If you are searching for a benefits advisor, you will want one who can give you solid, objective advice that takes your organization’s needs, goals, and demographics into account. There are many good benefits advisors out there with years of experience and excellent reputations, but has their business model evolved?
Alas, even well-meaning advisors can be tempted by opportunities to expand their book of business. The very best advisors are not trying to sell you something—they are more vested in serving you and your organization.
Following best practices is prudent from a fiduciary perspective when selecting an advisor and crafting a plan. Still, there are several red flags to look for that might signal an advisor who is more interested in selling than serving and educating. For example:
They focus on products, not strategy.
All benefits packages should have a strategic value based on your goals. The advisor truly needs to understand the outcomes you want from your benefit program. For example, are you trying to anticipate future changes or do you have compliance concerns? Reduce to administrative burden of your benefits offering? Encourage employee participation and honesty communication? Create a plan for long-term reduction in cost or claims? Any number of products can be part of the overall strategy—but you will not know what works for your organization until that strategy is set. When a benefits advisor talks on and on about your “options” without asking questions and trying to sketch out a strategy, it is a sign that he/she is a little too eager to move product.
They try to sneak in services you don’t want– or need.
Benefits plans should not viewed as a “one-size-fits-all” sale. Still, many advisors will try to craft a plan for you based on what THEY feel is best for you and your employees.. The advisor just “assumes” certain parts of a plan will need to be included, whether it will benefit you or not. You should never feel pressured to buy something you don’t want and that your organization does not need.
They only discuss claims, never touching on support or troubleshooting.
Employers need a good working relationship with their advisors, and that includes good communication across a broad spectrum of issues or concerns. Lack of consistent communication is cause for concern. Good advisors not only help with claims and service but are true advocates for you and your employees before, during and after a claim.
They only want to talk when the renewal date comes around.
If an advisor only checks in around the renewal date — and mainly wants to talk to the business owner or other decision maker — that may be a bad sign. Communication needs to be ongoing. Quarterly meetings are advised as is regular contact with all people in an organization with a stake in maximizing benefits outcomes.
Find that advisor that seeks to understand – understand your current situation and what you want to accomplish. By understanding these two things you can build a plan. The “value proposition” should be more about the outcomes than the products.