When it comes to deploying online benefits software for small employer clients, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it.

First, the wrong way. Despite what most advisers think, they should not:

  • Hold a luncheon or some other type of seminar to inform clients about the software
  • Have a pre-renewal meeting with the client to discuss going online or demo the software.
  • Roll out the software well in advance of the client’s upcoming open enrollment.
  • Bring up going online until you meet with the client to present their annual health insurance renewal.

Instead, advisers should take the following approach:

Bloomberg/file photo

During the annual renewal meeting with the client, health renewal typically takes up 90% of the meeting. The online enrollment system should be one of the last items to be discussed, and by that time everyone in the room will be ready to wrap things up. Here’s what to say:

“Yes, great. Now let’s talk about our new system. This is an online benefits system our agency has adopted to make things easier for our clients and help them stay in compliance. We vetted the entire industry and selected this system, and I’m confident that you’re going to love it. I just wanted to mention it today; we’ll have it ready for your employees to enroll in conjunction with the enrollment meetings. Do you have any questions about this? If not, let’s talk about next steps.”

There may be a few basic questions at this point, but by following this advice, several things will be working the adviser’s favor in terms of getting the client to move forward with the new software. One of them is that the owner, CFO, or controller will probably be in the room, and this individual is likely to have a much more favorable view of going online than HR or the office manager. He or she will be the ranking executive in attendance and biased towards capturing the greater efficiencies that an automated system represents. That will help make this a short conversation.

Also, everyone else in the room will also want this to be a short conversation. They will have just discussed benefits for more than 80 minutes, and they all have other things that need to get done. They will want to wrap things up, so that they can move on.

A stronger position
Once the adviser has secured a decision to move forward with an online benefits system, the pressure will be on to perform. But the adviser will also be in a stronger position to move forward by having avoided some of the ‘should not’s’ described above.

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By holding a seminar, luncheon or separate meeting with to discuss moving online, the adviser is just giving more air to the conversation, and this does not work in the adviser’s favor.

When an adviser discusses adopting an automated system six months before the renewal, some clients naturally think of other brokers who have cold-called them to present another system. The client may think, “Hmmm, if my broker is going to want me to go online anyway, I might as well check out these other brokers and their system to make sure I get the right one for my company.”

In other words, a premature conversation provides an opening for the adviser’s competition.

Alternatively, some clients will think about other HR software they’ve seen advertised. Or they’ll think about their payroll company’s benefits module. They’ll ask the adviser to help them compare those options to the benefits platform that the adviser is promoting. One broker found himself sitting through demos for eight different HR software platforms, some of which didn’t even support benefits, as a result of giving the client too much time to think about its decision.

More discussion than necessary is also bad for the client. Why? Because all the client really wants is a smooth open enrollment, followed by an efficient process for making adds, changes and terminations throughout the year. It’s so easy when sitting through HR software demos to say “Oh, but wouldn’t that one little feature be nice?” And then they’re off on a tangent that distracts them from what they really want—which is a hitch-free open enrollment.

Larger clients may warrant more discussion about going online than is contemplated here. The bottom line, though, is that with the right leadership from the adviser, the adviser’s clients will readily agree to move online. The move won’t take place without hiccups, but clients will ultimately be very glad that they made the transition.

This column is adapted from the book “Online Benefits Technology: The Strategic Broker’s Guide.”

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