3 steps to make benefits consulting easier – through data solutions

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According to a survey from DirectPath, 83% of benefits brokers say their job is harder today than it was three years ago. The surprising thing about that number? It implies that only 17% of brokers believe their job is easier today.

We side with the majority on this one. Benefits brokers have never had it harder. In the face of soaring health care costs, companies are demanding benefits brilliance. They want to see smart strategies on a shoestring budget. And if you can’t deliver, your competition will.

To thrive in this environment, brokers need to stand out from the crowd. One way to do that is to bring cutting-edge data strategy to your benefits consulting.

There are a number of data analytics solutions on the market today. However, you can’t just bring your client a goody-bag of random products. You need to tailor your selections to your client’s strategy.

That’s far from easy. But if you follow these three steps, you can make intelligent choices that will bolster your client’s benefits strategy — and strengthen your relationship with them.

1) Stop Selling — Start Consulting

If it’s a tough time to be a broker, it’s even tougher to be in HR.

The labor market is tight. Unemployment sits near a 50-year low. While that’s great news for workers, it creates some big hurdles for companies.

For example, the ’labor crunch’ has stiffened competition in the war for talent. Companies have to pay far more than they’d like to catch the eye of qualified candidates.

But even if they get an employee to sign on the dotted line, that’s no guarantee that they’ll stick around. In fact, employees have never been more likely to jump ship.

That’s probably why more than 80% of employers say that employee retention is their most important benefits objective — and why HR departments are racking their brains to figure out how to do it.

This is your opportunity to bring value to the table. A savvy, data-driven benefits strategy can keep employees happy and motivate them to stay put. To work, that strategy must be driven by the facts.

By sitting down and having in-depth conversations with your clients’ HR department, you can discover which of their workforce issues are ripe for fresh analysis. From there, you can devise a plan to optimize their approach.

CBIZ, Inc. President Jim O’Connor says this strategic thinking is how brokers “move from just being a product expert and delivering a quality product…to you being the product yourself.”

2) Keep it Simple and Clear

He’s right. But this strategic thinking is only part of the equation. Consultative brokers have to take the high-level gobbledygook and make it comprehensible for every stakeholder involved.

That’s because employee benefits can be downright bewildering. And the industry’s complexity is growing every day.

Consumers struggle to come to grips with it. A mere 14% of them are able to correctly define the words copay, coinsurance, maximum out-of-pocket spending, and deductible.

But they’re not the only ones confused. While regulatory debates rage and consumer health needs shift, HR officers and other decision-makers often find themselves on the back foot.

In the middle of all this dizzying change, employers and employees alike crave one thing above all others: clarity. They need help to find the signal in the noise, the data that they can use to drive their decisions.

As a broker, you can connect your clients with data solutions that dispel ambiguity. Whether these solutions evaluate price, appropriateness, or quality, the very best have three things in common:

[  ] Scientific — they use objective, observable data-points;

[  ] Rigorous — their analysis is informed by a sound methodology;

[  ] Actionable — their conclusions are both meaningful and easy to understand.

Let this short checklist be your guide. It will lead you to the technological innovations that fit your clients’ strategy and make you look like a hero.

3) Remember the ‘Second Sale’

That checklist is important when pitching a product to your clients. But brokers should never forget that their clients aren’t the only audience they sell to.

The final step for data-sales success is also the most important: employee adoption. Getting employees to buy in is crucial to make a benefits strategy work.

That’s why brokers need to remember the ‘second sale.’ The first sale comes when the employer buys the benefits. The second one comes when the employer needs to sell the benefits to the employees.

It’s also tricky to do. 32% of employees aren’t happy with their benefits. Half of them don’t even understand their benefits. And if employees are unhappy or confused, clever benefits design isn’t going to do companies much good.

Fortunately, employees are also ready to listen. 55% of them say they want help from employers in making care decisions. And you, as a broker, can arm employers with data-based innovations to speed the second sale along. Well-honed analysis, with communication aids to support it, can clarify employee choices, and improve their engagement with employer benefits tools.

So when you’re fielding options for data-based benefits platforms, examine your clients’ workforce and consider how they’ll react to your proposal. If you find an employee-centric analytics solution that makes their choices easier, that will help you close the second-sale, which will win you favor with your clients for years to come.

And that might just make you one of the 17% who thinks benefits brokering is an easy job.