the fourth quarter will begin to show the cracking of this code for group carriers, enrollment and human capital management platforms with a much higher volume of online enrollment.
The way group benefits are renewed with carriers, brokers and employers will change.
Imagine a world where technology could support the configuration of renewal strategies to best assist a distributed virtual workforce at the group carrier. In addition, imagine a world where brokers and distribution channels were empowered to process renewals and any changes in real time. At renewal time, brokers and employers at renewal time will desire more control to easily compare their renewal with alternate plan options to meet budget and benefit needs with the ability to seamlessly purchase additional products offered.
Imagine you’re a business owner adding a new phone number and iPhone to your account, and in order to add a line, they had a big button on their website titled “Download Renewal Amendment For New Phone Form Here.” Today, most renewal workflows include a printed and sometimes even hand-stitched renewal packet that is mailed to the broker and the employer. Don’t get me wrong, paper will always have a place in this world. However, for decision making, with important benefits and budget decisions, there is a definite need for technology to foster simplicity on the far side of complexity.
Garrett Viggers is cofounder, vice president of innovation and product evangelist at Limelight Health. Garrett may be contacted at [email protected].