6 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Benefits Technology Provider

By Nancy Sansom
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Technology has taken a lot of the work out of certain life decisions. Take relationship finding apps for example. While new and uncomfortable at times, they can also be a useful screening tool, allowing the user to eliminate candidates that display certain undesirable “deal-breaker” qualities. It would be nice to have a matchmaking app for choosing a benefits technology provider – you could swipe through, get a good overview of who they are with just a few key pieces of information, and narrow down the potential candidates to a few good matches.

Unfortunately there are some life decisions that cannot be simplified to take place entirely within an app, and the selection process for a benefits technology provider requires a little more vetting than just swiping through some pictures and reading a short bio. However, there are a few key questions that you can ask that will help you eliminate those “deal-breaker” candidates and narrow down your search.

1. How many years of experience do you have integrating with carrier and HCM systems?

Benefits technology providers need to works well with other carriers and HCM systems

Ideally, one program would provide all the necessary components for HR, benefits, and payroll, but this is not usually the case. Instead, it’s necessary to implement a system that can play nicely with other systems so the employer can pick and choose which HR, ben admin and payroll software system works best for them. With a friendly platform, their data can be imported and utilized, and the different systems can talk to each other and work together to create the best experience for everyone involved.

Benefits data exchange is highly complex – there are multiple parties involved with competing priorities, virtually no standards to follow, and limitations and quirks of legacy membership systems that all complicate the process. A partner with lots of experience can help, because it takes years to become competent in benefits data exchange.

Ask how many data exchange connections they have in place, how many new integrations they do each year, and how they handle unique group numbering requirements from carriers. The stakes are high; if a problem with data exchange causes an employee to not have coverage they thought they had when they go to the doctor, it can create real issues for them. You should be able to get a real-time view into the data exchange/EDI setup process and the ongoing transactions.

2. What is your roadmap for security and infrastructure?

There have been many large companies in the news lately creating real problems for their customers because they didn’t take the necessary steps to ensure their systems are secure. Google “security breach” and you’ll get the gist.

Benefits data is extremely sensitive; people’s names, social security numbers, and home addresses are known as Protected Health Information (PHI) under HIPAA. It’s more important than ever to ensure that your technology partner is SSAE 16 SOC 2 Type 2 audited each year to ensure that they are capable of handling this type of sensitive data.

There are upstarts in any industry, and many of those companies don’t have the time and money to invest in audits – a company that has more experience will proactively look for issues. These types of audits ensure security by evaluating an organization’s information systems relevant to security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy. This is more than a certification; it shows that the company has an ongoing strategy for compliance and is continuously performing audits.

Benefits technology provider security and infrastructure is important

3. What was your system uptime % during Q4 of last year?

Every software company needs to have planned downtime for maintenance and software releases, but what about unplanned downtime?

The answer to this question will give you an indication of how sophisticated the company is – can they scale their systems during the busiest time of year to accommodate the volume?

It’s important for the system to be available with good response times during the peak open enrollment season, so they should test and prepare all year to make sure they can handle the volumes. We like to compare Open Enrollment to the “Super Bowl” of benefits. Make sure your team comes ready to play!

4. How much – and how often – is the company investing in its technology?

HCM technology that’s both deep and broad is like a unicorn; it doesn’t exist. If the company has multiple product lines, how much investment is directed at benefits?

For an HCM technology company where benefits is just one module, try to find out if they are continuing to invest in benefits. Is it just a situation where they acquired a company with benefits several years ago and they are now letting it languish while they invest in their core technology?

Once you have determined what a company’s main focus and best area of performance is, you can pick and choose different partners based on your needs.  

5. How do you measure customer satisfaction?

Does the technology provider measure customer satisfaction using Net Promoter Score? How often do they measure it and what do they do with this information?

For example, at PlanSource, we are tracking our real-time Net Promoter Score by asking our customers and partners how we’re doing at key moments in the customer experience, where we anticipate there could be frustration, such as right at the end of the implementation process and right after we close a customer case.

Your technology partner should place great importance on finding out how they’re doing at these key points, looking at and responding to feedback on a daily basis.

How to measure your customer satisfaction with benefits technology

Check out Glenn Elliott’s keynote from our 2017 Eclipse conference where he talks about why employee engagement is a choice!

6. How engaged are your employees? What is the tenure of your staff and voluntary turnover rate?

It’s impossible to create customer love without engaged employees. So, when evaluating technology partners, you need to find out how engaged their employees are. What is the average tenure of their staff? Voluntary turnover rate? Will the technology company’s employees be as passionate about serving employees as you would be?

One tool you can use is Glassdoor. While every company gets a bad Glassdoor review from a disgruntled employee or someone who wasn’t offered a job, it’s important to check out the Glassdoor reviews for any partner who is going to be serving your customers and look for overall themes that might be a warning sign.

Conclusion

Choosing your benefits technology provider is a little more complicated than just a swipe right on your smartphone, and there’s more at stake when it comes to people’s health insurance coverage. But the process doesn’t have to be so daunting. Identify your key “deal-breaker” criteria and ask specific questions about them; the right partner will have good answers for each one. With a little digging, you can find your perfect technology match.

This article is based off of an interview with Employee Benefit Adviser, which can be viewed here.