The new year is traditionally a time to refresh our minds, renew our resolve and set goals for the next 12 months. After the global pandemic impacted holiday celebrations across America, it’s fair to wonder whether this new year has had the same restorative effect it usually does — not only in our personal lives, but professionally, as well.
Case in point: Insurance brokers and agents might typically spend their January reviewing industry trends and determining how best to advise clients in the coming year. The stark reality is that it seems this past year has been overshadowed by industry shifts due to COVID-19.
Once the pandemic began to complicate the physical aspects of our lives like work, social gatherings and even holidays, Americans’ long-standing gradual shift to digital platforms quickly took a dramatic turn — including in the insurance industry.
Employers that recognize the positive effect that benefits satisfaction can have on employee recruitment and retention may be looking for ways to upgrade their digital capabilities in the coming year to help meet new expectations.
As brokers work to guide clients through their exploration of new Insurtech capabilities, they should start their list of New Year’s resolutions with these three areas of potential improvement.
Evaluate for Experience
The insurance industry is complex, but it may be easier to visualize as a three-legged stool. Technology makes up one leg, enrollment makes up another and products comprise the last. With the pandemic still ongoing, that first leg, technological adaptability, has quickly become more important than ever.
Unfortunately for employers, implementing new Insurtech solutions can require a significant investment of money and planning. It’s not as simple as waving a magic wand and having the perfect platform that meets their needs.
That’s why, as a broker, it is ideal to establish yourself as a trusted advisor who can help determine the best administrative platform for your client. Use your expertise to evaluate potential software based on criteria such as security, sophistication and the modern consumer’s user experience expectations.
Given the current fervor for digital tools, some platforms may try to take advantage of clients’ uncertainty and sell them an unsatisfactory product hidden by a shiny coat of paint. It’s a broker’s responsibility to ensure any new Insurtech tools are thoroughly vetted and will provide your clients with the fundamental support needed year-round.
By supporting clients through the initial implementation — an excellent project for the new year — brokers can ensure the benefits solutions they select are top of the line.
Turn Analytics into Tactics
Enrollment has always been a critical piece of the insurance formula, but the pandemic radically changed the way many people think about their benefits. According to 2020-2021 Aflac WorkForces Report, half of employees surveyed said the pandemic has been a wake-up call to invest more time researching and selecting the best coverage options for their situation.
Digital enrollment is now nearly the standard instead of the exception. Some platforms even come with useful perks such as decision-support tools for consumers, which rely on employee data such as past claims information to advise employees where to start.
For clients, some platforms now include enrollment analytics tools that help employers derive useful information like which programs are most popular, the status on enrollment and where gaps might exist in their benefits strategy. These data points can and should be leveraged by advisors during strategic planning sessions.
To help ensure employers are providing workers with sufficient enrollment tools — and benefiting fully from their data — brokers should schedule a meeting with clients each year to plan out the road ahead. Enrollment was chaotic for many in 2020, but there’s still time to implement a new mutually beneficial plan ahead of this fall.
Build Stronger Bonds
Filing a claim is often a confusing or even a stressful experience for the average American. Improving on this process is challenging, as it requires either increased speed, improved accuracy or a more fluid user experience. Some insurers, like Aflac, are working to mitigate this stress through creative solutions such as using artificial intelligence to process claims.
Many consumer industries are also trending toward a device-agnostic approach for the customer experience. For insurers, that means helping policyholders access their claims anywhere, anytime and on any platform.
This kind of customer experience innovation could be the difference between an employee who’s happy with their insurance and one who feels shortchanged by its complexity.
As a broker, you can’t always guarantee that your clients offer the best policies. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t make a positive impact on their workers’ benefits satisfaction.
It may be wise to use the new year as motivation to research how insurance companies deliver their products and which ones may have the most significant impact on policyholder happiness. This information could be essential for clients hoping to provide strong benefits support in light of the pandemic.
You’re only as strong as your weakest link; an uncaring insurance partner could indirectly cost you and your clients by disappointing enrolled employees. Instead, by aligning yourself with insurance carriers willing to go the extra mile for policyholders, brokers can help bolster clients’ employee satisfaction and enjoy strengthened relationships as a result.
Put it All Together
As we all work to keep up with the rapidly changing world, brokers can provide comfort to clients by recommending a three-pronged plan of attack for 2021: Upgrade benefits platforms, embrace enrollment solutions and maximize insurance partnerships.
Encourage them to evaluate whether their platforms and carriers are truly equipped to manage customers’ ever-growing expectations for convenience and simplicity. If not, consider offering them advice based on your experiences with various platforms and insurers.
Stephanie Shields is senior vice president of broker sales at Aflac.