Oct 19, 2023
[Webinar replay] Building better benefits technology: A view from the broker
Four takeaways from our recent webinar with broker leaders on how ben-admins and carriers on building better benefits technology experiences for their customers.
Whether ben-admin and or carrier, IT or operations, if you’re investing in technology, you need to have the voice of the customer resonating within your organization. Otherwise the solutions you build won’t hit the mark with the brokers, employers, and members using them.
That’s why it was such a privilege to welcome an expert panel of broker leaders to hear what employers really want from their benefits technology solutions for a recent Noyo webinar, Building better benefits tech: A view from the broker.
Our amazing broker panelists were:
Michelle Jukoski - SVP, National Employee Benefit Technology Strategy Leader, Hub International
John Dammann - Chief Growth Officer, United Producers Group
Scott Neville - Director of Technology Applications, United Producers Group
From the capabilities and features resonating today to the gaps and opportunities at hand, we covered a lot of ground together. I highly recommend watching the on-demand replay (link at end). But if you’re short on time, here are four of my favorite takeaways from the discussion!
1. Convenience is the yardstick
While recent years have ushered in a wave of unprecedented benefits technology innovation, there’s still a large gap between the best experiences our industry can offer and the seamless convenience normalized by tech giants such as Amazon, Google, Apple, and more.
“Employees today have a much higher expectation of what their employer is going to provide them,” said Michelle. “They really want an experience. So it’s essential that an employer has a very critical, forward-thinking digital strategy in order to help them engage and retain their employees. And help them address things like compliance and reduce risks as well.”
“It’s essential that an employer has a very critical, forward-thinking digital strategy in order to help them engage and retain their employees."- Michelle Jukoski, SVP, National Employee Benefit Technology Strategy Leader, Hub International
John agreed, saying that United Producers Group is seeing a huge demand for speed and accuracy. “We're not really getting compared to other solutions, we're getting compared to Amazon and we're getting compared to industries that are using technology in a way that changes daily life. So these brokers are looking to us going, what can you do to help us?”
“These expectations aren’t just across industries,” added Scott, “but also across group sizes as well. Employers are looking to have their payroll talk to their ben-admin system, their COBRA to talk to their payroll and their cafeteria systems, all the way down to 10 or 15 people in a company. So the expectations have definitely gotten very digital all the way across the board.”
Related read: 9 new consumer solutions getting modern insurance right
2. A differentiated experience starts with better data
A stark difference between the benefits industry and other sectors that have cracked the digital transformation code is their approach to data. To deliver on consumer expectations, information must be freed from technology silos and made easily (but securely) accessible to third parties.
“The fact is, there’s still an inordinate amount of manual eligibility,” said Michelle. “Being able to use technology and accelerate API connections to eliminate that is key. Because when we do, and the data is flowing through from point of entry to carriers and back, all the billing on the backend will become a non-issue. And discrepancy reports and things like that will be gone.”
In addition to mitigating risk and reducing operational inefficiencies, Scott highlighted that better quality data also strengthens the relationships that power the benefits industry. “Getting the data correct upfront, whether from payroll or carrier or both, and combining, auditing, and cleansing it before it goes into a ben-admin system saves everybody. It saves the relationship from the broker to the group to the HR admin who stood up for the ben-admin system, got it into place, and we're supporting them. If the data blows up in everybody's face, it puts a lot of tension on that relationship between the sales team, the brokers, the groups, and down to the employees.”
“Getting the data correct upfront, whether from payroll or carrier or both, and combining, auditing, and cleansing it before it goes into a ben-admin system saves everybody."- Scott Neville, Director of Technology Applications, United Producers Group
3. Digitization and integrations are becoming essential
When it comes to technology objectives, increased digitization and systems integrations are strategically important to 68% of employers — yet only 19% have seen success to date. That’s a massive gap for ambitious ben-tech solutions to fill and deliver a differentiated experience.
“Integrations are becoming such a big part of the play,” said Scott. “Everybody expects everything to connect. So the next thing is making that connection easier and faster and making discrepancies easier to see. Much of that is being able to show a very complex thing in a very simple way to the employees and employers and brokers, so that they understand in some capacity what is going on and can be confident that everything's working appropriately.”
What needs to change, reiterated Michelle, is the infrastructure itself. “Carriers really need to continue to invest in API maturity. Today, we're looking at less than 15% of carriers that can even say they're close, so we've got a long way to go and it’s going to happen over time. Ben-admins need to invest in making their systems flexible enough to be able to take in data from multiple sources and merge it together so that if a client has a complex benefit or class or contribution structure, there's a very easy way to funnel.”
“We're not really getting compared to other solutions, we're getting compared to Amazon and we're getting compared to industries that are using technology in a way that changes daily life."- John Dammann, Chief Growth Officer, United Producers Group
As Michelle cautioned, though, it’s not just about solving old problems. “To be able to really have a system that's flexible enough to accommodate a wide variety of different types of benefits, we really have to be thinking about what the shift may be again, such as direct to consumer and voluntary benefits, as we try to move benefits more towards that Amazon shop experience.”
4. The future lies in easy, accurate, real-time communication
If there was one takeaway surfaced by every panelist, it was communication. APIs, integrations, technology investments, consumer expectations… These things are really about how we, as an industry, can make it easier for historically disconnected parties to converse with each other.
“Every group expects everything to be integrated. It's the way that our world works. The systems we advise to folks are the ones that talk and partner. They partner together.”- Scott Neville, Director of Technology Applications, United Producers Group
“Whether it's a ben-admin system's leadership team or it's the carrier's leadership team, it's communication on all sides,” concluded Scott. “You can have the best ben-admin system in the world, but if it can't talk to the carrier, then it's really of no use anymore. Every group expects everything to be integrated. It's the way that our world works. If carriers think that their portal, that’s a manual place to make adds, terms, and changes, etc. is the best thing in the world, but if it's still manual and the group hears about that, they literally wrinkle their nose. The systems we advise to folks are the ones that talk and partner. They partner together.”
Give your team the voice of the customer on-demand
To use technology better for the benefit of our industry, it’s essential that customers’ needs are front and center as solutions are developed and deployed. We hope this on-demand replay makes it a little bit easier to hear the employer and broker voice for ben-admins and carriers!