In the end, prospect/client experience is all that matters. No doubt, the details along the way are critical, but the way they feel about their experience with you is what will linger.
There was a consistent rally cry in the industry last year around the re-emergence of VBID (Value based insurance design – unbundling the carrier programs).
- “Benefit costs can be reduced by 20% - 40%!”
- “The level of benefits can be improved!!”
- “We don’t need no stinkin’ carriers!!!”
And, no doubt, there were countless examples of each scenario shared online.
But, there’s more
Don’t get me wrong, reducing costs is huge!
Improving the level of benefits is a game changer!!
And, because these are doable, you have a responsibility to offer alternative plan designs as an option to your clients.
Yes, an option. Just because you may get three kinds of fired up about VBID, that doesn’t mean it is right for every client or, even when it is, it may not be the right time.
But, as exciting as these trends are, if you can't deliver them wrapped in an experience that your clients and their employees feel good about, at best, you have an uphill battle.
Back to the third bullet point. In the absence of using the BUCAHs (the major health insurance carriers), you need any number of new partners to help you accomplish the first two. The further you unbundle these pre-packaged programs, the more moving pieces you have to put back together.
Oh, and, holy crap, is there ever an abundance of new partners from which to choose!!
You see, benefit advisors aren’t the only ones getting fired up about VBID. If I had a dollar for every new company looking for a slice of the VBID pie, I’d have a whole lotta cherry-filling stained dollar bills.
Do the choices make your head spin?
Not only are there countless potential partners to research, choosing among them is more difficult than ever. Because so many of the players in the VBID space are new companies, they tend to be tech heavy. They tend to be sexy. They tend to promise a lot of things that sound really good. Unfortunately, because of their newness, they tend to have little experience. (There are exceptions of course.)
To complicate the decision process further, there are so many of them that sound similar, yet different in terms of the services they offer. Technology solutions, data collection, TPAs, concierge services, bundled services, direct contract providers, pharma offerings, to just get the list started.
It’s hard to tell where one solution starts and another ends. It’s hard to tell how much overlap there is from one to another. Do you need one? Do you need several? Do they complement one another? Are they duplicative?
But it all sounds so good
Many of these new companies are very well funded and come with impressive marketing budgets, slick presentations, and promises that are all but impossible to pass up. I know many, if not most, are good at what they do, but some aren’t.
And, just because they may be good at what they do, they still may not be a fit for you and the client experience you need to deliver.
Salespeople will buy anything
Yes, you are an advisor, but, at your heart, you’re also a salesperson. And, nobody is easier to sell to than a salesperson.
We often joke about how quick producers are to chase the next “bright and shiny” solution they encounter. I have this visual in my head of producers getting excited about new services and solutions that looks a lot like a laser show in a hall of mirrors.
We all need to be aware of, and willing to invest in, new resources that can help us more effectively address the growing complexity of client needs, but there must also be a method to the madness.
As you think about the appropriate places to make your next investment, ask yourself the following:
- How would this solution benefit the client experience I deliver?
- Is it important that I am able to offer this solution?
- Am I, and my team, capable of executing successfully?
- Am I only considering this investment because I fear my competition may make it first?
- How can I confirm this vendor is capable of delivering what they promise in a way that enhances the client experience?
- How well can my chosen vendor-partners work together as I re-bundle programs?
Clearly, I’m not suggesting for a moment you turn a blind eye to the new services available for you to add into your value proposition. However, I am challenging that you approach the vetting process and rules of engagement with EVERY solution and EVERY partner very seriously. After all, everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, is on the line.
Oh, and don’t think that this challenge only applies to the services and providers necessary to build a VBID solution. Because of the complexity of these programs, it is more important than ever to make sure you are bringing the right non-insurance solutions, such as communication, technology (ben admin), and compliance solutions/partners to the table for your clients.
We hear producers wonder how they can, or if they should, bring non-insurance solutions into a VBID conversation. Not only are VBID solutions compatible with non-insurance solutions, because of the increased complexity of these programs, they are actually more critical than ever before!
But, it’s SO freakin’ hard!
It’s true, it has never been more difficult to deliver an exceptional prospect/client experience than it is today. Unfortunately, it is also easier than it will ever be again. You know why? Buyers are becoming more sophisticated and their expectations are increasing at an exponentially faster rate.
Be honest with yourself about what delivering that type of experience actually entails.
- It starts with the very first marketing message of yours they encounter.
- It is reinforced through a sales conversation that builds their confidence in your ability to help them make better buying decisions.
- The experience is crystallized as you and your team methodically deliver on each promise you have made.
BUT, in today's increasingly complex world of solutions, the experience you provide can be destroyed in an instant by a partner who isn't on the same page. It's time to #SHIFT folks. Shift your marketing message. Shift your sales conversations. Shift your processes/procedures. Shift the way you vet and work with partners.
No, it isn't easy, but #SHIFT never is.
Look in the mirror
The competitive environment created by the re-emergence of VBID is new for most of the industry. Just like for these new entrants offering new services, most of you as advisors lack experience in unbundling and re-bundling insurance programs.
And, while it seems like all of the VBID players are brand new entrants, there are plenty who have been active and promoting these ideas for decades. Here are a few organizations you should become familiar with if you aren’t already. They can help you flatten your learning curve. Here’s a few to get you started:
- Self-Insurance Institute of America
- University of Michigan’s Center for Value-Based Insurance Design
- The Phia Group
- Continental Benefits
Make sure you don’t fall into the same trap that others do of promising more than you are ready to deliver. Despite the need and dependence on other partners to help build and execute these new programs, your prospects/clients see you as the tip of the experience spear.
I know how easy it is to get excited and rush to share new ideas with prospects. But find the discipline to hold back until you truly understand how these VBID programs work, have identified the right partners, and ensured that you and your team can execute with precision.
With this level of discipline and hard work the client-experience spear you wield will cause a great deal of discomfort in your competitor’s backside. Without it you’ll stab yourself in the foot with the same spear.
Photo Credit: Rangizzz