Formula For Success: How Benefits Brokers Put People First

From ChamberChoice and Smart Business Pittsburgh

What gets you up every morning? OK, besides the dreaded buzz of the alarm clock or smell of fresh brewed coffee. Is it simply to “wake up and repeat,” like Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day? Or, perhaps you want to check one more thing off your to-do list?

It’s easy to fall into the trap of complacency and routine when it comes to our daily tasks, says Jessica Galardini, president and COO at JRG Advisors. We go through the motions day-to-day and forget about the real purpose behind what we do.

“For benefits brokers, that purpose, drive and passion should be simple — helping people,” Galardini says. “By putting the focus on people and relationships instead of the sale, a benefits broker can make meaningful connections that result in loyal clients, and of course, referrals. Insurance professionals in today’s world of health care benefits need to develop a unique perspective to be successful.”

Smart Business spoke with Galardini about the traits that employers should look for in the most successful benefits brokers.

How has employee benefits changed?
Almost any benefits broker would agree that operating in the health care benefits industry over the past 10 years has been difficult. Building a successful business and client base while responding to the numerous, ever-changing outcomes of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has created many challenges for reducing uncertainties and the painful impact to employers and employees.

While it’s human nature to resist change, a benefits broker should think outside of the box and look for unique, innovative ways to do his or her job, which is to solve problems. It’s an opportunity to minimize the angst people feel with the ACA — to explain the changes, minimize the concern and worry, and sort through polarizing politics.

People want good health care, provider access and convenience at a better price. This is a challenging, but not impossible, task and should be what motivates any benefits broker. Health care, now more than ever, is an important area for brokers to help their clients and showcase their expertise.

How do successful benefits brokers approach this uncertain environment?
The uncertainty around the law seems to build every day, with the ACA’s future wavering on Senate votes. Even with the uncertainty, benefits brokers can’t forget the people caught in the crossfire of the ACA and politics. With rising costs, many employers are feeling stuck with what they have, or that the only cost containment strategy is to push more cost toward their workforce. A good approach starts with C-level dialogue to identify, consider and understand requirements within coverage, network, workforce and budget.

There are products and services to achieve objectives, once they’re clearly identified and considered on a scale of importance to overall strategy. Some solutions include specific data analytics to identify emerging health risk factors so a care strategy can be developed, confidentially and individually within the workforce. Technology options also can provide a deeper-dive population comparison, even for employers without historical claims data. Online transparency tools give employees real-time information by zip code, service type and facility so they can make smart choices for services like blood work and MRIs, which can range from affordable to astronomical in cost with no difference in quality outcomes.

These solutions empower employers through dialogue, information and motivating employees with the ‘carrot’ rather than the ‘stick’ — moving the needle toward knowledge-based decision-making,
defined affordability and people satisfaction.

What else would you like to share?
There is a lot of information out there when it comes to health insurance. Benefits brokers should look for unique ways to continuously educate their clients and connect with them on a more interactive level, such as through educational webinars and seminars. This can be a proactive approach to solving the clients’ problems before they arise and addressing real issues.

Strong benefits brokers consider the people they’re helping in order to bring fresh and creative problem-solving ideas to the table. By keeping people in mind and maintaining a unique perspective, they’re inspired and employers are happy — a winning formula for success.