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Do Active Clients Make for Better Decision-Makers?

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This year, employees were more active in their benefits decision than in years past. A recent study by human resources consulting firm Hewitt Associates found 45 percent of employees actively chose their benefits for 2010 instead of simply defaulting to the same coverage they had previously or taking no coverage at all.

This was up from the 2009 open-enrollment period for voluntary benefits, where 39 percent actively enrolled.

Despite the fact that more employees were considering their options, most still chose to enroll in similar health plans in 2010 to what they have in the past, according to Hewitt’s analysis of 6 million U.S. workers for whom it managed benefits enrollment in the fall of 2009.

Although the options at individual companies in the benefits market are limited, this still got me thinking…when clients are more informed, what kind of decisions do they make?

ASJ recently covered the topic of consumers and the overwhelming access they have to information about the insurance industry. When it’s easy to do a Google search for “life insurance” and come up with a ton of information, plan options, and the like, many clients are meeting with agents already knowing the plan they want. And it’s up to the agent to help them understand why that plan may or may not be the best option for them.

In a world where information literally surrounds us – I can use my BlackBerry to search for insurance quotes while I grocery shop! – who makes the better client? The one who meets with an agent blind, not knowing anything about financial products? Or the one who knows so much that they can’t be swayed away from a product they’ve already determined is the best one for them – even though it may not be?

I think the ideal client is one who’s right down the middle. One who’s familiar with terms like premiums, deductibles, and perhaps even the major players and product types, but who is open to your recommendations as a professional advisor. Of course, you don’t always get the ideal client, and it’s never a good business decision to turn clients away. What you need to be willing to do is accommodate everyone – from those who know nothing from those who think they know everything.

What has your experience shown? Do your clients tend to make different decisions once they learn more about the products you offer? Or, either way, do they tend to let you – the professional – make the major decisions for them? Does it tend to depend on the client? Comment below and let us know!

Heather Trese is the associate editor of the Agent’s Sales Journal.


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