As health care reform sets in, agents are looking for ways to maintain or increase profits. Within the first few months of the law’s enactment, brokers already face new regulations that will restructure and reduce their commissions. In order to stay competitive, firms must find creative ways to cut costs.
One area of business where agents can save time and money is by modifying the way they sell voluntary benefits to clients’ employees. Traditional, in-person meetings can be very time-consuming and costly; by replacing this process with the use of video, firms can significantly cut costs while putting in fewer hours.
Put the decision power in employees’ hands
Currently, many companies are moving away from worksite meetings between agents and their employees for voluntary benefits. For a variety of reasons, more and more employers opt to use video and other communication tools to allow their employees to make better decisions on their own.
Owen Wingate of Wingate Insurance Group has seen this trend increasing with his clients in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL. His company began offering videos and other online tools to clients, and has received a positive response.
“Worksite brokers believe that the only way to get employees signed up for voluntary benefits is by sitting down with each person one on one,” said Wingate. “Recently, the increasing trend is for brokers to have less direct involvement.”
Multiple brokers cause mixed messages
One of the biggest reasons employers are getting away from worksite meetings is because of a lack of consistency. During traditional face-to-face meetings, four or five different brokers may sit down with employees. This means that each employee hears a slightly different message than the others.
By using video to convey the information, brokers can be sure all employees hear the same message. There is no confusion about what was said; if employees have trouble recalling a certain piece of information, they can review the videos again. With this tactic, brokers aren’t bogged down with questions.
Video provides better convenience
In the recent Benefits Market Study by Agent Media, which will be released in August, 31 percent of employers that discontinued their voluntary benefits programs said it was because providing enrollment access and employee education is a distraction from core business operations.
When agents come on site, employees have to stop what they’re doing to meet with them. Even in mandatory situations, a significant number of employees don’t show up. However, if the agent uses video, employees can watch it on their own time.
BancorpSouth Insurance Services Inc., a brokerage firm and wholly owned subsidiary of BancorpSouth Inc., recently began offering online benefit services to its employer clients. The company sees an opportunity to use video within their Web-based system to increase both the efficiency and effectiveness of their communication.
“Although we will continue to offer face-to-face enrollments, we realize that the Internet has spoiled our clients, in that they’ve grown accustomed to getting information at a time that is convenient for them,” said Amy Underwood, BancorpSouth vice president.
Through video, employees can learn about voluntary benefits on their own and really take the time to decide what is right for them — and they can watch the videos with their family in order to make a collective decision about their benefits.
Additionally, using video removes the pressure that employees often feel during worksite meetings. By watching it on their own, employees can choose only what they really need and won’t feel oversold.
Keep your personal touch
As technology evolves and employers begin conducting more and more business on a multi-state level, it is increasingly difficult for agents to hold traditional meetings with clients. Video capabilities give firms a means of communicating without taking away the personal touch.
It is important to keep in mind that video may not answer every question clients’ employees may have. In today’s market, consumers demand a deeper understanding of their voluntary benefits options to truly make a good decision. As a result, increased and continuous communication across the board is important for brokers to remain relevant and valued.
Annmarie Fini is the senior vice president of the employer division of Benefitfocus. She can be reached at 843-849-7476 or [email protected].