Competition in the brokerage space is fierce.
Your clients are likely to be talking with other suitors who are pitching increased resources at their brokerage, new innovative offerings to expand coverage and control costs, and technologies to enhance the employer experience.
Did you know that 75% of employers surveyed are willing to switch their broker if the right set of circumstances arose?
If you are like most brokers, the challenge of keeping clients may be keeping you up at night.
Nowhere is this more strongly felt than in the first quarter of each year.
Fresh off the renewal process, clients are evaluating everything. You need to do the same thing.
If your client didn’t have an A+ experience this past year, (which you may or may not know) they are likely to be talking to numerous brokerage suitors. That’s why it’s essential to have a proactive plan to strengthen relationships and retain at risk clients.
Even small decreases in client retention make it much more challenging to net new organic revenue growth.
As we know revenue growth drives our ability to hire, promote, give raises, bonuses, etc.
This article will share some common reasons why employers look for new brokers in Q1. It will also offer a guide for how to keep employers happy – even if they had a less than ideal renewal season.
Why Do So Many Clients Change Brokers in the 1st Quarter?
While there are a number of reasons employers may look to choose a new broker in the first quarter, they tend to boil down to 3 common themes.
1. Lack of vision and creativity from their current broker
Some employers feel that their broker is comfortable and isn’t looking for new ways to better understand and solve their challenges. Many clients expect their advisors to first dig deeper into their plans, cost structure, and demographics. Then, to present opportunities in the marketplace that can enhance financial performance, reduce administrative burdens and increase employee appreciation of their programs.
Employers may feel that their broker’s advice is stale and that they are missing out on better solutions that they need to seek out from other advisors.
2. Lack of confidence that the client saw all the options and got the best deal
Regardless of how cutting-edge your analysis and advice is, employers need to feel confident that all the expected markets were approached and that nothing was left on the table from a negotiation standpoint. While it’s relatively straightforward to provide comfort around markets approached, the opportunity to show that your negotiation skills negate the need to have another broker looking over your shoulder is often missed.
3. Lack of execution by the consulting team created stress in HR and potentially hurt the employee experience.
Inaccurate or the absence of any financial forecasting, a late start to the renewal process, not enough attention to detail, or late delivery due to too much back and forth finalizing plans and contributions are a few areas of execution that can undermine a relationship.
Poor planning and execution can lead to compacted open enrollments, HR stress, errors caused by rushing and a feeling that the employee experience was a disappointment which is frustrating based on how much the company pays for benefits
What questions do employers ask themselves before switching brokers?
As businesses evaluate their benefits broker relationship, they reflect on all the different ways you provide service and value. It can be hard for employers to measure just how good a job a consultant or broker performs.
Sometimes, a lack of structure or clarity leads to an employer searching for something better. Other times, it’s simply a gut feeling. Maybe they just felt like something was missing
When an employer is evaluating a change in brokers after the renewal season, they may ask themselves some of these common questions:
- “Are there opportunities to enhance or improve our plan that we missed”
- ‘Is our broker dialed in to changes in the industry?
- Does our broker leverage technology to do a more effective job understanding our programs?
- “Did our broker negotiate the best financial deal for us?
- “Did we leave something on the table?”
- “Why was this process so exhausting?
- “Why did the renewal process take so long”
- “Could a different broker have done better, maybe I need to see what’s out there?”
How to retain benefits clients that might be at risk
For clients that you are looking to strengthen your relationship with, it is critical to request a meeting early in the year to deliver an action plan that will renew their confidence in your organization. To achieve this, lead a pro-active strategic planning session by leveraging their data.
In that meeting, walk your client through a process that enables them to share their goals and needs. To enhance this process come armed with your prior understanding of what was important to them as well as data about their programs that shows you are paying attention.
Organize the client’s post renewal enrollment and demographic data
A primary goal of your debriefing meeting is to provide a view of the emerging trends within their organization. Show them something they haven’t seen before (if possible) to get their attention by diving into changes in demographics and employee plan selections.
Make sure they fully understand what happened from a financial perspective and share a deep dive into their financial picture that feels transparent, collaborative, and provides reassurance that they are in capable hands.
Be proactive in your strategic plan
Leverage their employee and financial data to provide curated recommendations that address their key needs, preferences, and goals from a cost, employee satisfaction, and administrative standpoint. Then, institutionalize your plan with specific deliverables and timelines.
We have often found this to be a great time to provide a plan B. A set of vetted recommendations the group can implement if future financial challenges arise. Dealing with future challenges during a time of low stress shows foresight and puts you in a favorable light both now and in the future if and when these recommendations need to be executed.
Outline and schedule future meetings and goals
Before leaving your debriefing meeting, ensure that you have scheduled all upcoming implementation meetings including structured claims review meetings: including a mid year underwriting forecast. There is nothing worse than a renewal increase a client wasn’t prepared for.
Get the client excited again
Outline a vision that gets the client feeling good about retaining your services as their employee benefits broker. Be sure they fully understand how you will manage this year’s consulting engagement, what options you will help them vet to meet their needs, and clearly outline the steps you will take to instill confidence that next year’s renewal will be the most effective to date.
Outline the steps you are taking to enhance your deliverables and how you are evolving to be on the leading rather than trailing edge of the technology curve.
If you are still relying on spreadsheets or binders, consider upgrading to a cloud-based benefits management platform.
Remember, other brokers are standing by with innovative new benefit offerings and service technologies to expand coverage, help control costs, and enhance the employer experience.
Differentiate your brokerage with dynamic modeling benefits management software
In a world where most brokers provide the same basic service, it becomes critical to stand out in a very busy benefits management crowd.
The Vertical Fox platform helps brokers leverage real-time data so you can provide better advice, drive better collaboration, and get better results for your clients and your business.
When you use Vertical Fox in meetings and presentations, clients immediately see a more transparent, client-centric service experience that improves strategic planning and makes renewals easier.
Employers also get access to a client portal, which provides all their data in real-time modeling tools. Plus, they have access to financial and underwriting engines to ensure they are getting the best deal.
To learn more about how Vertical Fox can help your brokerage increase revenue, efficiency, and retention, reach out and schedule a demo today.