How Interactive Decision Support Can Help Brokers Sell More Voluntary Benefits

Chad Schneider Benefits Communication, Industry Insights

Not so long ago, selling voluntary benefits was pretty low on most brokers’ priority lists, slightly above “eating healthy on the road” but below “cleaning out the junk drawer.”

Today though, since High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs) are on the rise, employees are more likely to opt in to voluntary benefits that help fill the gaps and provide a safety net. In fact, according to the 2017 AFLAC Workforces Report, 81% of employees see a growing need for voluntary insurance, while 72% of employees not offered voluntary insurance would be at least somewhat likely to purchase them if they were.

At the same time, employers are realizing that offering a fuller roster of benefits gives them a leg up not only on retaining their employees, but also with recruiting them. Brokers are also seeing a change: focusing more on selling these products not only makes their clients feel better-served, but it can also be pretty darn good for their bottom line.

Of course, each new benefit offered needs to be explained in a way that ensures employees both completely understand their options and feel equipped to make the decisions that are right for them. Some brokers deal with this communication challenge by hiring enrollment firms to do face-to-face consults with employees; others do the heavy lifting themselves, giving presentations and answering questions onsite.

The upside of this personalized approach? When a real, living person asks employees questions about their unique life situation, explains the value of an employer-sponsored plan versus other insurance, and offers tailored recommendations, employees are more likely to stay engaged with the information. The downsides, of course, are that these firms don’t come cheap and sometimes these consultants fall prey to overselling. Also, meeting one-on-one with employees yourself, or running lots of small meetings, takes up a lot of precious time that could be better spent on higher-priority strategizing.

However! There’s actually a third approach available that not enough brokers have considered: offering clients interactive benefits decision support tools. This option delivers the personal touch of a conversation with an expert, but doesn’t require feet on the ground.

Interactive benefits decision support tools simulate a natural back-and-forth conversation with a friendly benefits expert and are available to employees 24/7. Not only that, but some of this software—like ALEX, for example—uses behavioral science techniques to nudge employees out of their pre-conceived notions of voluntary benefits, show value, and drive behavior change. Also, unlike the guidance an enrollment consultant might give an employee face-to-face, ALEX’s guidance is consistent and never veers into overselling.

This software doesn’t just talk about voluntary benefits, of course: it also helps employees pick their health plans and retirement options. And that makes it possible for some brokers to either size down their benefits meetings to just a few short Q&As, or enables them to stop doing them altogether. Especially come Q4, that sounds like a darn good option.

In short, your client’s employees aren’t going to buy new insurance unless it’s super clear what they stand to lose or gain by doing so. So if selling voluntary benefits is a top priority of yours of this year, upgrading your clients’ benefits communication technology should be, too.


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