The benefits of innovation never seem to last long. Even in our industry, where change sometimes seems maddeningly slow, an innovative product or process may be quickly emulated and copied, becoming the new standard within a year or two.

For a common example of how quickly something that’s innovative can become the routine, consider the fact that less than 10 years ago, in October 2001, Apple introduced a revolutionary portable music player named the iPod. In the decade since, that first basic player with one gigabyte of memory morphed into a 160 GB video player, and branched out into a smartphone and, most recently, a tablet.

The insurance industry can’t boast of anything as revolutionary as the iPod during that same time period. However, we have certainly seen evolutionary enhancements that have leveraged some of the same components of Apple’s success. Enrollments, for example, have changed drastically with the availability of the Web and the ability to send data electronically.

Tools are now available for enrollments that can provide more efficient results while giving consumers better information about their choices — and in true “on-demand” fashion, consumers have the ability to access these tools at their convenience, outside the traditional enrollment process.

Evaluating your enrollment process

So, it’s time to ask the question: Is your enrollment process current or stuck in the past? Here are a few things to discuss with your carrier to ensure your next enrollment takes full advantage of the latest technological advances.

  • Educational materials: What sort of collateral is available, and on what platforms? In addition to employee brochures, can the carrier provide interactive materials such as videos or Web resources that employees can access at their own time and leisure?
  • User compatibility: Can the carrier’s product elements and applications be integrated with other systems? How can enrollment data be communicated back to the carrier?
  • Reporting: Can enrollments be tracked, with daily reports of employee participation and results during the enrollment? Can the results be broken down by enroller or location? This provides a way to measure and adjust enrollment strategies and personnel to achieve the best results.
  • Personal touch: An enrollment that uses online and multimedia tools to maximize convenience shouldn’t come at the expense of human interaction. How will the carrier provide support for the enrollment? What form of support will be available to you or the employer’s IT staff?

Technology is an increasingly important part of the enrollment process and, now more than ever, carriers and producers must cater to consumers’ needs. Consumers are more technologically proficient, yes — and even more important, they have a much larger voice in the process because they are paying more for their benefits than ever before. As an agent, a healthy amount of tech savvy helps you run a more efficient practice and meet your clients’ needs most effectively.

Steve Howard is vice president of marketing and strategy for Benefit Solutions, a business unit of American General Life Companies. His monthly blog on ASJonline addresses issues and trends in the insurance industry. He can be reached at steve.howard@aglife.com.

For more exclusive benefits coverage, visit ASJ’s Employee Benefits Resource Center.

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The Benefit of Disability Insurance: Selling DI to Employers

Helping Clients Build New DI Benefits in the New Year

Benefits Agents: Opportunity in the Midst of Health Market Chaos

Changing the Benefits Conversation from Products to Solutions

Help Employees Meet Their Challenges