Can You Automate Coffee and Donuts?

Here’s a look at how the digital-first benefits shopping experience works – and why it works so well.


Before the pandemic, HR administrators often relied on personal relationships with brokers to find the right benefits packages. Coffee meetings, lunches and happy hours were typically how both groups shared information about pricing and plans.

Then came the shift to remote work, and many were introduced to the digital benefits marketplace for the first time. 

This nudge turned out to be a good thing for the benefits world: Brokers and employee benefits managers quickly realized how seamless the quoting and purchase process can be with insurance providers that leverage technology. By embracing digital tools, they now have better means to discover and compare packages than they would offline.

Here’s a look at how the digital-first benefits shopping experience works – and why it works so well.

Digital Platforms Enable Self-Service for Brokers and Employers

It’s a lot easier to make informed decisions about benefits packages when all the details you need are at your fingertips online. 

Benefits shopping used to revolve around presentations, normally involving a broker showing up with coffee and donuts to talk to HR teams or other decision makers about a benefits package for the coming plan year. It takes a while to communicate a complex benefits package, and the presentation may not cover all the criteria benefits managers and brokers need to evaluate the package. 

To compare multiple carriers and multiple benefits (like health, dental, vision, life and disability) simultaneously, brokers often put together a spreadsheet with the high-level view of each option, with a recommendation. Details and deeper comparison factors are not easy to surface, and real-time customization of plan design and price is nearly impossible.  

Instead, digital platforms from insurance providers via websites and apps give brokers and employee benefits managers a self-service option. They can get all the package information they need up-front, any time, anywhere. They can also refer back to the platform at any point in the decision-making process as they compare with other packages.

For HR folks and brokers who want more intimate customer service, many digital platforms still provide options to speak with someone over the phone or email for personalized support. But for those who just want to get in and out of a website to find what they need without talking to a salesperson, a digital platform is a much smoother experience.

Automated Underwriting Eliminates Back-and-Forth in Quoting

Getting a quote for a benefits package can be slow and frustrating. If an employer has custom product needs, it may take more time for an insurance representative to relay back and forth with the broker.

An automated underwriting process, on the other hand, streamlines the quoting process to provide self-service pricing information in real time. 

One example of simplified pricing online is our digital quoting tool. It enables brokers to input employer information, receive a quote and complete underwriting in seconds. Automation handles all the data analysis. The broker can iterate on the quote on their own with the tool, no need to contact a rep.

Automated underwriting also decreases the odds of human error in putting together a quote. Brokers can be confident that the quotes they receive promptly through digital platforms are accurate and dynamic enough to reflect the employer’s insurance needs and risk profile.

See also: Achieving Digital Balance in an Agency

Digital-First Insurance Providers Have Innovation Baked In

Another advantage of shopping for benefits online is that, when a provider prioritizes digital channels for sales, it’s usually a good indicator that the provider leverages technology to improve its product, especially if it’s an insurtech keen on disrupting the market.

Automated underwriting doesn’t just accelerate the sales cycle and create a better shopping experience for brokers and benefits managers – it can more accurately predict a company’s or individual’s risk profile to provide fair pricing.

And it can also be less biased. A number of insurance providers base underwriting on factors like race and gender that can lead to discrimination in package pricing. Underwriting with tools like artificial intelligence and machine learning can easily filter through the risk factors that matter most to identify the level of coverage needed.

Online Benefits Shopping Is Here to Stay

There’s no need to mourn the old-school method of benefits shopping for employee benefits managers and brokers.

Digital benefits platforms make the process easier for everyone. There may be no donuts involved, but they’ll give everyone in the benefit ecosystem so much time back that they can go buy some themselves.

Alex Frommeyer

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Alex Frommeyer

Alex Frommeyer is CEO and founder at Beam Dental, an AI-powered dental benefits provider that offers an easy-to-use online platform, tailored pricing based on dental hygiene behavior and the Bluetooth-connected Beam Brush toothbrush that tracks brushing habits.


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