So, as we all know, there’s a TON of different technology systems available in all industries. Our industry is no different and admittedly, I am sure there are systems and technologies out there that we’ve not worked with or experienced before, but we did want to share (partially because our marketing partners said we should) the different types of technologies we use internally. So with that said, here’s the broker technology solutions we are using currently and of course we are always looking at upgrades, improvements, gained efficiency, etc. Like in any other space, we do see a lot of M&A activity in the agency technology space and I’m not going to talk bad about anyone, but it seems more often that not the company’s doing the acquiring are the ones we opted NOT to go with and then we end up having to work with them at least hypothetically. Nobody in the below list that applies to, but there are some instances of us working with the companies in the below list because something like that did happen and we were forced to either find a new broker technology solution or work with a company we weren’t too fond of. In those instances, at least so far, we have always found a different partner.
These aren’t in any order other than alphabetical. Some of these technologies many of our clients and employees use regularly. These are the 5 broker technology solutions that we currently use that continue to make a significant impact to our business and help our clients gain efficiencies and, in all cases, get away from paper as much as possible.
#1 – Ease
Many of you will recognize this name because it’s a platform you use. For those that are not familiar, Ease is an online enrollment platform that is a broker driver. It allows brokers to build enrollment sites for their clients and enroll just about any employee benefits product imaginable. Additionally, Ease also connects to most of the major payroll providers and a large number of benefits providers so data feeds and carrier connections can be set up taking more and more manual work away from our clients main HR contacts. When we were looking for a platform to partner with many years ago, the biggest driver for us personally was Ease’s ability to embed and digitally capture health enrollment questionnaires for clients. We work with a lot of small businesses and as most of us know, level funded options are much more competitively priced and provide more benefit options for smaller, healthier businesses BUT they often require health questionnaires. All of the competing platforms but 1 that we looked at outside of Ease simply did NOT handle these. That’s because most enrollment platforms are chasing large employers just like most large agencies and payroll companies, leaving the small employer market underserved.
#2 – FormFire
Probably the technology vendor we have worked with the longest would be FormFire. FormFire is amazing as they let us build health portals for small employers who are looking to go to market and get underwritten offers from multiple providers. What some would tell you to do would be to answer these 5 different questionnaires from these 5 different ins. providers that oh by the way, have just about the same identical questions. The issue is that the insurance providers all want THEIR questionnaires on their paper. Talk about old school. But the solution is FormFire. What FormFire does and has always done a good job with is aggregating the data and then data mapping the answers to all of the different questionnaires to each vendor’s form, so we can have employees do one set of questions, provide an e-signature to those questions in a secure environment and THEN you can extract however many insurance provider forms you want and send them exactly what they want. This system saves employers a ton of time and effort as we only have to do questionnaires once and then when all the employees are done, we can engage and get firm proposals from as many insurance providers as necessary. This is seemingly not earth shattering technology but you’d be surprised how many companies are out there that have tried to do this and just can’t. I think we’ve probably worked with FormFire 8, maybe 9 years now and they’ve been solid the entire time. You know what they say about finding your niche.
#3 – EB3
This one is a relatively new one and we might be revealing to a certain degree how the sausage is made but that’s ok. One of the more time-consuming things we do here in the office is create employee enrollment kits. Yes, we still go old school for our local clients who want it, and we’ll go onsite, do enrollment meetings with employees, answer questions, help them get enrolled either on laptops or paper, etc. What do you need when you do this? Enrollment materials. Hence EB3. EB3 was founded by a former broker and has a standardized program where you can create pretty slick looking brochures that will go over any/all benefits. And they look good by being able to customize each client’s logo and color scheme. This is a subscription model that we simply pay and use the service on behalf of our clients. Stay tuned, this one is just starting to roll out but over the next 10 months just about every client should have new and improved brochures thanks to this company and our new partnership with them.
#4 – Salesforce
I am not a “100% you have to use SF type person”, I know there’s many out there. What I would tell any/all business owners, especially smaller business owners, is that if you want to be able to compete and exceed service levels delivered by larger companies and your competitors, you absolutely must have a good CRM in place. Truth be told, we’re focused more on the client/data management side of Salesforce than the Sales side and we’re able to accomplish that through an industry specific platform that we’re using that is built on top of Salesforce. The industry specific platform, it’s ok. They have a bunch of stuff built in there (the platform folks, not SF) that isn’t up to our standard, so we’ve dialed back and are just focusing now more on the Salesforce side and specific updates that are tailored to our business and our day-to-day processes, not generic ones that someone else us coming up with and trying to do a blanket approach. The thing I am excited about and that we will continue to use SF for is automating repeatable tasks and in this space, there are many. Our challenge and concern which is not a concern for everyone is maintaining the human interaction between us and our business partners and not becoming over automated to where we’re perceived to be just another company hiding behind it’s helpdesk and service tickets. That is 100% achievable and we’ve been able to maintain the fine balance of being hands on while still being efficient using technology on the back end, but I do find it’s a fine balance. Big picture for those that are reading this, if you’re managing your business on spreadsheets and using different manual processes that are not connected, find a good CRM that can streamline processes and give you time back. That’s the most important thing you need from any system like this, efficiency, and time back for you / your team. If it can do that, it’s a worthwhile investment.
# 5 – Mineral (formerly ThinkHR)
Mineral (formerly ThinkHR) is a giant repository of tons and tons of HR and legal data and is focused on helping business owners and HR executives stay up to speed on applicable laws and the resulting regulations that spawn from the legislative changes. For the most part, Mineral is an online tool where you can search for laws / rules by state, you can set up online training portals for employees, you can create regulatory documents and notices and so much more. Most of our clients are smaller and don’t have giant HR departments or in some cases, no HR departments at all. This tool helps us, and our business partners stay in compliance but one of the things we REALLY like about Mineral is also the access to HR Consultants that it provides. Any / all our clients that we enter into the Mineral system (another subscription type service that we pay for on behalf of our clients) gives our clients immediate access to online or real life over the phone HR help when they need it. Compliance and HR help is one of those things that is not usually important to many people until it’s super important, then when the fire is put out, it’s back burner time again for HR & Compliance. With Mineral, the access to everything employment law and compliance law imaginable, the training portals and the compliance and HR Consultant help, we can help our clients fill that void without paying the $50 per employee per month (or similar) fee that a lot of payroll companies or other service providers would charge. This is a value add for our clients, but we only set it up for those that want it.
I hope this is helpful and outlines some of the things we find important in terms of broker technology solutions but also the investments we are making on behalf of our business partners each and every day. Our goal internally is to compete with the larger agencies and payroll companies that don’t do right by small and mid-sized companies just like most of our clients that we work with. The goal is to also compete and recruit from larger companies in their space who aren’t doing right by their employees.
Thanks so much for reading! If there’s anything in here, you’d like to discuss in more detail or anything you’d want to dive into further that you need to learn more about, you know how to get a hold of me.