What’s next for online enrollment tools?

As online benefit enrollment becomes more commonplace, platforms will provide more decision support, while focusing on millennials, a panel of experts said Monday at EBA’s Workplace Benefits Mania conference in Las Vegas.

The tools are expanding down market, explained David Reid, CEO of EaseCentral, a benefits administration platform that focuses on small employers. “Look at decision-support tools implemented by small businesses compared with enterprise companies,” Reid said. “There is a big need, and [while] it is served well by the broker community, it is [currently] underserved by technology.”

Mania pre conference workshop panel

Decision-support tools fall into two main categories: profiling and surgical, he added. While profiling focuses on the employee, such as if an employee is a millennial or baby boomer and then makes broad product recommendations, surgical is a “huge emerging” area, he said. This focuses on provider selection and part of the decision making uses codes to quickly see which providers are available.

“What is going to emerge out of this is transparency that overlays cost,” Reid said. “As you look across provider groups and make selections, if you know what procedures you use … you can see cost transparency within a geographic area. That is going to be huge.”

Lisa Free-Martin, managing director of U.S. Employee Benefits Services Group, agrees. Decision tools — similar to those used in applying for auto and home insurance — that ask around a dozen questions and say, ‘This is what you need to buy,’ are next.

“On the voluntary side, we are going more in that direction,” Free-Martin explained. “Ten questions and, ‘This is what we recommend.’ Not too much. Not too little.”

Another big change for benefits administration is the focus on millennials. The average age of a broker is 55, but one-third of the workforce are millennials, Reid said.

“The millennial buyer is a completely different buyer than the rest,” he added. “They want information tailored to them … and they will shut down a message very quickly.”

The millennial employee can understand what each tool offers. “Certain [tech players] are new and doing things cutting edge,” he added. “Millennials can spot that in a millisecond. Other technologies are older models with new paintjobs trying to bring in” tools, such as video.

“The ‘wow factor’ is key in delivery in order to capture the millennial generation,” he added.

Tony Guide, executive vice president of Tax Deferred Solution, who attended the session, said the key in the end for reaching all employees is support, including call centers. But, he added digital benefits enrollment is going to change so fast and if “we don’t get on it now; we are going to miss the boat.”

“Employees need to have the ability to be able to understand [it],” Guide — who has 20-plus years in the benefit business — concluded. “We have to do a lot of things. … We need to keep forging forward.”

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