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Ryan Plourde, Crowe Horwath

Why Employee Benefits Brokers Must Move Toward a Consumer Centric Model

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To stay competitive, employee benefits brokers need to reinvent themselves.

Employee benefits brokers traditionally worked with employers and basically presented proposals with prices from different insurance carriers (like Fallon, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Tufts, etc...) based on the health plan the company needed.

They were the middle man. And it was easy money. The broker would present five plans to ABC Manufacturing Company.  The company picked from those five plans and then the insurance carriers literally just sent the broker a commission check. They had it good for a long time.

And then Obamacare happened.

Obamacare opened the door for all these insurance exchanges.  Now employers can go to these exchanges themselves and have direct line of sight into what the brokers were doing before.

So employee benefits brokers need to adopt a more consumer-centric model. They need to have tools that help employers interact with these exchanges.   They need to be more consultative and provide value by answering questions. For example, “I had a baby, how does that affect my health plan?” or “I was just in an accident, I need to go on disability, what are my benefits?”  The insurance exchanges can’t answer those questions.

It is the benefits broker that can ultimately provide the customer service that employees and employers want to have around benefits.  Benefits brokers will be valued for their knowledge and exceptional customer service, not just for selling policies and providing extra attention months before the employers policy renewals.   They will become like the “HR department” for these companies.

This consumer-centric model is going to be good for the benefits brokers because it creates a “sticky” relationship with the employers they serve. Would the client go anywhere else if you their broker were providing exceptional service to the company, and most importantly, to the employees? By being consultative and providing a service that employers need, clients will want to stick to them. They will have a relationship based on customer service, not based on who can provide the lowest rates.

We have already seen this trend happen in the financial industry with financial advisors. People traditionally used a broker for personal investments and guidance. But now we’re seeing technology companies that let you put your money into a system and that system uses algorithms to rebalance things based on market conditions, stock prices, and other variables. It's taking the middle man out of the equation which equates to lower fees for the consumer. We see millennials embracing this new paradigm since they are comfortable and embrace the value of technology vs. having sole reliance on a personal financial advisor.  Baby boomers may still want the kind of personal broker relationship they are used to, but as technology tools coupled with personal services get more mainstream, the face-to-face financial broker will become more and more irrelevant.  Financial brokers, similar to employee benefits brokers, have realized they need to become more advisory and consultative in conjunction with the new technology.

AbleBridge and HR Technology Advisors has tools to help today’s employee benefits brokers to reinvent themselves to take advantage of this new customer-centric model. www.AbleBridge.com/insurance

Contact AbleBridge for more information. 877-600-2253

by AbleBridge, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Gold Partner, Massachusetts

Twitter: @AbleBridge

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