One of the first books I spent the time to read once I stepped into the Agent/Broker world was 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. Although at a younger age this book made a rather low impact on in my professional life I can now see the full “pendulum effect” it has had many years later. While revisiting the book over the last few weeks it struck a chord how the seven “habits” Covey wrote about could impact a employee benefits agent and their clients.
As a health, dental, vision, etc. insurance consumer there are certain service levels and consulting benchmarks a group benefits broker/agent should maintain. Gone are the years of renewal time meetings and “poof” there goes the agent. Companies should and are expecting more from their benefits agency.
According to Time Magazine’s article in October of 2009, health insurance rates have risen 131% since 1999! A bewildering statistic especially when factoring in the average companies renewal rates. Employee benefits brokers must exemplify more than a handful of these 7 qualities to rally a companies benefits program.
Here are several of the habits and some thoughts that can get you evaluating your current broker relationship.
The health insurance industry as a whole has been a well documented “reactionary” group. Take a look at how the Government is now stepping into the arena with healthcare reform and PPACA. Agents, especially those that have been in the industry for 15 plus years are following those trends as well. Your agent/broker needs to be proactive in service, consultation and negotiations.
Begin with the End in Mind:
Have you ever sat down and budgeted with your accounting department for a renewal? Over 92% of clients/prospects we meet with haven’t even thought of the idea. The employee benefits broker needs to be able to educate you that in the end your renewal will go up and budgeting for an increase makes like easier all around. This is just an example of what your agency could be doing to keep the “end in mind.”
Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood:
This statement is potentially the most important thing a broker can bring to their clients. We hear all to often from prospects and new clients that their brokers are pushing this and that product. The overall complaint immediately following that is… “what about our issues and problems we want solved.” Seek first to understand what your client needs.
The Free Dictionary defines synergy as the potential ability of individual organizations to be more successful or productive as a result of a merger. Talk about right in the wheel house of this conversation! Employers can’t create successful benefits programs on their own. Agents can’t be in business without a decent client base. There needs to be that merged partnership with mutual understanding for a synergistic relationship.