Running a business presents many challenges but working with your insurance broker should not be one of them. The client/broker relationship works best for all parties when it’s viewed as a valued partnership, with clearly articulated expectations. Poor customer service, unresponsiveness, and general lack of support are a few of the many reasons businesses become dissatisfied with their brokers. Many frustrations can be avoided when the client and the broker have a common understanding of not just the service that is to be expected, but also the roles of the broker and the insured. This clarity and accountability upfront help to maximize the value a broker can provide in an advisory capacity as well as facilitate better, clearer communication
Insurance brokers operate in a highly competitive environment to earn and retain customers’ business. The key differentiators they can provide a client are superior service and knowledgeable advice. Working with a broker who functions as an extension of the client’s team, and who is committed to offering quality advisory support, helps an organization better manage their insurance expenses and align its risk mitigation strategy to help meet its business objectives.
Core Brokerage Services
Setting the expectations of your broker upfront, and making sure both parties are in agreement, is a key component to a successful and value adding partnership. Certain classes of insurance will require more service and resources from an insurance broker. When evaluating brokers for such class of insurance, for example Employee Benefits, it is critical that companies ensure brokers are providing them with these core essential services:
Intermediary Services | At the most basic level, a broker should serve as the intermediary between you, the client, and the insurer. This means the broker will find the best options in terms of insurance programs to be presented for client approval, as well as work with the insurer for as long as the policy is active for coverage adjustments, and claims servicing.
Insurance Program Design | Additionally, brokers should not just provide transactional “off the shelf” policies for clients. They should work with the client to design the policy to ensure coverage meets the client’s needs. For Employee Benefits plans, a broker should create a consolidated plan design tailor-made for each client, whereby they evaluate, recommend, and facilitate the implementation of the benefit package for your business. When the client can clearly define their needs and communicate them, they increase the likelihood that their broker’s proposals will meet expectations.
Comprehensive brokers often provide additional consultative services to assist in mitigating other risks that may affect your businesses.
Service Requests and Employee Communications | A broker should be expected to provide exceptional customer service and support. Clients are best served with a dedicated service team (rather than a general customer service line.) Your client service team should be available to answer all inquiries within a standard 24-hour response time. However, it’s important to understand that while some issues may take significantly longer to fully resolve, your service team will keep you updated on progress along the way.
During Open Enrollment, your broker should also provide reliable, personalized communication with your employees as they navigate the enrollment process.
Open Enrollment | Your broker should thoroughly understand the challenges clients experience pre- and post- open enrollment. In order to facilitate a smooth process during open enrollment, it is important to begin working with clients 120 days ahead of the renewal. This allows your broker to take into consideration changes to your business, your goals, or the insurance market when renewing or revising your policies.
Additionally, an online benefits platform saves employers time and offers advantages such as integration with national carriers, onboarding task for employees, as well as access to reports and other tracking mechanisms. Your broker should offer this option.
Additional Broker Services
Service-minded brokers following best practices may also provide additional value-add resources such as:
Benefit Guide | This document consolidates essential information about various aspects of the benefits package, streamlining the communication of relevant plan information to employees and serving as a reference for the entire benefit year.
Email Bulletins | These regular communications outline timely and important benefits information including carrier specific notices, compliance reminders and news updates that directly affect clients.
Explainers or Articles | As industry experts, many brokers produce content to educate clients on new ideas, trends and changes to the risk and insurance industry that may affect clients’ businesses.
Virtual Events | Online informational sessions provide clients with insight into various topics and offer the opportunity to get feedback via Q&A segments.
Broker Service Network
When focusing on employee benefits, sometimes there are overlapping areas where roles and responsibilities can get muddled. While brokers do not directly handle Human Resources escalated inquiries or provide expertise regarding certain retirement plans, they often work in conjunction with service partners who are highly competent and available to meet clients’ needs. Examples of a broker service network:
HR Information Resource | There are several free and member-based services which can assist with workforce issues, compliance resources and employee training.
Compliance Service | Compliance is a big component that goes hand-in-hand with employee benefits. Outsourcing a team of experts in compliance auditing provides critical services such as ERISA filing, ACA Reporting, COBRA, FMLA, etc.
Retirement Advisors | For custom retirement plans, compliance administration and payroll contribution solutions, clients need expert advisors to assist them with selecting the optimal retirement plan and that reduces their fiduciary liabilities while increasing retirement outcomes for plan participants.
Health Advocate | Health advocate services provide trained professionals who can ask questions, write down information, and speak up for covered employees so they can better understand medical issues, navigate claims filings, and help interpret insurance policy coverage to augment the work of your insurance broker and HR team.
At the end of the day, a Broker serves the client’s best interests above all else. Much like other professional services relationships of accountants and lawyers, an insurance broker should be a trusted advisor working to help their client achieve their maximum business objectives. Under this model, the broker-client partnership can help yield the highest quality service and risk protection, better cost control and improved competitiveness for employee recruitment and retention.
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