There are a lot of difficult things about running a business, but working with your insurance broker shouldn’t be one of them. I’ve been a broker for over 35 years, and I’ve seen and done everything brokers do to conduct business. Computers and connectivity have changed the industry so much that many problems today persist due to legacy, not necessity.
Back in the 80s, brokers had three ways to communicate with clients: in-person, by telephone, or mail. We spent much of our days driving to or dining with clients. We prepared almost all documents using a trusty IBM Selectric typewriter, and processes were governed by how quickly we could get them mailed to the insurance carriers. “Data storage” meant aisles of file cabinets, and my desk was covered with manila folders. The speed of assisting my clients was contingent on me finding the right file folder.
Nowadays, I backpack a laptop to and from work. My file cabinets have been replaced by “the cloud.” (I’m in Arizona, so I often wonder where my data storage is on our bright sunny days…) Those manila folders? Now they’re URLs, and I just punch some numbers into the phone to get my client “in the room” with me.
My practice has grown, too. Before, I was limited geographically to clients I could service in a very small area. Today, I conduct several client conferences from coast to coast, on the same day. My only problem is remembering what time zone I’m scheduling!
But, I digress: we’re here to talk about YOUR problems. Here are five of the top concerns I hear from clients today, along with how your broker should be addressing them.
Your broker should eliminate the burden of keeping up with the Affordable Care Act by answering questions directly and providing ACA automation technology. Every broker makes daily decisions on questions like: “Is this something I need to do for my client, something I need to tell my client about, or something the client needs to do?” The successful broker in today’s (and tomorrow’s) world of cloud-based human resources and compliance-driven requirements is the broker who assumes ownership of these tasks and compiles solutions before the tasks become time-consuming issues for the client.
Brokers should work closely with customers to understand their individual needs, and provide options. I’ve always tried to empathize with my clients’ financial situation, and I approach solutions based on if it were my own money being spent and my own employees being affected. Brokers who are too focused on their own commission income are never going to be successful long-term because their focus isn’t on the success of their clients.
Brokers need to be proactive, keep clients informed, and build trust. In the olds days of medical underwriting, brokers frequently had to deliver bad news. I remember a client who really had his heart set on using a specific group of providers, and the one carrier with whom they were contracted declined his application. I knew my client would be very disappointed. So within the hour, I had contacted his office, delivered the news directly, and pledged I’d approach the group of providers to see if I could get them contracted with his current health carrier. He responded: “It probably wasn’t easy giving me that info was it?” Twenty years later, I still have that company as a client. Brokers shouldn’t avoid, delay, or sugarcoat bad news. It’s better (for you and your client) to confront bad news in the sunlight, so that appropriate solutions can be considered and implemented. In today’s world, brokers owe their clients an immediate update and explanation along with a plausible alternative to the problem.
Brokers should offer time-saving solutions through a connected tech platform, and the technology should be current and user-friendly. The popular saying, “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it!” shouldn’t be your broker’s mantra. Back in the day, I remember asking an employee if she had faxed a proposal to a client, and she responded “no, I mailed it”. It had been an urgent matter, so I asked why. She stated that the quote wouldn’t fit into the fax machine as it was in landscape orientation. It immediately struck me that my staff needed training on the “new gadgets” we were incorporating into our operation. Technology is only as sophisticated as the people running it. As a client, you deserve both smart tech and smart brokers.
Without a knowledgeable staff and sophisticated software to address the repetitive tasks of HR, traditional brokers can’t survive. Compliance, regulation, technology, and benefit plan complexity are all reasons that brokers may decide to pack it in early. Companies like Zenefits are establishing mentoring programs and training millennials to fill the newly vacant roles. Also, not every “old” broker retires: some, like me, stick around to help clients and coach the next generation.
Today, brokers need to readily adopt the most current tools to help resolve client issues and insure compliance. Without contemporary thinkers, doers, and tools, clients will migrate to those brokers who can and will deliver current and accurate solutions to their insurance problems. If you’re not getting satisfactory answers from your broker, request a demo of Zenefits. We’re here to help you modernize your benefits administration once and for all.