How important is the relationship you have with your general agency? It should be very important because it heavily influences the way you do business. It also influences your book of business. And as with any relationship, you have the right to expect certain services.
General agencies exist to both represent carriers and support brokers and agents. The relationship between the broker and the general agency is built largely on the depth and breadth of that support. With that in mind, here are the top five things you should expect from your general agency:
1. Digital Technology
Digital technology tops the list for the simple fact that it is getting increasingly more difficult to compete without it, and it will continue to play a critical role in the benefits enrollment landscape. Here's the point: the rest of the world has transitioned to digital. Full-service benefits brokers need to do likewise.
In the benefits game, digital technologies are encapsulated in cloud-based solutions that brokers utilize as one-stop destinations for all aspects related to their businesses. A rock-solid technology solution provides a truly digital experience for you, your customers, and their employees from quoting to enrollment and renewals.
2. Product Portfolio
As a broker, offering a robust benefits portfolio can help set you apart from your competition and position yourself as your customer’s trusted advisor. Offering non-medical plans such as dental and vision can give your smaller employers big business benefits and help them attract and retain top talent.
In addition to a variety of medical plans from top carriers, a robust benefits portfolio should also include dental, vision, and life insurance options. Voluntary benefits such as accident and critical care along with value-added products that help keep your customers in compliance, such as COBRA, and tax-advantage products such as FSAs, DCAPs, and HSAs should also be considered.
Today’s modern workforce expects more than just traditional health insurance. Make sure you’re working with a general agency that offers the benefits products and services your employers and their employees need and want.
3. Back Office Support
Your brokerage has a myriad of back-office functions that must be properly managed to continue running smoothly. You should expect a general agency to provide exceptional back-office support with experienced team members in addition to an experienced team dedicated to training and helping you with the digital technology solutions they provide. Additional support for your relationships with carriers is also a reasonable expectation.
4. Compliance Support
Compliance is a big issue in the benefits industry. Brokers and their clients need to deal with everything from the Affordable Care Act to Section 125, and COBRA to ERISA. Not only that, but state and federal regulations are constantly in a state of flux. Maintaining compliance can be all-consuming if you let it be.
A general agency should also be assisting brokers with compliance support. You should be able to rely on your general agency to keep you informed and up to date with the latest regulations and legislation impacting healthcare today. You should be able to get help solving problems. You should not be left to struggle with compliance on your own.
5. Industry Expertise
Hand-in-hand with compliance support is industry expertise. As a broker or agent, you have a lot of moving parts to manage, and you shouldn’t have to manage them all on your own. Yes, you need a working knowledge of the carriers and products you represent. You also need a working knowledge of state and federal regulations. But where there are gaps in your knowledge, your general agency should be prepared to step in.
A general agency should always be ready to answer broker questions. Offering guidance should be the standard operating procedure. For your part, being able to trust your general agency's expertise is foundational to building a strong relationship with them.
Whether or not you and your general agency succeed together depends on the strength of your relationship. If your current general agency isn’t meeting your expectations, there’s a good chance your relationship is not as strong as it could be, and it may be time for a change.