During my 26-year career in benefits, I’ve been fortunate enough to develop relationships with countless brokers and — as the clients got bigger and more complicated — some of the top regional and national consultants. I’ve done business in all parts of the country in every industry. I’ve worked with the good, the bad and — depending on how a meeting went – the ugly. I’ve worked with superstars focused on smaller employers within a single state or market. And I’ve talked to brokers and consultants affiliated with some of the biggest names in the business about vision’s unique place in the benefits ecosystem. It’s been educational. More than anything, I think I’ve learned what a great broker or consultant can bring to the benefits-buying process. And I think I’ve also picked up on some common traits that separate the great ones from the rest of the pack. Here are a few.
The great ones look for all the things that don’t show up in the spreadsheet. They see the hidden value of seemingly small differences that matter a lot to your employees.
  1. The great ones see people, not just paper.We often refer to a deal being “spreadsheeted.” That’s not what great looks like to me. “Spreadsheeting” is a short-hand way of saying someone assembles some key surface facts like plan design, copays and price from a few benefit companies, compares numbers across columns, then makes a recommendation. Simple, fast, but never a complete picture. The great ones look for all the things that don’t show up in the spreadsheet. They see the hidden value of seemingly small differences that matter a lot to your employees: a network that offers a good mix of retail and independent providers, member tools that allow people to get the most out of their benefits and on-site clinics that allow on-demand services. Sometimes these features come at a cost, but it’s an advisor’s job to put that cost in perspective and explain the value.
  2. They understand nuances.The great ones know the things that might not even be quantified in a contract or can’t be accurately assessed through RFP responses. (I mean, seriously, when was the last time a benefits company admitted to mediocre customer service?) They know which benefits companies are the easiest to work with and which ones are investing in reliable, secure technology. They know the benefits company’s true feelings about benefit utilization. Do they really want to see employees use their benefits? To what degree? Do they truly understand wellness programs? The great ones know how benefits companies define success and the role vision benefits play in the larger strategy.
  3. Even if it’s not broken, they fix itOftentimes, when consultants have longstanding relationships with companies, complacency sets in. A lack of market competition can make the status quo seem good enough. And as long as there are no complaints – or the complaints aren’t loud – nothing changes. Average brokers and consultants hear no noise and assume everything is great. The great ones know that’s not a great benchmark when it comes to doing what’s best for employees. They always look to improve, even when – maybe especially when – it doesn’t seem necessary. Most importantly, they ask how things are going rather than waiting for a client to bring up areas for improvement.
  4. They know the difference between what’s popular and what’s important.For instance, member out-of-pocket cost and premiums are both popular deciding factors with employers and members. Innovation can be exciting, but its true value is ultimately determined by how many of your members are impacted rather than how many headlines or clicks it generates. Network size is important, but the diverse network options that meet the needs of all employees are increasingly more important. Most employers and employees aren’t regularly asking about online benefit utilization, but they should. And, in time, they will. And that leads us to …
  5. They’re far-sighted.In vision benefits, we’re often dealing in four-year contracts. That means those who are advising employers need to look down the road and determine what plan will continue to deliver value despite greater healthcare consumerism, shifts in workforce demographics, technology trends that affect access to information, as well as innovations in diagnosis and care. They’re able to determine which shortcuts employers take at contract-signing are going to harm employees in the long run, as well as which extras will provide the best return on investment.
They always look to improve, even when – maybe especially when – it doesn’t seem necessary. They ask how things are going rather than waiting for a client to bring up areas for improvement.
Are these qualities evident in your broker or consultant? Is yours good enough, or are they great? The great ones, in my experience, are the ones who don’t default to the status quo, especially when it comes to the less expensive benefits like vision. To see what challenging the status quo looks like in vision benefits, learn more from EyeMed.