For a start, individual insurance plans often have highly technical aspects and difficult administration standards that require specific and up-to-date knowledge that can be difficult and expensive to maintain in-house. And, from a management point of view, a partner can often provide more accountability than is available when using an internal department that is, by necessity, serving multiple masters and determining its own priorities.
Proper administration ensures that credit unions and members are protected. Finding the right partner is the first step. When considering a partner relationship, below are the key questions to ask.
Does your partner understand your organization and your commitment to your members? Are they experienced in the intricate aspects of insurance service or are they systems sellers? Your TPA needs to know how to deploy their technology in a customized manner to address your unique issues.
What is their track record on conversions and implementations? Do they meet their deliverables or have prior conversions gone over schedule and budget?
How flexible is their technology? Are they operating on legacy systems, running a standard off-the-shelf system or do they have proprietary technology that can be quickly adapted to support your business. Many standard systems require you to adapt your systems to their capabilities rather than adapt their systems to your opportunities.
Does the TPA have a diversified client base or do they specialize in certain product categories, distribution channels or customer segments? Diversity is important as your business changes and grows. Your partner needs to be able to support several lines of business such as life, health, supplemental and employer paid, various distribution channels such as direct response, agent sold, web based or worksite as well as your new initiatives.
What reporting does the company provide and is it flexible in terms of frequency and cost? For many smaller credit unions, monthly or quarterly may be more useful than daily or weekly reporting. For larger companies or those with unique requirements, a more frequent reporting schedule may be appropriate.
What kinds of member support are available? Do policyholders have access to a live customer service team? Credit unions are deservedly proud of the service they provide. Ask your partner if they can provide metrics that prove they meet or exceed industry as well as legal standards.
In terms of marketing outreach, does the company have a track record of success? What can they offer you in way of support, innovation and experience? Do they successfully work in a variety of media including mail, phone, statement inserts, and the ubiquitous Internet? Can they create a web site and/or landing page that will allow members or agents to conduct business on their terms?
Do they provide fulfillment capabilities including printing, mailing, warehousing, and data processing? What about program modeling for more effective marketing spend on your part? That is, modeling that allows you to define your best customer and find more like them in the prospect universe.
Things happen. Is there a back-up system to ensure that service is not interrupted? Do they have a complete business continuity plan? How often do they backup your data? Is there an offsite location with redundancy capability?
Is innovation part of their culture? What is their track record with current partners? Where have they added value? What improvements have they offered current partners? A true business partner goes beyond the terms of the contract and finds ways to improve and enhance your business. To find out, ask for and contact references.
Your credit union has spent tremendous resources building your brand and reputation. The right service partner can help you retain and grow all aspects of your business. The wrong service partner can destroy your business in short order. It is vital that you do the right due diligence when selecting a service partner. If done correctly they can improve your services, flexibility, provide better resource management, and allow you to sleep better at night.