Everything you know is wrong.
In 2020, that one phrase prevails over everything else. The global COVID-19 pandemic has turned conventional wisdom about how business and society operates upside down. We've all had to adjust to travel restrictions, limits on social gatherings, and many other changes to the way we live and work. This new normal looks to be our collective reality for a long time to come.
Group insurers and brokers who service group business are not immune from this change. Long-standing business practices for renewing group business will simply not work the way they did pre-pandemic.
Digital renewal processes are now absolutely necessary. Sentro customers already enjoy this capability, but there are other solutions available in the marketplace.
However, even with digital solutions, there are still a lot of things you need to think through - right now - to ensure that your customers and their people have a good experience.
Where are the workers?
Global Workplace Analytics estimate that "25 to 30 percent of the workforce will be working-from-home multiple days by the end of 2021". Industry analysts are noting that COVID-19 has accelerated the pace of digital transformation in the insurance sector out of pure necessity.
"25 to 30 percent of the workforce will be working-from-home multiple days by the end of 2021"
Global Workplace Analytics
The implications for insurers and brokers? The way you've always done customer education and enrollment has to change. You cannot rely on service models that involve at-business-premises interaction with your customer and their employees.
You cannot assume employees will be at a physical workplace
Insurers and brokers who have relied on presentations and Q&A sessions at customer premise to kick off the renewal process will have to find another way to do it. Even if a business gives you physical access to their business premises (which is less certain than ever), you can't assume that the employees you want to engage with will actually be physically there.
While most businesses have adopted videoconferencing tools like Zoom and Teams to communicate with their workforce, you will still need to be 'invited in' by the employer in order to communicate with their staff.
Don't assume that this is as simple a matter as 'sending a Zoom link'. Approach this just as you would arranging an on-premises visit. Understand the technology that you will be using to present. Talk to the employer about any do's and don'ts - remember they are building their own online workplace culture, and you should respect that. Expect that the question and answer dynamic will be very different than it would be in person, so ensure that employees have multiple ways to reach you after the session if they have questions.
You cannot assume that documents mailed or couriered to a business address will reach the intended recipient
We have taken it for granted that if an invoice, a brochure, or a form gets mailed or couriered to a business customer, that it actually reaches them.
In 2020, this is a very bad assumption.
As the majority of business transactions are now done electronically, the minority that are still paper-based are easily forgotten about. If you are a business owner, can you honestly say that you check your inbound postal mail every day? If you are couriering something to a business address, are you sure that there is anyone physically there to receive it?
If you are trying to reach the company's employees via the employer, this is even worse. If you are asking an employer to get physical documents into the hands of their employees on your behalf, you have just created a world of administrative pain for your customer. Instead of leaving a stack of brochures in the cafeteria, you are now asking them to send individually addressed packages to the home addresses of their employees. This is expensive and hard for them.
The answer is to offer your customer a digital enrollment platform, where each employee can receive information and make selections online. You can send and receive documents to your customer and their people, without needing a physical address.
You cannot assume home offices have printers and scanners
Customers and employees will be happy enough to do business with you online. But if you require them to physically print and scan documents in order to fit your business process, expect to have problems.
In the US, 89 percent of homes have a computer, but far fewer own a printer and scanner. If you are asking someone to do something at home that they may have never done before (such as scanning a document), expect to encounter lots of angst and support calls.
Embracing technologies that support electronic signature or other form of online approval can offset this potential support headache.
What does the employer need?
Human Resources Executive wrote a great article about the turmoil employers are facing supporting their workforce. Some of this relates to the sudden changes in things that their people need and value.
It is essential that group insurers can respond with flexible group plans and accompanying services that reflect these changing wants and needs. Brokers must be mindful that their business customers are under operational stress like never before.
Your value-add will no longer be judged by your ability to find the best deal in the marketplace. You will also be judged by how you help your business customer to support and educate their people. If you can help them reduce their administrative overhead in the process, you'll look like a hero!
A moment of truth for group insurance
In insurance, we often talk about the claims experience as the 'moment of truth' that makes or breaks a lifelong customer relationship.
We feel that the upcoming open group insurance renewal season is a similar 'moment of truth' for the insurance sector. Will you be remembered as the carrier who helped your business customer safely navigate a world of sudden, massive change in the workplace? Or will you be remembered as the carrier who couldn't adapt to new business realities?
The choice is up to you!