Hope and Help for Hardworking Benefits Administrators and the People They Serve

Technology is great at simplifying and automating cumbersome processes, but it’s no substitute for the human touch. The human side of human resources demands it—especially during open enrollment (OE) and for all those major life events that occur between OEs. You just got married and your spouse needs coverage. You had a baby, now what? You’re divorced and your kids need to see the doctor, what should you do? You started a new job, what happens with your benefits?

If you’re an HR administrator, you’ve answered these questions a thousand times. But to the employee who’s experiencing a life event change or enrolling in benefits, it can be complex. Employees are more than a social security number. They’re people. People who may not understand the implications of their choices, and when they need coverage most, they may not have it or they may find themselves in a financial dilemma.

Usually questions pop up during enrollment and the employee needs an answer right away. At times, you don’t have the bandwidth to handle thousands of calls and emails, especially during open enrollment—not to mention the fact that many of these questions occur outside of regular business hours.

The BENEFITFOCUS® Benefits Service Center handled more than 250,000 calls in 90 days during open enrollment 2014. We spoke to a cross section of our Service Center clients and they’ve partnered with Benefitfocus to:

  1. Handle high call volume during open enrollment
  2. Conduct eligibility audits
  3. Support benefits admins with administrative tasks

These are just a few ways in which we support you, the benefits administrator, and the people you support. However, support goes much deeper than open enrollment and life events that occur beyond OE. The human element enriches the employee experience. It’s not simply a matter of answering questions, it’s about one person helping another person care for him/herself and their family.

Humans are the secret to a successful OE

When it comes to today’s diverse workforces, the human touch can be the best way to help your employees through OE. Let’s say you have shift workers who may not have a company email account or access to a desktop computer during their shifts. A simple phone call can make their enrollment experience easier and faster. According to Benefits Service Center data, 80 percent of its inquiries came from phone calls—the remaining 20 percent from email. Does your benefits team have the capacity to handle that kind of volume?

Benefits Service Center specialists get to know you, your company culture and the details of your benefits plans, probably better than your employees. They act as a trusted advisor trained in the art of caring, providing anticipatory service and taking time to help employees understand their benefits choices. More importantly, they understand the implications of the choices employees make.

True story… a Benefitfocus Benefits Service Center specialist was helping a caller through routine enrollment. The employee wasn’t quite sure about a voluntary cancer insurance benefit. An additional 30 seconds on the phone to explain the benefit to the caller proved to be a lifesaver. Just weeks after enrollment, the caller was diagnosed with cancer. While the caller was likely to have overwhelming concerns about her health, paying for the costly treatment was not one of them.

Managing the hidden cost of the ineligible

Do you know how many dependents remain on your plan even though they’re ineligible? A surprising statistic from Benefitfocus Benefits Service Center data indicated that 2-6 percent of dependents are ineligible for coverage. What may appear to be a small percentage adds up to a significant cost.

Some companies may not realize they have an issue. Benefits administrators who recognize the issue, often don’t know where to begin or how to remove ineligible dependents. In other cases, the company simply lacks the resources to conduct an eligibility audit. In either case, the company continues to incur unnecessary cost.

It can be more cost-effective to outsource eligibility audits than to continue losing money. An audit will enable you to identify the scope of the issue, and make it easier to assess ROI.

Keeping employees informed and engaged

You know that huge information dump that occurs around open enrollment.Your employees are overwhelmed and so are you. Whether you use digital communication or paper-based benefits communication, the task can be daunting. Some suggest a multi-touch, multi-media approach for the most impact, which also takes time and planning.

That’s where the humans behind the technology and service can help. Communication isn’t about fulfillment alone—stuffing and mailing information packets or sending email blasts or pushing text messages. It’s also about understanding the people who make up your workforce and communicating with them using their preferred method.

“Benefits are good… but they can be complex,” said Benefits Service Center Operations Analyst Alex Jenkins.  “And that’s what we’re working on. We’re transforming a massive benefits and healthcare industry with beautiful software that’s been designed and engineered in order to better serve the end user… the employees.”

Given our heavy reliance on technology, it’s easy to overlook the human touch. But when benefits management technology and human interaction combine, the results can be increased employee satisfaction, higher retention rates and lower stress levels for benefits administrators.

Learn how you can reduce costs and increase service levels with the human touch.