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Phil Wolf May 21, 2019 3 min read

Ask These Communication Capability Questions in Benefit Vendor RFPs

When selecting a new benefits vendor, you have a lot to consider, including service, cost, and enrollee experience. Communication capability may not even be on your list—but it should be.

When you’re about to sign a contract with a new provider, you want to be sure you can quickly and easily inform your people what’s in it for them. If you have a new benefit offering, you’ll want to make sure the right people are able to take advantage of it. If you’re changing from one administrator to another but not changing coverage, your goal is a smooth transition for participants.

We recently prepared these questions for a client who was selecting a new vendor for their wellness program and a new administrator for their HSA, FSA, and commuter benefits.

The next time you send out an RFP, consider including some of these questions.

How do you drive engagement with your services? What resources do you have to support communications?

The idea here is to learn how committed the vendor is to effective communication. If they understand the connection between strong communication and engagement with their service, they’re more likely to have sufficient resources dedicated to developing communications. And they’re probably going to be more helpful when you’re trying to get your people to engage.

Will you provide samples of communications used for introducing your services to plan participants?

Whether you’ll be developing communications yourself or getting help from the vendor, you’ll want to know what they’ve learned from previous rollouts to eliminate any frustration for your people. This is also a good opportunity to make sure the vendor is not assuming things about your organization that turn out to be incorrect.

How do you plan to communicate with participants after they have established a relationship with you?

You’ll want to ensure that the vendor’s communication capabilities and tendencies match well with your people. Does the prospective vendor use home mail, email, or text messages to reach out to people who have registered with them? Do they make it easy to opt in or out of those communications?

Do you use data and targeted communications to address different paths or barriers to engagement?

The prospective vendor should have a good understanding of the reasons why people do or don’t engage. What data will the vendor collect and report to help you understand who is engaging and who isn’t—and why? And how will they use that data to deliver communications that encourage engagement, either by emphasizing benefits or reducing barriers?

Do you plan regular communication campaigns to promote your services?

Some vendors develop robust plans for regularly promoting their products or services. Important follow-up questions here are: Can we opt in or out of those communications? How far in advance do you develop the communications, so we can assess their value to our population before deciding if we want them? Is there a cost to us to opt in—or a credit if we don't use them?

To what degree will you customize the communications you develop?

Get specific here. If the vendor says something can be “branded” for your organization, do they just mean they will slap your logo next to theirs? If you want to be able to change the content of a message or have a flyer developed using your organization’s complete look and feel, make sure the vendor can support that. Also consider whether you want your organization or the vendor to appear as the sender of a communication—which one will be more credible with your population?

Will you provide us with a communications credit if we need to do additional work to customize materials for our use?

In many cases, vendors will set aside money to help with implementation and communication. Several of our clients find that the vendor’s standard materials won’t work for their organizations as is, and they receive a credit from the vendor that goes toward creating custom materials. Ask whether a prospective vendor will provide this kind of support for custom communications—after all, it’s in their best interest, as well as yours, to maximize participant engagement.

There are plenty of challenges to building engagement with the benefits you provide. Make sure your partners are there to help you succeed with effective communications.

Phil Wolf

Phil Wolf, VP Senior Consultant, has broad experience in communicating HR initiatives, from benefits and performance management, compensation, recognition, and talent development.