Offering one benefits technology solution isn’t enough for employers

Originally published in BenefitsPro July 12, 2021

Benefits consultants rely on a toolbox of resources and products to build a benefits package that fits their clients just right. When it comes to benefits offerings, consultants assess, shop, and deliver the best products at the best prices by searching among multiple carriers.

But when it comes to benefits technology, some benefits consultants don’t feel as comfortable making recommendations. Instead, they might suggest one preferred technology product to all of their clients, hoping it can serve as a “one-size-fits-all” solution.

Just like one carrier’s products won’t work for every client, one benefits technology solution also won’t meet every company’s needs. While it’s crucial for benefits consultants to talk about technology with their clients, relying on only one platform can harm your relationships—and ultimately your business.

Investing in a single solution has unanticipated costs

Employers increasingly expect to have technology that supports their benefits offerings. As a result, benefits consultants feel pressure to offer a solution to satisfy the client’s demand for technology.

Some firms are attempting to meet this demand by investing in one benefits technology product. The firm spends anywhere from $10k to 200k per year to be able to license the solution, depending on the vendor and the product. In addition to that initial cost, the firm also has to hire a full-time employee dedicated to learning everything about the solution in order to serve as product support.

Because of these costs, firms can generally only afford to invest in one technology solution—one that they now have to recommend to their clients.

This brings additional challenges:

  • The firm now has to manage the technology in-house, which cuts into their bottom line.
  • They are selling employers on a product that may not work for them.

Although the technology was meant to open doors, this solution actually limits benefits consultants from doing more business.

Trusting all your business with one resource is risky

The monetary investment in a single solution is one factor; ongoing maintenance and support is another burden firms must bear to manage their own technology. Continued client happiness depends on strong support, and employers will naturally turn to the consultant who sold them the solution to help them fix it.

To maintain a positive client experience, the firm will either need to 1) hire a subject-matter expert (SME) or 2) train an Account Manager or other existing resource who will be the primary contact for handling all client tech issues. This is easier said than done.

The ideal SME must have:

  • Technical understanding of the specific software solution for implementation, training, and ongoing support, plus expertise in building and maintaining EDI files, payroll connections, and other integrations.
  • Benefits knowledge, which might require time and training from a benefits expert who can guide and check the employee’s work (an additional burden on the current team).
  • A commitment and drive to serving clients, especially during an always-stressful fourth quarter.
  • Great customer service to complement their technical skills when working with clients.

Most importantly, the SME must have loyalty to the agency. The SME is the key to the product and entire technology experience, making them a constant flight risk. If they’re a fantastic employee, other firms want them. If they can’t handle the pressure, they won’t stay for long. Losing an SME during open enrollment (or any other time of year for that matter) will almost surely lead to lost clients because of the negative experience.

The firm’s technology is only as good as their SME. Would you feel comfortable trusting this responsibility to just one employee?

Don’t send the wrong message to prospects and clients

This is what your clients hear when you can only offer them one benefits technology solution:

  • “We’re only interested in selling you our product, not in meeting your needs.”
  • “We cannot tailor a solution to fit your size, demographics, or the complexity of your benefits offering.”
  • “If you want to work with us, this is the technology you’ll have to use.”

Tech solutions should fit your clients, not the other way around. Moreover, you shouldn’t have to be a technology expert—you’re a benefits expert. Instead of tying yourself to one solution, explore how you can offer multiple benefits technology options to clients.

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