Yesterday, on several occasions, I was reminded of the power of technology advancements and the vast amount of choices those advancements mean for us as consumers. As I scrolled through options on the Walmart.com website for our online grocery ritual, it occurred to me that having a large selection of cereals for my son, and not just Cheerios, is a blessing and a luxury (mornings can be tough). Later that evening, as I was scrolling through dozens of flight options for a trip to Boston, I was reminded of that luxury of choice. If my only option had been a Delta flight with a 7 pm departure, I would have missed my 9 am meeting.
Over the last month, I have spoken with several vendors and carriers who believe that limiting choice is the answer to creating a more sustainable quoting model in the small case arena. They believe:
- Fewer options are better.
- Shelf rates might sell.
- Customers only buy certain plan designs.
- Fewer options will bring more focus to what is offered.
- Limiting options will improve my margin/distribution.
- I will be able to deliver fewer options more elegantly.
I don’t disagree with all of these points, but I disagree vehemently with a few of them. Technology should enhance the buyer’s ability for customization and choice, just like with cereal and flight options. If the customer wants to see a specific plan design on their benefits package, then why should they be limited? In the insurance space, why should an employer be limited to a subset of four plans from three carriers that may not satisfy their employees’ needs and wishes?
I think it’s crucial that we start to think about technology providing more choices in our industry. Carriers, brokers, and intermediaries need to collaborate, take the time to understand each other’s challenges and wishes, and work together to streamline the delivery of medical and ancillary products. How do carriers and intermediaries create seamless and efficient access for brokers? What do brokers actually need and want for their customers? How can carriers continue to deliver their value proposition and interface with brokers on relationship and pricing flexibility? How do we all link up to payroll and allow for ease of census creation for all? How do Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) feeds for Enrollment Purposes become standard practice?
We may have more questions than answers right now, but I think that the answer is in the questions. And, more importantly, I think that coming together to discuss a better way of doing things will ultimately create more choices for employee benefits consumers and increase margins for their brokers.