Leadership Corner

The Warner Pacific team brings you important information that you can take to your own team.


How To Choose the Right Enrollment Technology


By Jeff Papenfus, Chief Business Development Officer California, Warner Pacific


Jeff Papenfus brings more than 30 years of experience to his role as Chief Business Development Officer California at Warner Pacific — a general agency that provides insurance agents with sales assistance, innovative technology and back-office support to help them grow their business in a rapidly changing marketplace.  

 

As enrollment season approaches, now is the perfect time to reflect on what worked well in the past, what didn’t go as planned and what to do even better this year. One especially important aspect to evaluate is your enrollment technology.


Enrollment technology, once a laggard in our industry, is catching up fast. Employers and employees are demanding better digital solutions, and this past year only helped solidify that trend. To meet this demand, numerous companies now offer enrollment technology tools, and these tools are becoming increasingly advanced. As a result, brokers now have a wide selection of options to support their clients’ enrollment needs.


But out of all the enrollment technology tools out there, how do you know which one to choose? Maybe you’re stuck with a system that leaves something to be desired, but you aren’t sure what to try instead. Or maybe you haven’t settled on one tool yet and have been experimenting to find something you and your clients like. Even if you’re satisfied with your current enrollment technology, maybe you’re curious if there’s a better option out there. Wherever you are in the process of selecting a digital enrollment solution, there are a few key considerations that can help you find the right tool for your needs.


How Big Is Your Agency?

The best enrollment technology for your agency will likely depend, in part, on the size and capabilities of your staff. 


Some systems are designed to meet the complex and robust needs of large, tech-savvy teams. On the other hand, smaller agencies may be better served by a system that is quick and easy to set up, cost-effective, and user-friendly for employees. Tools that focus on supporting efficiency and speed — for instance by reducing paper and making the submission process faster — can help smaller teams optimize their time and resources.


Regardless of the size of your agency, the roles and capabilities of your team members are also important to consider. For example, a feature-rich, highly customizable system may be more practical if you have IT professionals on staff. Similarly, if your team members are pressed for time, you may want to look for a solution supported by a general agency that will take on most of the labor for you.


Which Types of Insurance Do You Sell?

No matter how great your enrollment technology is, it will be less beneficial if it isn’t compatible with your products. With this in mind, it’s also important to consider which carriers you work with and what kinds of benefits you sell.


Your carrier partners have their own technology systems, and if your enrollment technology delivers information in a format that doesn’t integrate well with their existing programs, it will make more work for everyone. On the other hand, some systems make it easy for carriers to directly upload content in their preferred format, streamlining the process and getting ID cards into employees’ hands faster.


In addition, it will save you and your clients time and effort if enrollment for all of your products can be completed.


What Are Your Clients' Primary Needs?

You don’t have to pick just one solution for your agency. One size does not fit all when it comes to enrollment systems. You need to really look at the sizes of the groups, the products being offered and how your clients will use the systems to determine the best options. Even if you’ve found an enrollment tool that everyone at your agency loves, it won’t do you much good if your clients don’t love it too.


For example, a certain system may be the best solution for a larger group that is enrolling in products beyond medical, dental and vision — for instance 401(k), HSA, HRA and worksite plans. This group may also want a full-scale HRIS system that can incorporate things like time and attendance, payroll integration, employee onboarding, HR solutions and ACA reporting. But if you also have clients that are just looking for a more efficient way to enroll in their benefits, a robust, complex system like the one previously described would probably not be a good solution. The idea is to keep it simple and offer them the solution that serves their needs most effectively. 


Additionally, consider how much time and effort your clients and their employees will need to put into the process. In most cases, the more streamlined and self-explanatory the process is, the better. For example, not all online enrollment systems include a master application, meaning the employer will have to fill out that information by hand before employees can complete their enrollment digitally. Something as simple as selecting a tool that includes an online master application can make a big difference in ease-of-use for your clients. 


The simpler the tool is for your clients to use, the less back and forth there will be — which saves time for everyone. There are even tools that don’t allow employees to submit their applications if the information is incomplete, further eliminating the need for multiple phone calls and emails to track down essential details.


If possible, it’s always a good idea to ask your clients about their enrollment technology needs. Keeping an open dialogue with your clients will ensure that you accurately anticipate their priorities and that your enrollment technology continues to deliver the desired results.


What Are Your Top Priorities?

Every agency is different, and the technology that works best for your competitor may not be the one that works best for you. Of course, certain concerns, like security, are important for everyone. But other priorities can differ significantly.


When looking at your options, one thing you should consider is how much time it will take you to set up a new group, or renewal, and how much time will be spent staying up to date with ongoing maintenance like adds and terms. You will likely want a system that minimizes the amount of data you have to enter yourself. It is also important to find out what types of support and training are offered on an ongoing basis.


In addition, depending on your other technology tools, you may want an enrollment technology system that integrates well with programs you already use. If this is the case, you’ll need to balance compatibility with your other enrollment technology priorities.


Ultimately, the goal of enrollment technology is to make life easier for you and your clients. But if you choose the wrong tool, the system intended to simplify the process can end up adding even more difficulty and confusion. By weighing considerations such as the size of your agency, the products you sell, your clients’ needs and your other top priorities, you’ll be able to choose the enrollment technology solutions that consistently support your success.