Ron Kleiman, CEO
Employee benefits can be a blessing, or a source of real frustration. Obviously, they are important, but enrolling for them on a self-service platform—where the employee has to read, research, and sift through web pages—takes the “wow” factor out of the whole experience and puts the “chore” factor in. To quote Ronald Kleiman, BenefitVision’s CEO, “Self-service is not service, it is an oxymoron.”
Kleiman, a seasoned entrepreneur, who brings over 40 years of expertise in employee benefits communication, wanted to do something about this. He believes everyone could do better with a little help from a specialist. This is where BenefitVision—the company he founded in 1994—is turning the tables. They offer a uniquely comprehensive concierge service for employees which augments their employers’ HR Department. “Imagine, employees talk to a Benefits Representative who understands the lay of the land, and engages them to truly inspect, comprehend, and appreciate all of the benefit options their employer makes available,” Kleiman comments with enthusiasm.
Helping See the Bigger Picture
“If one were to ask employees if they truly understand their benefits, most will say no.” As to “why not,” employees would chalk it up to the difficulty in reading and understanding their benefits brochures. They do not take the initiative to dig into the details. In the past few years, many employers have turned to web-based self-service platforms.
While those platforms do a great job of recording what the employee wants, they are not good communication programs. They do not help the employee make critical decisions about their key benefits or understand and appreciate their employer for providing the benefits. BenefitVision’s mission is to enable employees to make informed decisions regarding their benefits and understand what their employer is doing for them and why.
WebACES, BenefitVision’s proprietary web enrollment system, has several elements that differentiate it from every other solution in the market today. Primarily, WebACES is set up for a co- browsing process. When the employee calls their company’s enrollment center, it is actually BenefitVision’s Benefits Representative they have reached. The trained professional provides a concierge tour of the benefits to guide the employee through their enrollment session.
With BenefitVision’s system, the Benefits Representative can see the website that the employee is looking at. They can involve the employee by highlighting items, circling them, underlining, and adding notations to guide them through the presentation. The experience is truly immersive and helps convey all the information necessary to make an informed decision.
The seamless process holds together, working stunningly well, keeping the clients very happy, which is a critical review of our business model
It is a true full-service offering as opposed to a self-service benefits enrollment system with a call center that only answers random questions.
The key point of contrast is that call centers, for most self-service enrollments, simply offer a course correction when a portal user goes astray from an obscure webpage. Whereas, with the WebACES enrollment, there is a guided presentation, starting with verifying the employee’s information, explaining the features of each benefit plan, answering their questions, and then modelling the financial impact of varying usage scenarios depending on the benefits selected.
As opposed to a help desk approach, BenefitVision delivers an entire benefits orientation to every employee, taking an average of 17 minutes for each personalized session. The Benefits Representative assists the employees and then, when they are ready, their decision is electronically entered into the system.
Besides annual open enrollments and new hire enrollments as employees become eligible, BenefitVision takes care of employee’s life events changes, such as a new child, change in marital status, etc., and can work with the employee to modify their benefits accordingly.
Great Service with Great Savings for the Client
One of the best things about BenefitVision’s service is how it is funded. Through their solution, the cost to the employer is actually zero, as BenefitVision’s model works by partnering with insurance carriers. They collaborate with the client to find new benefits that the employee would like to have, such as permanent life insurance with long-term care critical illness, accident plans, legal plans, etc. It is a “win-win-win” situation, with employees who love having more choices and finding peace of mind in the fact that their employer added benefit plans in which they are truly interested. Commissions from the carriers fund the outstanding enrollment service.
Employees love the convenience of getting these benefits on payroll deduction. The one concern that could be raised is putting too much pressure on employees to enroll in the voluntary benefits. At BenefitVision, Benefits Representatives are paid no commissions. Their performance is evaluated on how well they provide excellent benefits communication.
“Employees shouldn’t feel as though they are talking to anyone except someone from their company’s HR department, guiding them through an enrollment. Because of this factor, this seamless process works stunningly well, keeping the clients very happy, which is a critical review of our business model,” adds Kleiman.
Star-up for new clients typically takes 90 days, including time to learn about the client’s benefit package, scrub data, configure BenefitVision’s system-if that is the system to be used-prepare supporting print material, and train Benefits Representatives. Often, new relationships begin with Open Enrollment, most frequently in the Fall. A popular option is to begin with new hires.
This has the advantage of launching the new process without the pressure of the pending open enrollment deadlines.
BenefitVision assigns a Client Relationship Manager to work as that client’s primary contact. BenefitVision’s creative department works with the client to put together booklets and other print material. There is a close coordination between BenefitVision and the client’s IT team to set up the entire program and data elements. BenefitVision’s enrollment department is involved well before the enrollment start-up. Clients are often engaged, along with BenefitVision’s training staff, in prepping the Benefits Representatives.
The company’s proprietary ACESAdmin system is available year-round for clients to track enrollments and pull reports. Typically, there is no set up costs for the benefits administration system and no PEPM (Per Employee Per Month) fees.
BenefitVision’s IT staff of 35 includes Developers, Analysts, Database Administrators, Quality Assurance Analysts, Documentation and Network Operations. The team’s mantra is “No bad data”. Clean enrollment data gets transferred back to the employer’s HRIS system, and to its vendors on whatever schedule meets the client’s needs.
"Self-service is not service, it is an oxymoron."
BenefitVision’s call centers—one in Harrisburg, PA, and the other in San Juan, Puerto Rico—is their way of ensuring that there is an ever-ready availability of bi-lingual Benefits Representatives. BenefitVision’s seamless capacity to provide Spanish language enrollment is something that no other benefit enrollment firm in the country offers.
Helping Clients Keep their Employees…Cut Costs
One of BenefitVision’s clients, a large automobile parts retailer, noted that they had an employee turnover rate around 100 percent. Kleiman questioned that number. They did issue about twice as many W-2’s as they had employees, but what was behind that number? BenefitVision took a closer look at the actual data, specifically looking to see how many people who were there at the beginning of the year, were there at the end of the year. Interestingly, 70 percent of employees who were employed at the beginning of the year were still employed at the end.
The client actually had just 30 percent of the jobs turn over and over, three to four times each. What was even more interesting, BenefitVision noted, of the people who had enrolled in voluntary benefits as of the beginning of the year, 89 percent of those people were there at the end of the year. In today’s tight labor market, retaining employees is a real value. It helps cut costs of recruiting, hiring, and training new employees. Looking at multiple clients, BenefitVision has found the same result repeated over and over.
BenefitVision has growth plans. They are expanding their presence across the country and significantly adding to their client base. “Additionally, we want to enhance a couple of features in our enrollment system to make it even more robust,” Kleiman adds modestly.
Today BenefitVision is a major producer working with various voluntary benefit carriers. “It is almost funny,” Kleiman notes, “with our carrier partners we enroll a lot of insurance, but we see ourselves not so much as an insurance producer, but really as a communications and enrollment firm. Our mission is to truly help people understand their benefits, and help them make informed decisions. If we do that well, everything else works great.”