Getting the most from your voluntary sales: Nick Rockwell
Eastbridge Consulting Group on a new podcast, Focus on Voluntary Benefits.
Assurity 0:05: Hello and welcome to Assurity’s new podcast, Focus on Voluntary Benefits. In this series, we've partnered with Eastbridge Consulting Group to discuss the state of the voluntary benefits industry, as well as strategies brokers can use to grow their business in today's market. I'm your host, Matt, and today, I'm excited to have with me Nick Rockwell, president of Eastbridge Consulting. Since joining the group in 2016, he's directed projects for clients not only in the insurance industry, but in third-party administration and technology platform segments as well. Nick has shared his expertise at many industry events and webinars, and he co authors Eastbridge’s monthly BenefitsPRO column. Nick, thank you so much for joining us today. We are very happy to have the opportunity to partner with Eastbridge on this podcast series and to tap into your expertise.
Nick 0:53: Absolutely. Thank you, Matt. And it's great to be here and we really appreciate Assurity including us in this, and just putting this forth in the marketplace dialogue about voluntary is a good thing, especially with all the changes going on. So thank you.
Matt 1:08: Absolutely. No, it's some people are interested to hear about and something that we are very happy to bring them. So, Nick, today, as you know, we're gonna be talking a little bit about enrollments and how a well-defined enrollment strategy is essential to getting the most out of a sale. So, to start, let's talk about the enrollment method. How important is it to include that enrollment method being used up front when selling a voluntary product into a case? And why is defining that enrollment method ahead of time so vital to getting the most from a sale?
Nick 1:41: Yeah, absolutely. So you know, it's this topic. One of the things that I think's important to start with is always remembering why is it that employers are offering voluntary. You know, over the years we've seen in our data some things change, some things stay the same. I mean, currently addressing financial wellness – the well-being of employees – is leading the charge there in terms of topics that drive the voluntary conversation. So, you know, people are really registering the fact that these impact people's overall financial wellness and you hear that as a buzz term in the industry, and at the end of the day, all voluntary products out there really aim to address financial well-being overall. So remembering how important that is up front, not only that, right behind it is addressing gaps in the current benefit plan. So people are recognizing that my medical plan as it's changed over time is not going to cover everything that could be impactful to people. Not only that, there's lifestyle issues and things you know, that outside the medical realm and just the health realm alone, that people want to focus on. And then behind that you have employee interest in the product. But those three are really leading the charge and the first two I mentioned really show us that at the end of the day. This is important and we can't just roll out to be put on the shelf. And that takes us back to the concept of the overall holistic enrollment methodology. And I think there's a tendency often times in the in the producer universe to focus on kind of a feature-creature sale, really making sure that the employer understands the nuance of the product and what's covered, what the benefits are, what the guaranteed issue is. However, all of that is for naught if we don't have a good approach to putting it in front of the employee who's going to have a different, you know, time with which to make the decision, they're going to be experiencing it in a different way. So having that all part of that sale up front with the employer having a truly be – again, I’m going to throw another buzzword I use – “solution based,” right, being holistic that we're not just talking about the value of the product, but once that shines through that, Mr. or Mrs. Employer, we really need to put this in front of people in a way that they can digest. So having that up front is becoming more and more an important factor in installing a program the right way. Not the least of which, you know, if we're, if we're not as comfortable with voluntary as a producer in the market, it's something that we haven't focused on as much as maybe the employer-paid line, we have to recognize our competition is getting towards that solution – is thinking through all the benefit communication aspects, not just the product pieces up front. So it's an area that to get the best outcome, having a broader discussion up front is important.
Matt 4:25: Yeah, no, definitely. And to your point, the enrollment methodology can often end up being an afterthought when brokers are considering everything going into an enrollment. Now, what are a couple of other overarching factors that are important to the successful installation of a voluntary program, but often end up being like that methodology and afterthought?
Nick 4:47: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I mean, one of the first things that comes to mind, we've seen this in various parts of our data over time, is, you know, confusing employer preferences around the election part of enrollment, where somebody actually selects, and says yes or no to a product versus the education, you know, versus the communication and assuming that, well, if somebody wants to do self-service, that means they really don't want to do a whole lot of communication. Or if, you know, if I'm doing face to face, that's really all I need to do, because that's when the ground will be laid. So recognizing that our clients have preferences that fit into both those categories, and at the end of the day, the reality is even from our preferred enrollment method standpoint, right, so the specific election piece of the equation we see, you know, about half of groups out there saying that “Yeah, we want to see self-enroll is the tool that we're going to use,” but right behind that, seeing some sort of enroller intervention assisting in completing the forms as an equal number of really considering that and preferring to explore both those methodologies. So we still have a client with preferences to look at both sides of the equation. So we don't want to seem just because there's going to be a trend around one, that's the only thing we can do. And then beyond that, recognizing that the lead-up and communications phases are really critical and shouldn't be lumped into just the self-service category alone. So, you know, the other one is not considering the variety of employee preferences for educate, being educated when they're making their enrollment decision. So there's a variety of mediums that can be used. And depending on age ranges, depending on demographics, people want to learn different ways about their benefits. So a one-size-fits-all approach to educating any group of consumers, in this case, employees looking to learn about benefits, usually is only going to, you know, work to small degree in any good way. So recognizing that we've got a variety of things that we should be employing to educate people as a is another piece that again, it just oftentimes gets… the decision isn't made until enrollment is upon us. And that's not the time that we want to get into it. You know, lastly, and perhaps most critical are the working conditions, the parameters around this, and it really does go back to your first question around setting some enrollment methodology expectations up front and trying to put those guardrails that we can get an employer to understand why we want to do those types of things. Anything from the sequence of the products that we're putting together, like understanding what's best to have come first, last, after the medical that type of thing? Does it depend on which products we've installed first? Is it a second-year product or third-year product? Active election tends to dramatically improve participation when people are kind of put through a process where they have to make some decisions – “I can decide now, but I need to make a yes or no decision that oftentimes has me think through things differently than if it's something where I can just focus on the things that jumped out at me, and they're in the menu of benefits.” So, at the end of the day, not confusing election, and education, recognizing those can have two different approaches; recognizing the variety of communication needs you might need to use for a group, depending on the makeup of the employees; and then really focusing on all those kind of programming conditions around the enrollment, not just the communication, and not just is it a face-to-face for self-service, but what other parameters are we doing to try and create consistency in the group?
Matt 8:43: Yeah, no, definitely. Those are practices that I think are vital to keep in mind and that our listeners could see a lot of success if they think about those a little bit earlier in their strategy process and make sure to keep them in mind going into the enrollment. Now, what are some other best practices a broker should consider as they develop and implement their benefits communication strategy? You hear a lot about considering the type of employee population being enrolled using multiple touchpoints, mediums, or beginning communication early. From your point of view, what are some of the most powerful best practices that people going into enrollments can use?
Nick 9:21: Absolutely. You know, certainly the pre-communication part. If you think about it through the lens of employer data, one of the things that we're seeing is a willingness and an interest from employers to actually be promoting aspects of the overall benefits programs throughout the year. So that's even showing us that outside of even just a lead-up to open enrollment, that throughout the year, you know, reminding people of the product packages there, even if they can't elect it, obviously certain products are gonna require that open enrollment, planting the seed around when there is a growing preference. So that really speaks to, you know, when we're leading up to open enrollment, what kind of timeline are we working with? And in deploying those pre-communications in a meaningful way, in a tactful way that helped really lay out a good groundwork. And it's not something that's just being dropped in the handbook right ahead of open enrollment. Variety, again, in those materials, everything from digital to an employers’ site – anything that a carrier might be putting forth … if we're utilizing a benefit administration system, are there other tools in that environment that lead up to open enrollment? You know, what is the overarching plan? And, you know, I think a lot of producers and a lot of employers do look to carriers to support that, but producers, at the end of the day, you know, quarterbacking, this need to have an eye towards what are we doing to communicate everything holistically and in the lens of overall employee understanding. And then timing in the rhythm is really important. So you know, in terms of the number of communications that would go out, you know, one communication typically isn't going to help a whole lot. I mean, at the end of the day, this is very much a marketing experience, even if the client may not look at this that way with their employees, a lot of that same lens can be used. And the old adage of marketing, you know, six, seven touch points before you get somebody to make an investment – this situation is very similar. And in someone protecting themselves, they need to hear things different ways, they need to get that message a certain number of times to have it sort of sink in in a different way. So making sure we have a sense for enough timing ahead of an enrollment event where we can put in something beyond just one singular message about what the benefits plan is going to look at.
Matt 11:55: Yeah, absolutely. You know, continuing that communication and using a variety of different types of communication is vital to meeting employees where they are. Let's drill down a little bit; specifically, talking about small and medium-sized employers. Which enrollment methods are the most common and most successful with these more small and medium-sized employers?
Nick 12:22: Yeah, absolutely. It's a great question. You know, one common belief in the market is that online enrollment is less common in the smaller end of the market. And that is true, that does remain true, but we need to keep an eye towards the fact that it's changing. That the smaller the market is moving away from paper all the time and getting to an arena where technology is involved. You know, groups of up to 50 are using online systems about a quarter of the time; when you look at groups up to 100, that number moves up to about a third of the time, and then as the groups get bigger – all the way up to the largest in the market, we see it nearly 100 percent of the time using that technology. But one important difference down at the smaller end of the market is that while our larger groups might be doing this on a benefits admin system that they have gone out and invested in themselves, done some due diligence – maybe it has employer functionality and beyond just the benefits and enrollment process for employees – that they've made decisions about, and we’re, as producers, being asked to utilize that. At the smaller end of the market, many employers will say, you know, drawing on brokers and carriers to support that technology, perhaps bring that technology more, but more and more is some sort of third-party system or maybe something that the broker has brought to be, but you know, it's an important thing to notice that the methodology down into the market is kind of moving from paper alone to more and more of a technology play. You know, as we're looking towards the support we get from carriers and seeing a nimble partner there who can plug into the variety of systems is certainly important. We see, from a success standpoint, we've seen self-service really go up as well. So a lot of times self-service gets thrown around in that kind of buzz-term fashion. And a lot of people are, especially those who have been involuntary a long time, I think that it's maybe not the most successful way to go. But those who have sort of accepted the fact that, hey, it's a trend, it's a tool, there is a lot of scalability we can get at it, so long as we're using good communication and other plans, working conditions, some of the things we've been talking about, we can see participation rates increase there, and we have. So overall, we're starting to see carriers register the range of participation around self-service be similar on par to individual meetings, face-to-face meetings, and group meetings. And again, remember I'm talking about ranges, right? So that means the opportunities and the potential is there to have success with this methodology in a way that it really didn't used to have. And that rings true regardless of which size of the market we're at, I think we just have to remember that at the smaller end of the market, we might have clients that aren't as familiar with how to deploy these things. And it means coaching them and being able to speak to the additional layers on just the technology and people are going to make their own elections going back to those conditions, going back to that education, probably all that much more important. Those are going to usually be smaller HR teams and fewer decision makers, and they're gonna lean on the producer for the best kind of practices around that methodology. It’s definitely something to keep an eye on that we're seeing more and more technology kind of come down market and allow the small and medium-sized groups to use that type of those types of systems.
Matt 15:54: Yeah, those shifting conditions are very interesting, and it's key to keep that in mind that things aren't the way they always happen, and they won't always be the way they are now. Now, no matter which enrollment method you're using for group, enrollment conditions are still going to be a critical part of the enrollment. So how important is it to have an agreement between the carrier, broker and employer on the enrollment conditions that are going to be used, and making sure that everybody's on the same page and has the same understanding of what that employee enrollment experience is going to look like?
Nick 16:28: You know, it really is critical. Anyone who knows us knows our businesses is mostly about working with carriers today, behind the scenes, helping them look at data to make decisions about how to support brokers, how to support employers, and ultimately put good programs together. And when we look at that implementation phase – the sale through implementation kind of handoffs, if you will – having all parties on the same page, right – the client, the vendor that they might have – that's necessary. During the equation, whether that be the benefits admin system, sometimes a payroll processor or some other TPA, on their behalf is involved somehow in managing and deploying communications and managing the data exchanges, setting up the screen but then admin sizing that active election component. Getting that buy-in from an employer is one thing, but then keeping it on the table as we work through the process, most carriers will tell us that's one of the biggest challenges. And producers are the ones who can quarterback the best and look to keeping everybody on the same page, whether it's having a documented plan up front, having some finalized sale meetings and remembering that when we get to that implementation call or calls, you know, depending on our needs, that there really is an agreement in place by all parties. Without that, it’s where look back and do post-mortems on a lot of cases and can say, “this just kind of went from five or six very clear conditions around communication and how people would elect down to, you know, getting only one email out the door and no active election or declination there.” And it changes everything dramatically because time got away from us because there wasn't really buy-in at all levels. And that's usually what it goes back to. And it's a good follow-up to your original question that in the sales process, having that whole program illustrated for the client is really critical, because by the time we get into implementation, those conditions oftentimes will feel more burdensome to our clients, and they'll feel like they're being asked to do something that wasn't set up as expectation ahead of time, if you will
Matt 18:44: So, yeah, keeping those expectations level between all parties involved is, is critical to your point –
But I might add to that, Matt, you know, the other the other thing that I probably didn't highlight enough is helping them understand the value. You know, a lot of times something like an active election can feel forced, right? It can feel to a client like we're really, you know, trying to ask people to go through a more cumbersome process, or it feels like something we might have to ask the vendor to set up differently. You know, there's really just this one time a year during open enrollment for many, many benefits, right, that we're able to ask somebody to look at those products and make some really important decisions about protecting themselves, protecting their family, and having some stopgaps in their life. And it's incredible when you put some of those parameters around what it can do to have somebody realize “I need to ask more questions about this; I need to understand what I'm agreeing to or not agreeing to.” And that's in the best interest of the consumer to always be able to say that and go back and recognize “I was educated on this decision.” And so I think we always have to remember that lens, right – that it's not just about, say, “Hey, this is how we have to do it to get participation.” Well, increased participation means more people are protected. So it’s just as important.
Matt 20:03: Yeah, I'm really glad you brought that up. Actually, that's gonna be key to keep in mind. Now, you just brought it up a moment ago: Participation is ultimately going to be one of the big goals of any enrollment – getting high participation amongst the group. Now, question on that: Which enrollment methods typically get the best participation? And you mentioned earlier the shifting prominence of self-service enrollment methods. Is that having any impact on participation rates?
Nick 20:36: Yeah, it absolutely is. So, you know, over time, we have seen, you know, there's two different categories right now with the use of different methodologies. We've seen the increase over the years of the use of something like a self-service enrollment, and for years that was not an approach that was generating much participation. In recent years, we've started to see that catch up. And we think there's a probably a couple of reasons why. The first and foremost is there's better tools and technology around communication. I mean, you've got whole companies out there really dedicated to the ben comm. concept. You have admin systems getting better at, you know, messaging, you've got video-based systems and all these other things that are being deployed there. In the early years of those, I think there was some working through the kinks of how to really hit the mark with that. I think that, you know, being able to put those out there in the right way along with the working conditions are, are very important, but having a technology that can deploy a message, I don't think today we can say it takes the place of face to face, which allows people to ask questions and interact. But there's a lot of technology being utilized that can help people see that value proposition up front. So that's one thing that has started to evolve over time. And another one is, is just that better conditions piece being brought to bear. As producers get more comfortable, especially producers who have long sold employer-paid products and are doing more and more voluntary as a part of their business and their value proposition, they're recognizing more and more that it's not just enough to rely on a system and say that we're going to have this. How many people are actually going to see it? Where does the product fall in that sequence of benefits? All of those things really do come to bear. So on one hand, seeing better technology to deliver these various communications that are helping people understand, “Well, why would I need a critical illness product?” “Why would I need an accident product; don't I already get that from my health care plan?” Recognizing the difference the value where it plays, being able to communicate that on a broad scale has improved a great deal – but then also recognition that we need to have some guiderails for this as we install it that ensure people see it equally and in the most meaningful way.
Matt 23:06: Sure. Now let's look ahead to the future just a little bit. Participation that first year is obviously important, but when re-enrollment is approaching the following year, that's also going to be critical to keep those numbers up. So why is it important for producers to talk about the approach to re-enrollment up front as opposed to waiting until the next year?
Nick 23:32: Yeah, absolutely re-enrollment. After that first year of any product, you know, the carrier data we have on it shows that about half of carriers in the market will end up re-enrolling something in a different methodology or different way than they did in the first year. And oftentimes, that's a function of maybe not getting the same access, or maybe the same buy-in from a group. Sometimes it's because we've moved on to another product. So there’s a variety of reasons that can happen. But at the end of the day for the producer to recognize that a lot of these products build on themselves, and having the ability to go back in additional years and have meaningful ways to make sure that if somebody in that first year didn't, didn't see the value and make the investment maybe in the second or third year, those messages will finally ring true. But if we don't have those conversations with an employer, if our positioning around these isn't through that strategic lens of having a multi-year plan, we really run the risk again of having people think that they weren’t given the whole story or the plan wasn't put together up front. They're less thinking as, as an employer that it isn't enough to have the right product in there and educating that, you know, re-enrollment is an opportunity to come back and relay that message again – and add that message to other products, certainly – but having the ability to bring that in. So most employers today are the majority are citing three or more products that don't install. Now, I think most every producer out there can agree that three three new products in any one year is not necessarily the way to go. But over time, whate our employer data tells us is that people are comfortable with three or more products. Right behind that it's actually three to five, and behind that six or more. So there's a variety of products out there and employers are open to all those options. But layering in a re-enrollment from the ones that you've already installed is really important, because if we don't do that, we run the risk of the next product we bring in, having people base it on what's been the success of the other products. So they all build on each other, having that pre-communication and working condition plan prior to the sale initially, but then also having an eye towards what we are going to do in the second third year relative to this product as we're adding other ones. So re-enrollment is definitely something that I think as producers get more and more comfortable with, they're recognizing that “that's how I really helped create value that's gonna keep me with that case and keep us building on the programs that we install year after year.”
Matt 26:14: Yeah, and no, that's very, very true. Just keeping up those communications, keeping up those expectations, it's important going forward year to year. Now in terms of expectations, let's shift over to producer expectations for their carriers. How important is it for a carrier to be platform neutral, and to work with brokers to implement products on multiple platforms, depending on what the broker and the employer have chosen for their group ahead of time?
Nick 26:47: Yes, this is a good topic. So, you know, it used to be that carriers … the trend in the market was really to come to market with that environment for employees to elect, and to be able to bring to brokers and employers that website or technology that allowed people to. It was part of our value proposition to the carrier to say, “Hey, when it comes to enrollment, we're gonna give you some technology, we're going to have a website, allow people to come in there, we can even plug other carriers into it.” So for years, that was kind of the race, if you will. And you know, as that was happening, all the HR systems and then and ben admin systems technology was kind of bubbling up in the market as well. And once we kind of hit that time period where employers were making those investments and, and getting into making those decisions with their producers around investing in that technology, the carriers have had to become less about bringing any one branded environment or website to bear and being nimble towards plugging into the various systems that are out there. There are scores and scores. Depending on how you can classify the different platforms, probably hundreds of systems out there. So for a carrier to understand, okay, my producer group that I'm focused on which part of the market I'm focused on? What's most popular among them? Where am I going to need to develop some partnerships, if you will, to make sure that that data exchange component works smoothly? You know, at the end of the day, from a producer lens looking at carriers around this topic and where they're nimble, there's two pretty big buckets: the messaging component of being plugged into one of these systems, right? So when somebody lands on the carrier's product for critical illness as a vehicle, you know, what's that look like? Is it effective? And can it be deployed quickly? Are they already in the system that way? And then certainly the second piece is that EDI phase afterwards and making sure that that date is going to be at the exchange, behind the scenes – those are things that producers want to have confidence in and know that they're going to they're going to come to be. So you know, some carriers are better at that than others, but at the end of the day, that's one of the things that we really try to help people recognize is that we've got to try and be nimble. And we know that producers are looking for that kind of flexibility and capability today.
Matt 29:20: Yeah. And you bring up something interesting there, just in terms of the expectations for flexibility and the expectations for nimbleness and solutions. Can you speak to the growing trend of employer interest in having personalized employee-level communication? And that probably had some complexity to the pre-enrollment communication … can you talk a little bit about how that how that all works?
Nick 29:47: Absolutely. You know, I think this is one of the most interesting trends that we're seeing in benefits today. You know, you really have two topics with this. I mean, first of all, it really helps to demonstrate that employers and the community are starting to recognize the value in communications. So that's the first thing we should take as a positive sign from this – that kind of sophisticated “marketing” type of strategy – that it's ringing true shows that the value of education is something that our clients are recognizing more and more. That brings up two sort of categories, if you will, of things that we all have to think through in terms of actually trying to achieve that, and the first is the messaging. So if I want to present a product to people based on their their life stage in some way, can I depict that message? Can I take that product and show one instance the, you know, married couple or the family picture or another's you know, the single individual who's maybe doing something fun with their friends – you know, let's take some visuals in the message, and, you know, what is the story that's going to maybe appeal to those. So that's the first thing is telling, having these different stories. And it's probably among the easier out of the bunch. I mean, that has become something where people have been looking at the various personas of how to bring these stories to employees over time. I think there's a lot more recognition and knowledge for doing that. But it is the first issue – can we can we actually come up with the various messages that are right for any group based on what we know about their demographics. But the second and perhaps bigger complication in it is how do we deploy that? So how do you take those messages and actually have individual employees see the appropriate message? Now, you're talking about a system that needs to be able to deliver that. I believe there are ben admin systems in the market that can do that. We certainly encountered a few through are clients that cannot. Even if a carrier themselves could do it, that's a rare thing for an employer to want to put communication in that way and more back on the carrier. So it does become a question of is that tool that we have? Is a tool that our clients have? How are we actually going to deploy those in a way that the right people see the right message so that we get that? And are we going to get that ROI for it? So I think it's a good thing. It's a good thing for us to see clients having a willingness to look at benefits communication this way. But it is another one that we have to determine, is any one client ready for that? And are they at that level of sophistication or expectation where they're going to be on board with it? And once they are, can we deliver those two things – can we carve up the messages in an appropriate way for the various demographics? And then ultimately, can we deploy it in a way where people are going to see those the way we expect them to?
Matt 32:59: Yeah, but for the time being, a case-by-case basis might be the best way to go on this.
Nick 33:05: Yeah, absolutely.
Matt 33:07: Yeah definitely. Well, do you have anything more, Nick, that you'd like to bring up for our audience? Anything that you'd like to discuss, or any topics that you think are essential when thinking about enrollment strategy?
Nick 33:22: Yeah, you know, it feels somewhat obvious saying this, but I can't stress that enough, because we see it in our business that as obvious as it may be it may be, it oftentimes is just kind of the afterthought. And it's that enrollment really is when the rubber meets the road, right? So many producers still kind of come from the B2B environment of the industry. And I think everybody can appreciate that typically, the employer sale was the only sale that we had to do with that kind of true group product. But now that we have, regardless of platform, employee-pay-all products being more and more focused on, we have to remember how vital that enrollment component is. And always be thinking through what is the lens of the consumer today? What is the understanding of somebody when they hear “accident product” or “short-term disability?” Or “What does that really mean for me?” Because they really do need to be educated. Oftentimes it just kind of slips and in here more and more from carriers and brokers alike in January when the dust is settling that, “You know, we just didn't get our arms around that.” And I think it's definitely the next area where there's plenty of product out there and a lot of different options in the market, but trying to really hone in on our process and make sure our clients recognize that their constituency employees need different options, need to see things differently, that there is no one size fits all, or having those conversations up front in a way where we can really get them on board and bring them through that process. With a full plan developed up front is really going to make enrollment more successful. And in recognizing, you know, our carrier partners, what does that mean to the process and engaging with them? What does it mean to the flow into administration and first bill? All of that is really where that rubber meets the road for this. So you know, those are just some final thoughts around again, what seems obvious in, you know, nobody, there's no success unless anybody unless people invest, but oftentimes we find that it gets some of the some of the least conversation.
Matt 35:35: Yeah, no, and I think there's gonna be a lot more conversations in the future about enrollment strategy and putting that more in the forefront of producers’ minds. Well, all right. It has been a fantastic having you on, your answers have been amazing. And I think that our listeners are going to get a lot of value out of those; they're really going to help them going into enrollment season. So I'd like to thank you just once again for your time this afternoon.
Nick 35:58: Thank you very much, Matt. And thanks again to Assurity.
Matt 36:01: And to our listeners. Thanks for tuning in to Assurity’s Focus on Voluntary Benefits. If you'd like to learn more about Assurity and our voluntary products, visit Assurity.com. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll be happy to connect you with the sales team in your region. If you'd like to learn more about Eastbridge Consulting and their research, you can visit them at Eastbridge.com. Thanks for listening.
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America’s fastest-growing small carrier has partnered with Eastbridge Consulting Group to bring you a new podcast series, Focus on Voluntary Benefits. In our second episode, Eastbridge President Nick Rockwell discusses how a well-defined enrollment strategy is key to the sale.
How important is it to include your enrollment method up front when selling a voluntary product into a case? And why is defining that method ahead of time so vital to getting the most from a sale?
Nick: I think there’s oftentimes a tendency in the producer universe to focus a “feature-creature” sale; that is, really making sure the employer understands the nuance of a product – what’s covered, what the benefits are and what the guaranteed issue is. However, all of that is for naught if we don’t have a good approach to putting it in front of the employee. We need to do that in a way that they can digest. Having that up front is becoming more and more of an important factor in installing a program the right way.
What are some of the most powerful best practices brokers can use going into enrollments?
Nick: Certainly pre-communication. One of the things we’re seeing is a willingness and interest from employers to actually promote aspects of the overall benefits program throughout the year – planting the seed around when there is a growing preference.
And rhythm is very important. One communication typically isn’t going to help a whole lot. The old adage of marketing says six or seven touch points before you get someone to make an investment – this situation is very similar. They need to get that message a certain number of times for it to sink in.
Why is it important for producers to talk about re-enrollment up front, as opposed to waiting until the next year?
Nick: The data we have shows that about half of the carriers in the market will end up re-enrolling a product in a different way than they did in the first year. Oftentimes, that’s maybe because they didn’t get the same access or the same buy-in from a group. Sometimes it’s because they’ve moved on to another product. At the end of the day, the producer should recognize that a lot of these products build on themselves, and having meaningful ways to make sure that if someone didn’t see the value in the product in the first year, those messages will ring true in the second or third year.