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Going ‘green’ alongside benefits efficiency raises bar on enhanced customer service

By Bruce Shutan

The growing emphasis on Web capabilities to help employers manage employee benefit offerings satisfies both moral and business responsibilities, which makes the argument for going paperless all the more compelling.

“Well-designed benefits Web sites present a win-win situation in the form of enhanced customer-service while enabling people to reduce their carbon footprint,” says Andrea Csaszar, vice president of group operations for The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America. She notes a carrier’s “green efforts” is becoming a more popular key criterion in requests for proposals.

Just as Amazon and Sony market e-books not just for the environmental benefits but also their convenience, the case of online benefits management saves trees while helping customers achieve operating efficiencies.

With these dual advantages, Guardian has launched a campaign focused on its self-service benefits Web site, www.GuardianAnytime.com, to help brokers, employers and their employees, and health care providers reap the service advantages of technology while going green.

A Web tour touting the features of the portal can be found at http://www.guardianwebtour.com and a demo of its employee online enrollment capability, offered as part of the Web site, can be found at http://www.guardianenrolldemo.com.

Working smarter and greener

Mounting evidence suggests the age-old business mantra about trying to accomplish more tasks with fewer resources intensified during the economic downturn. Discouraging employment figures certainly show that employers are forced to maximize productivity from their respective workforces. For example, a recent Guardian survey titled “Benefits & Behavior: Spotlight on Benefits & the Economy” (available at www.GuardianBenefits.com) revealed 26% of employees were required to work longer hours and fulfill greater expectations in the eyes of management.

“Everybody has felt the squeeze, especially HR and benefit managers who often wear multiple hats in a business,” Csaszar says. “As a result, any type of service that makes benefits administration more efficient is more valuable than ever.”

By leveraging their insurance carrier’s Web capabilities, employers can work smarter and greener. Potentially time-consuming administrative activities like updating employee information, managing eligibility data and paying bills can be completed in the click of a mouse. And the all-important “paper trail” of activity is conveniently available for online reference without having to make a photocopy.

As part of Guardian’s campaign, the company began rolling out a program across its customer base which encourages plan holders to access bills and benefit booklets solely online. The benefits of online transactions include reduced paper and faster delivery of information to customers.

Gains to employers are even greater when their employees take advantage of Web access for their employee benefits. Csaszar says the employee self-service trend frees up benefit professionals’ and managers’ time as they don’t have to field as many employee inquiries concerning different aspects of their plans. The result is a more strategic contribution that can be made toward revenue-generating activities by optimizing an organization’s investment in human capital.

Popular uses of the Web by employees include accessing their benefits information to know what’s part of their plan, looking up a health care provider, enrolling or making changes to their benefits and checking the status of a claim.

Service beyond online

Employers can look to their brokers and advisers for assistance in crafting a strategy that combines a going-green approach to benefits efficiency with enhanced customer service in hopes of increasing productivity. Csaszar adds, “With the inherent advantages of speed and convenience Web capabilities naturally play a critical role in being able to service the needs of benefits customers, both large and small. But plan holders should look at the entire continuum of a carrier’s service capabilities to maximize efficiency.”

Other services that can save valuable time for employers include carrier-provided enrollment services. Examples are benefit advisors available to conduct group enrollment meetings, enrollment kits personalized to each employee by featuring a pre-filled enrollment form with costs specific to his/her age and salary and toll-free benefits hotlines. These support services all serve to take a load off employers while making it easy for employees to make benefits decisions.

Not to be overlooked are capabilities that preclude hassles of duplication and confusion, such as billing statements which bundle charges for all benefits an employer offers and a singular customer service whether they have an inquiry about their dental or life insurance plan.

In the end, those that acutely take advantage of administrative efficiencies all stand to gain more and seemingly lose nothing.


About the author
Bruce Shutan, former managing editor of Employee Benefit News, is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.

Guardian

The Guardian Life Insurance
Company of America

7 Hanover Square
H-26-E
New York, NY 10004
212/598-8000
www.guardianlife.com

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