Preparation In Pandemic

Advising In A Time Of Crisis

Six things brokers can do today to position their business for success later

by Jim McGovern

Mr. McGovern is senior vice president, Employee Benefits, with OneAmerica. Visit oneamerica.com

We knew early on that 2020 would be an important year for the employee benefits industry, with a strong economy and talent-recruitment landscape creating an appetite for worksite-based voluntary insurance products. COVID-19 is quickly making an impact on many businesses’ trajectories and causing long-term uncertainty.

There are ongoing concerns about the unknowns, and we’ve all been in reaction mode, but now’s the time to be proactive. Here are six things brokers can do now to offer products and services that give customers peace of mind and position their business for success later this year.

1. Learn how to be virtual

Let’s face it, the way we do business has changed; between work and family, commitments
and responsibilities, we all have a lot on our plates. But you can make the most of our new normal ─ a virtual environment ─ where you can meet clients any time, any place, when it’s most convenient for them.

A computer with a camera and meeting technology is all it takes to get started. Don’t let yourself be intimidated by technology. Master the new tools, know your stuff and be mindful and patient with customers who are new to virtual meetings. In no time, it will be second nature. The experience of a virtual meeting doesn’t have to feel significantly different than meeting in person. You should always be aware of your body language. If you need to take your eyes off the screen, you may need to briefly explain that you’re getting something to show your customer or checking the clock to respect their time.

As you build confidence with your customer, you won’t have to explain yourself as often. Mute your audio when you are not talking; load and test your content before your meeting starts and join your call a few minutes early so your customer isn’t waiting for you.

2. Assess your long-term business continuity

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, did you have a formal business continuity plan? If not, now’s a great time to use your experience to make one. Think about how can you best be of aid to your clients during this crisis and beyond? How will your employees’ work schedules be impacted? What will happen to your revenue in terms of projection and planning for 2020?
Start your plan today by tracking your answers to these questions, and more.

The Disaster Recovery Institute International (drii.org) offers a Explore Resources section, Professional Practices shows you how to get started.

3. Know your audience and be accessible

In a relationship-based selling environment, you must always consider how you are offering your customer value. One way to offer value is by empathizing with your customer. Proactively source the answers to questions about leaves of absence, layoffs, reduction of hours at the worksite impact coverage and premiums. Research ongoing legislation like the CARES Act legislation (which allows small businesses access to loans to retain workers or hire them back in event of a COVID-19 layoff) and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)1 and have the answers ready about how things might change as a result.

If your customer does change their enrollment process, how will you fit in enrollment meetings by the first of the year? How will you communicate to your customers, and what should you do when you can’t talk face to face?

Proactively offering information positions you as a trusted partner and may impact your business’ retention levels. Sharing thought leadership can be as simple as a video post to your LinkedIn account or hosting an interactive webinar.

4. Have a plan for RFPs

We recognize that in a normal year April is a prime month when brokers are preparing Request for Proposals (RFPs) for current customers and prospects, but the regular eight-month timetable leading up to 1/1 has been delayed. That means the influx of marketing materials a broker receives will likely take place in a much shorter time period. Combine that with the reality that some customers may seek to market more of their plans on an off-anniversary cycle as opposed to their renewal anniversary.

Take charge now and determine your game plan. If your customer does change their enrollment process, how will you fit in enrollment meetings by the first of the year? How will you communicate to your customers, and what should you do when you can’t talk face to face? Virtual meetings, conference calls, webinars will all be on the table. Or will a broker rely on a digitally automated video-rich benefit administration system in lieu of face to face conversations?

5. Mine existing business versus adding new

With so much uncertainty, this is a great time for you to be thinking about strategies for re-examining current clients. Look at your existing book to assess gaps in your customer’s coverage. The pandemic creates an opportunity talk about the foundational benefits of group life and disability. And, ask if they want to provide another resource such as an Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

You could also ask if they want to expand their offerings to employees on the payroll who’d intended on opting in the company group plan but never got around to signing up. If a company has a voluntary program, chances are that not all 100 percent of the workforce is enrolled.

6. Consider auto-enrollment

Auto-enrollment is the “set-it-and-forget-it” approach your customers can use to automatically enroll their employees for the group disability insurance coverage they should have, yet might be unaware they need to protect themselves — and their paychecks — from life’s unexpected events.

With auto-enroll, all employees are automatically opted in at a base level benefit. The only time they’ll need to complete Evidence of Insurability will be if an employee is electing coverage outside of the specified annual enrollment period. Providing disability insurance equally to all employees ensures employers won’t have to worry about making difficult decisions; employees can opt out after 90 days and get a refund.

In closing, just remember that you don’t have to have all the answers. But what you can do is listen and be responsive. It may seem like a simple thing, but brokers perceived as not having the capacity or resources to handle all the customers’ interactions may find the customer looking to another broker that has time for them.

 

 

 

1 https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-employee-paid-leave