Megan Taggart creates and fosters expansion opportunities so clients can better serve their employees. Currently, this includes overseeing ConnectYourCare’s new virtual online enrollment solution. Listen as she covers the silver linings of virtual enrollment, how to best organize the environment for a successful experience, and how to prioritize for future events.
Carla: Hello, my name is Carla Wardin, and I'm the host of the "ConnectYourCare" podcast. I'm talking today with Megan Taggart, senior marketing manager of client expansion. Hello, Megan.
Megan: Hey, Carla.
Carla: Megan, can you tell me about yourself and your work?
Megan: Certainly. So work-wise, I live within the client side of our marketing organization and really my role is surrounding fostering growth and expansion within our service offerings for our clients. On a personal side, I live in northern Minnesota, in a city called Duluth, which sits along the greatest of the Great Lakes, Lake Superior, where I live with my family and our two bull dogs.
Carla: I like how you give Lake Superior its due right there. Obviously, it got the name for a reason. Megan, how did you become interested in working for ConnectYourCare in the beginning?
Megan: Sure. So before ConnectYourCare, I spent almost a decade at a digital marketing agency, and really I loved everything about it. I loved building rapport with clients, creating strategies that solve complex business problems, and really just love the fast paced nature of it all. When I decided I wanted to make a switch in-house really to spend some time and experience getting really deep into one organization, it was really important for me to align with not only a company's services and products, but really also their mission as well. As one of the largest benefit savings providers in the nation, ConnectYourCare has created the opportunity for thousands of employees, large and small, to create and deliver truly affordable and customer-first healthcare solutions to their employees. As a mother of four small humans, healthcare is paramount in our household. And as someone who has seen both side of the employer and employee equation, the need for innovative healthcare tools and products, really can be a make or break for both parties, and really the need has never been greater than now.
So not only do I get to spend my days at ConnectYourCare, finding ways for employers to make it easier to improve their employees' lives via accessible healthcare services, I also get to help employees make what can seem like a really stressful topic feel less scary, and that translates to paving their way to a brighter financial future for them and their family, and that's a pretty rewarding feeling. We're also really building up our tech stacks, always looking for ways to innovate in the name of efficiency and consumer experience, so that has really fueled my need for speed as well.
Carla: Need for speed. You've got some stress, yes. Anybody who's taking care of four tiny humans is going to know how to deal with stress from time to time. At work, what are your main responsibilities?
Megan: Sure. So my main responsibilities include creating and fostering expansion opportunities with our clients, so that they can better serve their employee. Right now, a large part of my responsibilities include open enrollment and overseeing our new virtual enrollment fair solution.
Carla: And that brings us to our biggest topic, virtual OE. Can you tell me what a normal OE looks like versus what it looks like this year?
Carla: Do you remember that?
Megan: Kidding. Historically, we would attend open enrollment fairs or benefits fairs for our clients throughout the country in conjunction with the organization's benefit plan dates. In many scenarios, ConnectYourCare is one in a sea of other providers in a hall or event center and employees can learn more about all the different benefit providers and services available to them during this time. We answer questions, provide additional context, support of material, and overall just our goal is to try to help them feel more confident about them and train their open enrollment in making the best decisions for them and their loved ones.
So this year, given the travel restrictions and the majority of our clients' organizations working remotely, early on it became obvious that we were going to need to make some changes. The great thing is we've been facilitating virtual open enrollment fairs for years for handfuls of our clients. And it really...it was a seamless change and something that we've been working toward, and now there was just a really great opportunity for all of our clients to get onboard. So in this year, what it has looked like, some employers have opted for a full virtual event with all of their vendors, some are leaning on their vendors for support, and others are holding smaller breakout sessions in the name of open enrollment education. I think that the real positive thing to take away here though, is that among all of these changes, virtual open enrollment has not just become survival tactic. It's really a best practice. So that is a big positive in all of these changes.
Carla: That's great. How has it become a best practice? What's the silver lining on this for everyone?
Megan: Sure. So I guess I'll back up for a second and talk a little bit more about what we have been able to offer for our members and really how that has brought a lot of really positive changes to both the employer and employee side. So when we started planning for this virtual open enrollment fair, we surveyed our clients to understand where they're at in their open enrollment planning, what were their concerns, and really what features were most important to them within a virtual environment. So what we found is though organizations and especially benefits teams and HRs were stretched to the max and still trying to weigh their options when it came to this year's open enrollment, over 80% responded that their main concerns were centered around prioritizing employee accessibility over cost.
Megan: So that was really awesome to see on our end. That helped us. Listening to our clients helped us define our scope and seed out what were our must-haves versus what were the nice-to-haves. So from that, we created a 100% virtual open enrollment fair solution that is really centered around our most important factors, creating an easier, more convenient, accessible, and engaging means of learning about your account benefits while also easing the burden and workload for our benefits teams.
Carla: Everyone appreciates easing of workload across the board.
Megan: Definitely. So our virtual open enrollment fairs contain our industry leading learning materials, such as our exclusive HSA and FSAs for Dummies e-books as well as some interactive and engaging content, like our videos and savings calculators. Down the line, we also expanded some of our support features, such as livestreaming webinars and one-to-one chat support, which have really led to some great conversations with employees, and we've amped up our convenience factor by ensuring that our assets are downloadable and available for on demand.
Carla: Oh, that's got to be so helpful for people who, like, you and me, don't have regular work hours or lifestyles or...I mean, just having the 100% access all the time has to be a great feature and a great benefit for a lot of people. What questions did you get the most from people?
Megan: Sure. So early on, we received a lot of questions from employers surrounding the employee experience and employer implementation, which really led to us ensuring employees have access to materials for extended periods of time, and to ensure that we were making this solution as seamless as we can for organizations to leverage or administer. On the employee side, just within our enrollment fair portal, we get a lot of questions surrounding eligible expenses, the difference between accounts, advice on which accounts are best for their life situation, rollover terms, retirement questions, you know, it really runs the gamut, but things of that nature. And so, I think when we're talking about what are some of the silver linings for this solution, we really find that a virtual open enrollment experience provides a far better employee experience, really in every capacity. When we're talking abut physical fairs, an employee is encouraged to attend these events that are generally during working hours, so the first barrier that we have there, clearing of schedule, putting your workload on pause and being able to leave work. Then comes transportation, getting yourself to a fair environment where then you receive handfuls of brochures, maybe you win some cool swag to take home. And finally, being able to retain all of this information possible about all of your providers so that you can make proper decisions for you and your loved ones come open enrollment. So in that model, it's really no wonder that there's such a high number, I think, one survey said about 40% of folks didn't plan to make changes or review their benefits plans year over year.
So really what we've found is that virtual environment allows for employees to access a fair from any device at any time from any location, which we found especially beneficial for organizations with employees working hours outside of a 9 to 5, or those who don't have an office environment in general. We've also seen successes as a virtual environment leads to double the time employees are spending looking at plans and the number of times that they revisit the platform. It allows for other family members and stakeholders to read the material and we've even seen spouses asking questions on behalf of the account holder in our chat line. So it's really been amazing to see the ripple effect of knowledge on these important accounts.
Then, you know, lastly on the employer side, though this year has evolved a lot of extra planning and work and time for these already strapped organizations, it really has forced employers to focus on the educational content that they're providing to their employees, and really how to improve accessibility. So we found that our virtual approach has also been a win on the client side because it improves the process for benefit teams by bold streamlining and improving the whole open enrollment experience for all involved.
Carla: It's interesting that you said we were moving into this model, but then obviously we're kicked really hard into it because of the state of the world this year. What did you learn from this experience overall?
Megan: Sure. So I think, you know, first and foremost, the more barriers that we can remove, the better. And that's really for all parties involved. People are worn out, they're tired, employers are stressed and employees are stretched. We know that it's critical for organizations to invest in employees, that's a given. So that it becomes what little things can you do to remove the barriers and not force challenges and cause undue stress on employees. So employees know these accounts are important but even the thought of having to learn about it, whether it's the first time, whether it's their fifteenth open enrollment, it can feel stressful and a kind of a big event among all of the other items on their plate.
I think it's really important for organizations or even subject matter experts to take off their expert hat for a moment and put yourself in someone's shoes, who may be learning about this or these accounts for the first time. So using language that is simple and short and sweet, leveraging life examples or life situations wherever possible, really helps make it a more personal experience for the end user. I think also, don't silo communication. So it's really important for organizations to meet employees where they're at. We've found text or SMS messaging to be really effective in terms of getting short snippets of information out and texts receive a much higher open rate than emails. So using this form of communication to remind staff that open enrollment starts tomorrow, open enrollment is today, open enrollment ends on this date and sending them just a quick link to your virtual enrollment fair or resources, or benefits plan material, it's a really effective short, sweet way to get this communication in another place other than email. If you have a large millennial population, perhaps you'll wanna leverage social media as a means of communication. Internet, Slack channels, Teams groups, emails, even just the more places you can remind employees where they're at, the better.
We also found on the employer side that there were many organizations planning to forego open enrollment fairs this year simply because of the perceived lack of resources that they felt like they had on their end. This is the last thing that we want to see. You really don't need an enterprise budget to facilitate open enrollment education. We've seen socially distant lunch and learns, Zoom calls, virtual meetings, you know, as well as fully functioning open enrollment fair virtual environments. So really I think the biggest thing is just facilitating some type of environment or line of communication where employees can ask questions and really show employees the importance of this open enrollment education. That's the biggest part of this.
Finally, you know, kind of in conjunction with the resources, lean into your benefits provider for materials and support. Simply because we moved to a 100% virtual environment this year, this really put importance on making sure that our materials, our learning resources were all digital first, and really were a fantastic and easy learning experience and convenient experience for somebody on a tablet, on a phone, on a computer. So I think, you know, we've had to recreate a lot of our resources, and many organizations don't have the time or resources to do that. So even just reaching out to your benefits provider or vendors and understanding what materials they updated this year, do they have any COVID resources, do they have, you know, great digital resources, not just physical brochures, chances are many of these providers have also created these materials. So lean into them where you're able to.
Carla: I like the visual of someone leaving a trade show just clutching brochures at the bottom of their bag, going and throwing them away, versus being able to look them up at any time, having them accessible online, especially something refreshed and easy to read. So hopefully that will be a huge benefit to people. And what about challenges? What kind of challenges are you facing for the next round of OE?
Megan: Sure. So I don't consider them challenges at this point. I really consider them opportunities, because everybody was put into a similar boat or position this year. So I think anything that we can do that provides a better employee experience, anything we can do that will provide an easier, less stressful experience for employers to administer, I think the better. We'll be doing post event surveys at the end of this period's open enrollment fair, so that will really help us steer the ship in terms of what we want to build upon for next year. But I think overall, organizations will be far more open and receptive to a virtual first open enrollment experience next year, when a little bit more of the dust has settled, benefits teams and virtual positions will be a little bit more business as usual, rather than again, having to go into survival mode for lack of a better word. So really, yeah, it comes down to making sure that we are providing the best, most useful experience for employees to learn about these accounts.
Carla: And you'll have even more time to prepare for it next time instead of it being a huge surprise.
Megan: Certainly. I mean, ConnectYourCare has clients that have benefits starts dates all throughout the year, so open enrollment is a topic on our minds 365 days out of the year. So you know, no matter what happens, we're going to continue to create engaging and thoughtful materials that really just aim to make learning about these accounts easier and more personalized.
Carla: What about how can people help themselves? How can members best prepare themselves to go into an open enrollment?
Megan: Sure. So I think first, it's really important to take inventory of your personal situation. So assessing your current plans, trying to forecast what the next year is going to look like for you and your family, which again, seems...
Megan: Yes. But what I mean about that is, financially and medically. Are there braces in your future? Is there a surgery that you've been putting off or may need to happen in the next calendar year? Are there eyecare or other medical costs? Do you have childcare or transportation costs? Really just taking stock of what are these medical and personal costs and what they may look like next year. That will really put you in a strong position to better understand which plans are best for you and your loved ones. I think if you're an employee who uses ConnectYourCare as a benefits provider, obviously you know, I wanna plug our virtual open enrollment fair, the help that has tons of fantastic resources and makes it really easy to make decisions and find ways to maximize your savings for the next year.
Carla: While you're talking to someone who's about to put two teenagers into braces, so that really hits home for the forecasting for next year. Just such fun things ahead.
Megan: Let me know if you wanna talk after this online about, you know, how we can best help you next year.
Carla: Straighter teeth in our future and lot of debt. Megan, what does ConnectYourCare do to set itself apart?
Megan: Sure. So besides being the pioneer of consumer directed healthcare in general, I truly think our passion, our people, our technology are major differentiators. We have really deep experience in industry expertise which allows us to really excel operationally and work at an individual level with clients to find, you know, really tailored individual solutions to what can seem like complex business problems. We have fantastic employ self service tools, such as our mobile app insights, we also have rich dashboards for employers to get, you know, some really deep and important analytics. We also have award-winning content and resources aimed to help employees better manage and understand their accounts. And really, our resources can assist employees at any level. So from those who need primers or are just starting out with benefits account for the first time, we have really great, high level introductory resources. We also have great resources for those who are pros and really just need tips to maximize their savings, or you know, kind of look at what other tips can they be doing to better pave the way for their future. So we have videos, our academy content, which is really just a whole learning experience compendium in itself. I discussed our HSA and FSA for Dummies e-books. We also have regular updated blog content containing timely and helpful resources, such as FSA spending calendars, HSA and retirement tips, the list goes on. But we certainly have content that can help at any age, any stage, any lifecycle.
Carla: Megan, thank you. I appreciate your enthusiasm and I appreciate your knowledge, and thank you so much for your time.
Megan: Thanks, Carla.
Carla: For more information, you can always go to connectyourcare.com.
Carla Wardin is the host of the ConnectYourCare podcast, Exclamation of Benefits. Carla brings her broadcasting and technology experience to talk to experts about the latest innovations in the benefits industry. Carla is an author, speaker, and marketing communicator from Michigan, where she and her husband are raising three boys on a dairy farm.