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Web Access Simplifies But Creates New Service Requirements

These days, when technology is something people can’t imagine living without, how many Favorites and Icons do we have to keep track of to do business? In this industry, the answer is easily somewhere between 50 and 100 different websites! With so many new carriers providing web access, clients require faster response time, and agents should easily be able to provide it.

With an in-depth internal evaluation, I found that I spent more of my time consulting with agents than I did with clients. While I thoroughly enjoy consulting with agents, I found that my time wasn’t even being utilized for new business or training. It was for repeat questions and answers about where to find brochures and applications like how to reset passwords, what a carrier’s new website was, where the plan summary for Client ABC was, what number to call for expedited ID cards, and how to get ‘around’ deadlines for late applicants.

Guess what guys? This is our industry, our job, our chosen profession. That being the case, it is a true shame how many agents pass the clients directly to the carriers. Yes, most agents will just “hand them off” like a game of hot potato and think they’ve somehow earned their percentage of premiums for the entire year.

I disagree with that way of operating.

My company has always taken the initiative to assist—all the way down to helping individuals access the IDs when the end user is technologically challenged, not at a location they can access the internet, or maybe even just too lazy. It doesn’t matter why somebody calls for help. What matters most is that each agent chose this profession to help others when calls for help come in. If that isn’t the case, why are you part of a service industry? 

Is it possible that agents don’t realize they are part of the problem when they don’t take the initiative to truly help clients resolve any issues, or potential issues, on the first request?

Consider this agent’s story: The agent earned 5 percent commission on every premium dollar paid by the client throughout the year for health coverage. One month after enrollment ended, one of the employees contacted Client ABC desperately reaching out for an ID card while at the doctor’s office. Reasonably, Client ABC contacted the agent for quick assistance.

The agent informed Client ABC that the employee had to get the information by visiting the carrier website and accessing their temporary ID card. The agent provided the website for reference. This isn’t false information, but it is the agent’s cheesy way out of doing any real work.

When Client ABC passed this information to the employee, they received a verbal lashing, and Client ABC contacted the agent once again hoping for another option. This time, the agent said something along the lines of “Let me take care of this for you, and I’ll get back with you”. Why didn’t the agent offer to help the first time?!

While the agent called their sales representative at the carrier, or the TPA, for assistance with an ID card needed for a doctor’s appointment, and once again handed off the issue to somebody else to figure out, the employee was still at the doctor’s office with their sick child running a high fever and feeling miserable as everyone else continued to “pass the buck.” The employee got angry and embarrassed and decided to pay cash price for the physician to treat the sick child.

Why didn’t the agent produce the ID number for the employee during the last hour of requests? What was the agent doing that was more important than the primary function of their job, which is to represent clients and their best interests to the best of their abilities?

So, the child was treated, and several hours passed by the time the request for the ID reached a carrier representative who saw that an individual requested a new ID card to be mailed to their home address. Yes, this is what happens when the request goes through multiple layers of people instead of the agent resolving the issue for the covered employee.

Wouldn’t the agent be responsible for any charges, bank overdraft fees, or credit card over-the-limit charges in this case? It probably isn’t a high enough claim to hit E&O coverage, but isn’t it still ultimately the agent’s responsibility? The typical agent request to a carrier of “Can you take care of this please?  Call me back as soon as possible so I can help my client,” doesn’t actually help a client unless they are looking for a card a week or two before their visit. The agent has just effectively passed the responsibility to somebody else … so is the agent letting them keep the commissions for doing the work?

When Client ABC’s employee inevitably gets into a heated argument with the HR/Benefits office, and demands immediate reimbursement for their out-of-pocket costs, it can escalate to the employee quitting and/or filing a lawsuit against Client ABC in some cases. Their reasoning? My employer is “taking money from my check but not providing me the insurance.” 

Yes, this really happens. And most of the time, it is a lazy agent’s fault. The ex-employee may not win the lawsuit, but it still wastes the employer’s time and financial resources to handle a situation that could have been fixed by the agent quickly and easily.

VBG Connect ties everybody and everything together in HIPAA compliant dashboards that allow the agent, employer, or employee to access ID cards, carrier websites, benefit summaries, claim forms, and so much more without going to multiple places. More importantly, the information is accessible 24/7, and it works for any carrier, product, or service. VBG Connect is simply a flexible tool to reduce risk and exposure (and research time) while allowing quick access to necessary information. In the above situation, the employee, Client ABC, or even the lazy agent could have had access to the ID number and temporary cards within seconds.

For agents, VBG Connect is just one of the service providers available in today’s market. If this type of service isn’t available in the way you do business today, it is your job as the agent to make it available for you and your clients. Today’s technology allows for, and requires, a much faster response time in the area of customer service. It may not be easy to adjust or accept the additional responsibilities, but remember that every client is somebody’s mother, father, daughter, son, brother, sister, grandparent, or friend. You should always go the extra mile as if they were your relative or friend. If you aren’t in our profession to assist the end-user customers, they why are you in it at all?

About Lisa Williams

Lisa Williams
Lisa Williams is an insurance and education specialist, a mother and wife, and a business owner. Based in Flower Mound, Texas, she is determined to unveil the secrets of how benefits work through educating and empowering individuals everywhere to make informed decisions about health care and insurance benefit plans. Lisa's credentials include a General Life and Health Insurance license and LHIC license (Life Health Insurance Counselor), both through the Texas Department of Insurance. She most recently completed all CMS training and testing to assist with the federally-facilitated marketplaces for individuals and businesses. In 2013, Lisa's growing agency was not only awarded an A+ rating by the Better Business Bureau, but she was also personally awarded the honor of being a National Association of Professional Women's VIP Woman of the Year.

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