3 things every modern benefits brokerage needs
Check out this column in BenefitsPro:
What will the future of your agency look like? As a benefits broker or agency owner, staying focused on the day-to-day tasks of supporting clients, managing benefits and running a business can take up more than enough of your attention. However, carving out time to plan and create a vision for the future keeps your organization ahead of the curve and allows you to continue providing cutting-edge support even as benefits trends, the workforce and decision-makers change.
Ultimately, the future of benefits will look much more tech-focused than it is today. This isn’t just true of benefits; every industry will eventually comprise a larger and larger tech component as more services are provided online. To stay competitive, your agency needs to provide a modern, tech-forward benefits experience.
Some brokers might be thinking, “My clients aren’t computer-savvy. They don’t work in an office. How important could it really be to keep up with technology?”
The answer is increasingly important. Millennials continue to rise into decision-making roles at businesses of every stripe, and are decision-makers who have grown up with technology. They are looking for a benefits and HR experience that mirrors their experiences with online banking, travel, retail and more. According to ‘HR Today and Tomorrow,’ more than 64 percent of small and mid-sized businesses surveyed use HR software and cited increased adoption as a key goal for 2019.
In other words, tech solutions are already a competitive differentiator with many groups. In the future, they will become a prerequisite.
To stay competitive with these organizations, here are three things agencies need to stay – or become – a forward-thinking brokerage.
The right hardware
The first component of a tech-savvy brokerage is the right hardware, such as computers and cell phones. While it isn’t necessary to run out and buy the latest Apple gadget every year to provide great service, it is important to have current, up-to-date technology.
Why? To start, newer computers and cell phones just work better and faster. Keeping up with device updates ensures that you can open files, spreadsheets, videos, presentations, and anything else needed to handle client requests. These kinds of digital needs will only increase as the employers you work with also become more tech-savvy.
Hardware also includes your agency’s internet connection and access. The benefits industry isn’t always known as the most cutting-edge business, and brokerages without Wi-Fi or reliable internet connections do exist. If this sounds familiar, this is a major update your agency needs to make, as constant connectivity continues to become the standard.
Streamlined software solutions
Another benefit of modern hardware is that it will allow your agency to implement and use the software solutions needed to streamline both your business and your clients’ businesses.
These software tools include customer relationship management (CRM) platforms, marketing tools and benefits and HR administration software.
If your agency isn’t currently using one or all of these tools, a few of the benefits include streamlined processes, reduced paperwork and improved data analytics.
CRM tools make it easy to stay connected to clients and prospects, and manage the day-to-day needs of your book of business, while marketing platforms allow you to reach your prospects where they are – online.
Whether it’s your website, a blogging platform, email campaigns or social media, modern marketing tools allow your agency to reach a broader network of employers in your market.
Finally, benefits and HR software provides several advantages for agencies. First, it streamlines benefits enrollment by cutting the paperwork and taking elections online. Because benefits touches so many parts of the HR ecosystem, many of these software tools also provide HR functionality, including applicant tracking, onboarding, time tracking and more.
Providing these tools to clients and prospects not only makes benefits administration easier for you and your agency, but it also provides a competitive differentiator among agencies that don’t yet include a software component to their value proposition.
The right skills
The right technology will only get you so far without the right skills. The modern benefits agency will have to include team members who can champion these tools and use them to their full potential.
In other words, adopting new computers and best-in-class software won’t provide the same advantages if you don’t also have staff willing and able to implement them both internally and with your book of business.
Because of this, hiring may be an important part of your agency’s future. Fortunately, the same workforce trends that are affecting your clients and prospects apply to the benefits industry, too.
Attracting benefits professionals with the right combination of technology expertise and people skills, and providing them with the best tools possible will be key to staying competitive in coming years of the benefits industry.
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