6 unconventional questions to ask when choosing a benefits tech provider

Published
  • October 12 2017, 4:36pm EDT
A traditional request for proposal from a broker to a technology company may include some 400-plus questions about systems, mobile capabilities and the technology. But, there is more to choosing a provider than technology. HR technology provider PlanSource believes questions should also be asked about the company’s culture, investment in its people and the tech firm’s core competencies. They share six questions that should be asked in any RFP.

Introduction

A traditional request for proposal from a broker to a technology company may include some 400-plus questions about systems, mobile capabilities and the technology. But, there is more to choosing a provider than technology. Nancy Sansom, chief marketing officer at HR technology provider PlanSource, believes questions should also be asked about the company’s culture, investment in its people and the tech firm’s core competencies. She shares six questions that should be asked in any RFP.

1) How many years of experience do you have integrating with carrier and HCM systems?

Integration is complicated and some systems, particularly on the carrier side, can be decades old and not cover all lines of coverage, such as medical, dental and voluntary. If a tech provider doesn’t understand benefits data exchange and core competency, it will be a bad experience for clients and employees.

“Data exchange with carriers is the piece that is hardest and we all struggle with it,” Sansom says. “It’s just a big challenge.”

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2) What is your roadmap for security and infrastructure?

Brokers should make sure any tech partner is SSAE 16 SOC 2 Type 2 audited, which is more than a certification, showing providers are compliant and perform ongoing audits.

There are upstarts in any industry, Sansom explains, and many of those companies do not have the time and money to invest in audits. If they are undertaking audits, it shows brokers that the provider has a certain amount of coverage, but they also need an ongoing roadmap. “A company that has been around has … a network operations center that is proactively looking for [issues],” Sansom says. “It’s a big expense, so a roadmap gives a buyer an idea of where” the provider is in terms of experience and continual investment.

3) What was the system uptime percentage during Q4 of last year?

Many employees will wait until the last day of open enrollment to enroll, and if a site is bad or slow it creates a bad user experience. Brokers should ensure tech partners are ready for the volume and ask if they load test the system, Sansom says.

4) How much and how often is the company investing in its technology?

Employee benefits are constantly changing and the software should change, too. For example, PlanSource has had to invest millions of dollars in its programs due to the Affordable Care Act. A broker should ask how often the tech provider releases updates. “Quarterly updates are becoming the industry standard,” Sansom says. “Anything slower than that is not keeping up with the changing landscape.”

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5) How do you measure customer satisfaction?

Measuring often and when things go wrong is key and allow for continual improvement, Sansom explains.

6) How engaged are your employees and what is the tenure of your staff and voluntary turnover rate?

A tech platform is in many ways seen as a client as an extension of the broker. When a partner fails to answer calls, it reflects poorly on the broker. “What we hear … is that something that frustrates [employers] is when they get someone assigned to them from call center or an account manager that doesn’t have experience and benefits knowledge or they liked the person and six months later [there is a]new person and repeat,” Sansom says.

“Each customers … processes and cultures are unique,” she adds. “They don’t want to keep having to retrain and work with a new person.”