Delivering rate increases to clients is hard to do, but that’s only a small part of the role of a benefit adviser, says Brian Drummond, a broker at Walton Insurance Group in Jackson, Miss., adding that a well-run benefits firm that stands apart from others will offer clients and prospects solutions for employee engagement.

“Employee engagement is the missing piece of your marketing strategy,” Drummond told attendees of EBA’s Workplace Benefits Summit in Boca Raton, Fla., last week.

He said he always asks prospective clients if their current agent is conducting employee surveys, and typically he hears that they are not.

“I ask the employer, ‘You’re spending $5,000 per employee on benefits to make your employees happy and you don’t even know what makes them happy?” Drummond said, adding, “If you ask the right questions, you drive a wedge between them and their current agent.”

“I use employee surveys to ask about plan usage, alternate medical options, additional benefits, voluntary enrollment, interest in wellness, etc.,” he said.

“If you’re not doing employee surveys with your clients, I will and I’ll come in and take over your group,” he quipped to Summit attendees. “How do you know if you’re serving the client’s needs without knowing what they are?”

With the knowledge obtained from the surveys, Drummond said, he can better understand what employees need education about, what services they want and use, etc.

Most employees don’t even know what a co-pay is, or a deductible,” he said. “We need to educate them.”

Further, he’s also found that half of employees who pay a $10 co-pay never go to the doctor. “Your employer is paying several thousand dollars a year for your plan and you’re not going to the doctor?  And you’re getting sicker? You’re going to end up costing more by going to the ER.”

If an employee survey reveals low plan usage that could result in higher costs through emergency services, advisers can work with employers to implement products that encourage employees to go to the doctor, such as by using incentives or disincentives.

Employee surveys have also revealed to Drummond that employees want wellness programs and they really value life insurance.

Education and engagement

With a complete understanding about the client’s employees, Drummond says advisers can then offer tools with which to engage the employees, including:

  • Health insurance 101. Offer employees online materials or handouts that explain the basics of health insurance, including what a co-pay is, a deductible, and out-of-pocket expenses.
  • Benefits booklet. Give employees a booklet explaining the full array of benefits being offered to them, including medical benefits, dental, life, voluntary products and any wellness program.
  • Explanation of benefits. Give employees a comprehensive explanation of their benefits, including information about what is covered and what is not; how much of a co-pay is required for doctor visits, pharmaceuticals, etc.; and information about what doctor visits or other claims are charged against the deductible, and which ones are not.

Drummond said easier access to these materials is also key to engaging the employee, including online access to benefit summaries, claims information and plan usage.
Advisers should also offer employees:

  • One-on-one meetings to discuss benefit questions and concerns;
  • Simplified enrollment forms that highlight where contributions are needed;
  • Online enrollment; and
  • Claims service, including three-way calls, assistance with provider bills, etc.

Drummond said advisers should also aim to get know the 20-25% of the population of the employer that “really cares “about benefits.
“I want to meet them. I want to identify the 20% that really care. They’re the ones asking all the questions. I identify those people, connect with them, serve those people directly,” he said. “It’s that 20% of people, who when they have a problem, they get everybody worked up. So you want to meet their needs.”

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