5 Things to Keep in Mind for Benefits in '21

Insurance providers looking for a reset that strengthens relationships with customers and HR departments have a real opportunity here.

Employees value the insurance benefits their employers provide, but, now more than ever, people need answers and support. Vaccines are on the way, but the world is still facing a once-in-a-century public health crisis, and the economic fallout added a financial dimension to the anxiety, leaving people craving certainty and security. 

A recent Guardian Life report found that a large majority of employees say they’d be unable to afford benefits like health insurance without employer sponsorship. But many employees aren’t familiar enough with their coverage terms, and nearly 40% of employers admit they could do a better job of educating employees about their benefits. 

That’s where insurance providers can step up, form direct relationships with their insured customers and provide relief for overworked HR professionals who are struggling with multiple challenges at the same time. Insurance partners (whether brokers or carriers) can create a situation where everyone wins. Here are five ways to make it happen:

1. Don’t rely on HR for communications access to insured employees.

HR typically handles employee benefits education and gathers the associated paperwork. This sets the tone for the relationship going forward, with HR acting as an intermediary between employees and the broker or carrier on routine questions, unless an issue is escalated. You’ll need to break that pattern to form a direct relationship with customers, getting their attention earlier in the process. 

2. Get consent to carry on a conversation where customers are.

Building relationships with customers is as easy as collecting their express consent for insurance provider outreach, and you can make that part of the welcome message during enrollment. Get permission across all of the channels your organization supports, including phone outreach and digital channels like text, chat, email and social media. 

3. Offer to share the load with HR.

This has been a tough year for everyone, and, in the workplace, HR’s burden is heavier than ever. Companies are reorganizing or completely rethinking how they do business. HR staff who might have been territorial about benefits before don’t have as much time to answer questions about coverage for contact lenses, prescriptions and therapeutics now. They’ll be more receptive to a proposal to put employees in direct touch with insurance providers. 

4. Brokers should assess carriers’ digital support capabilities.

One key factor in developing a direct relationship with customers across channels is the carrier’s ability to support conversations with customers. Insurers have made great strides over the past several years, but some carriers are more active and technically proficient than others. Brokers need to understand which companies are up to speed and which are still building out modern customer communication capabilities. 

5. Carriers should evaluate their communication platforms.

A point related to the one above: Insurers that want to strengthen their individual relationships with customers should take a look at their customer communication platforms. Can they easily handle a variety of channels, delivering a consistent customer experience no matter how the insured contacts the company? If not, it’s time to upgrade those capabilities, taking advantage of application programming interfaces (APIs) and automation. 

See also: 2021: The Great Reset in Insurance

Insurance providers looking for a reset that strengthens customer relationships have a real opportunity here — a chance to improve not only the ways they serve customers and the overall experience customers have when they interact with their insurer, but also their partnerships with the HR professionals who are on the frontline of benefits administration. 

Employers and employees are experiencing significant anxiety and uncertainty right now, with the pandemic having a devastating effect on the health of millions and continuing to disrupt the economy. People crave certainty and connections, and, over the past several months, they’ve become more accustomed to reaching out online and via digital channels. 

Insurance providers that form more direct connections with their insured populations can serve those customers more effectively, identifying their needs in a personalized way and proposing solutions in addition to providing accurate coverage information. They can also help alleviate the burden on stressed HR teams. Everyone wins. So, keep these five things in mind heading into 2021 -- it can be a better year for all of us.

Tara Kelly

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Tara Kelly

Tara Kelly is founder, president and CEO of Splice Software. She has a passion for enabling clients to engage in a meaningful, data-driven dialog with their customers.


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