The strike of the high court's gavel made a startling noise in June that we're just beginning to hear with clarity. It is the sound of technological change coming from two sides of a great divide.
The technology-minus model
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act cracked open the benefits business and created what will become a great divide in how business is done. We will see technology dominating our industry by automating procurement, transactions, service and knowledge management. The insurance exchanges in 2014 will accelerate this automation. Let us call this the technology-minus model. Service is missing.
PPACA potentially relegates brokers of medical insurance in the exchanges to unpaid "navigators." The title and no-income requirement is enshrined in the statute. Economics of this complex law dictate more automation. Health insurance consumers will face a confounding world of clicks, more buttons, clunky computer interfaces and reams of cold, detached content that attempts to educate confused health care consumers.
Entrepreneurs are already preparing that automation. This is the Orwellian future of the technology-minus model with its government-style customer service, devoid of human interaction. You've already seen this type of customer service - endless voice prompts and help-box dropdowns that do not allow you to talk to a live human who can answer your questions.
The technology-plus model
There is another side of the fissure and it is quite exciting. Let us call it the technology-plus-service model. The FutureOffice Network is one offering that follows this model. It represents the resurgence of good customer service and new services and revenue streams. It will be your salvation as a seller. Leave the dark side and move over here.
We have covered in past columns the fact most Americans work for companies with less than 100 employees. You call on those groups and have a substantial portion of your book filled with these accounts. Ask yourself this: What professional relationships do any of those accounts have, on balance, and what are their needs? The answer to the first part of the question is, maybe an attorney and probably an accountant. Those relationships leave the big part of your customer needs unmet - human resources, employment law, compensation and employee communications.
The technology-plus model alters your business model to make more money and provide better service. The technology is there, the customer is already there. Where are you? Offering HR will be a key requirement for your firm. New service and marginal revenue per account will be big in your future. It is the "plus" in the technology-plus model. For instance, my firm just started offering a $99 per month, per group HR hotline to employers across America. It's an example of where new service and marginal revenue will come from.
Take the pure technology play with no help, no service or move to the technology-plus model that will help your firm adjust its business model for future revenue streams and stronger customer relationships. Make the choice now because this is happening now. You may not have a choice tomorrow.
Davidson, CEBS, is founder of websites futureoffice network.com, mysalesrockstar.com and the MedAnalyzer Suite of health care analytics. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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