As we ring in the New Year, it’s time to be resolute about making healthy changes in our lives and our relationships – even our professional ones. Is it time to reconsider the current relationship you have with your broker?
The fact is, a subpar relationship with a benefits broker can cause employers to overlook opportunities to manage costs and improve employees’ satisfaction with their benefits package. If you decide to hire a new broker, preparation is key. An employer that understands the needs of their workforce and has a sense of what is available in the marketplace stands a better chance of choosing a broker that is a good fit.
Getting the Right Help
The right broker for a particular employer has extensive experience working with organizations whose size, employee population, benefits budget, geography and industry are similar to their own. The right broker also has a deep understanding of what the employer wants to achieve through its benefit plans and the experience to help that employer achieve its goals.
Human resources departments are often short-staffed and overwhelmed by daily responsibilities, making it hard to be proactive about benefits. In many cases, a strong broker relationship can alleviate the need for human resources teams to add staff to handle benefit-program management, because the broker is able to step in and fill that role.
A strong broker relationship also can provide crucial support toward encouraging greater health care consumerism. For employees to become better health care consumers, employers need access to the tools that can explain complexities like how health savings accounts work and provide transparency in health care costs and pricing. Employers often need a place to go to access these types of tools, which is where a good broker should be able to provide them.
Why Do You Want a Change?
There are many reasons employers enter the market for a new broker. Some simply want to make sure that the arrangement with their current broker is still competitive from a cost perspective. They may also want to see what levels of services are available in the marketplace for organizations of their size. An employer that has grown rapidly over the past few years may now need a broker that is able to negotiate better deals for large benefits programs. In some cases, a growing company that is expanding geographically may find that it needs a more-compliance-savvy broker that can help manage the requirements of various state and local laws and regulations related to benefits plans.
In other cases, the broker change could the result of an employer wanting a relationship that is more supportive of a company’s goals and growth objectives. Or, they may simply feel that the organization is not getting enough attention or the promised level of service from its current broker.
Before entering the market for a new broker, take stock of past broker relationships and determine what kind of relationship you expect from your new broker. It is important to inventory your experience, including what you liked and didn’t like about past relationships. Like any good, healthy and successful relationship, employers need to go into it with a clear idea of the type of advisor they need.
Set Clear Expectations
Once in place, any new broker relationship should begin with clear expectations for all of the activities the broker will perform. For example, how will the broker get those things done? There needs to be accountability to make sure the broker can work with a budget the employer can afford, so employers can provide benefit programs that, within their budget, best meet employees’ needs.
So, What Do You Ask Potential Brokers?
What makes a broker relationship strong? Here are a few questions to ask a potential employee benefits broker:
- How frequently do you meet with your other clients? If a broker is only getting in front of their client during plan renewal, that could be a red flag. Employers should consider seeking a broker that will check-in frequently with quarterly updates, policy updates and answer any questions a client may have.
- How have you worked with a client to design a benefits package, based on their unique needs? Benefits aren’t a “one-size fits all” deal. When building a plan, the employer should be involved to ensure the plan is built with their employee’s unique benefits needs in mind.
- How have you helped new clients educate their employees on their benefits options? Brokers can offer resources like videos, benefit newsletters and informational sessions to help a client’s employees better understand their benefits.
- What is the most critical benefits situation you’ve been faced with, and how did your team resolve it? When the unexpected happens, a broker should be a point person to help their client navigate the issue.
- Who will be my main point of contact at your firm, and how many clients do they have? As with any vendor, it’s important to feel that the broker is an extension of your team. Get to know the person who will manage your account, and understand how many accounts they service, so you can determine the level of attention you’ll receive.
- Can you send me your references? Ask those references the questions above. Whether their answers confirm or negate the answers a potential broker gave can reveal whether or not your broker relationship will be compatible.
Now that you know what to consider when deciding on choosing the right broker, consider giving Roper Insurance a call. We not only make insurance easy and fun, we also take time to develop a relationship with our clients to best meet their individual needs and align with company goals and growth objectives. Call us today at 303-721-1145 to find out more about what makes us different.