Rapid Change to Benefits Distribution and Go-to-Market Models
The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked the rapid change to benefits distribution models. First and foremost, the employer-via-broker go-to-market remains dominant but the push to virtual posed a challenge for many — particularly those carriers and brokers that historically relied on in-person enrollers. Many employers responded to the pandemic and employee demands by adding new voluntary benefits to supplement gaps in coverage, but struggled to communicate benefit value, and as a result did not see participation rates materialize. For instance, Accident and Hospital Indemnity saw substantial increases (>35%) in employer participation, but employee participation rates were remained flat from the prior year. Last but not least, changing employment and growth in the Gig-Economy means new markets to penetrate—and new go-to-market models.
In Part 1 of our series, we dive into the specific go-to-market models for benefits providers as they face the challenges mentioned above. From employer-via-broker to direct-to-consumer models, read on to see what’s happening and where things are going. We share strategies, imperatives, and foreseeable opportunities for benefits providers and their senior executives.
Employer-via-Broker Channels Continue to Boast Biggest Profits
Employers are still the biggest drivers in the Voluntary and Dental markets. With distribution taking over underwriting as the main profit-driver, Agents need to keep momentum in shifting to digital approaches. 50% of agents indicated that building new customer relationships remotely was one of the biggest challenges of the pandemic. And the annual enrollment meeting—once the primary face-to-face touchpoint for brokers—is increasingly ignored or done electronically, making it harder to strengthen those relationships, and creating space for disruptors.
So, what should carriers be doing to help enable their brokers/agents to overcome these challenges? Brokers now rank administration and service over product features/benefits as key carrier selection drivers. “White glove” services to minimize enrollment, change, and claim hassles are increasingly important. Yet, as Carriers launch new technologies to facilitate delivery of those services, they need to be mindful of the “yet another system to learn” which is often more of a drag than a benefit to brokers and agents. All of this means the right kind of agent enablement is key.
Strategies to Build the Right Agent Enablement
Carriers that arm agents and brokers with data-powered benefits tools will help drive informed decision-making among employers and employees. The use of benefits enrollment and benefits administration platforms has increased dramatically over the last several years, with nearly ¾ of employers utilizing these platforms today. As the enrollment and administration platforms become ubiquitous, carriers must increasingly focus on the data and insight they can provide—independent of platform.
Instead, arming sellers with data-driven insights such as plan value based on utilization, historic participation rates, proactive benefit eligibility notification based on medical claims, and even pre-qualifying the right leads, handing them off with the right context, content, and messaging, are best practices that will drive broker mindshare.
This 30-minute on-demand webinar covers how to equip direct and indirect sellers (agents and brokers alike) with data-driven targeting, messaging relevance, and unique differentiation.