When a segment of a 65,000-member trade union requested an electronic mechanism for increasing employee participation in a term life product, Mutual of Omaha needed a fast, cost-effective response. "Our organization has a proprietary solution, but it lacked the functionality required for the union's needs," says Mark Rivera, a regional manager of benefit solutions with the Omaha, Neb., insurer.
To complicate matters, Mutual of Omaha's IT group typically didn't dedicate resources to developing one-off solutions. So Rivera, the union's insurance broker, and a union representative teamed up in late 2010 to explore options.
First they asked a half-dozen third-party resources about building a solution. "But they wanted an up-front investment of $10,000 to $30,000," he says.
Then Rivera learned that another regional office had solved a similar challenge by deploying Trustnode, a cloud-based tool with a cartoon-character interface that combines education and enrollment. Participation in that region's product soared from 11% to nearly 50%.
Such impressive results made pursuing Trustnode a no-brainer. "It was already approved by our IT department, it was fast to deploy and there were no up-front costs," Rivera says. "Plus, it integrated with our benefits administration application, so no personal data gets exchanged outside our secured systems."
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Rivera's group signed a deal with Trustnode in early 2011, implemented and tested the tool in May, and rolled it out in June. "The deployment was smooth and seamless," Rivera says. "Our only task was to customize the branding."
But getting the broker on board with Trustnode's revenue model was a hurdle. "Trustnode is compensated through revenue-sharing with the brokers," Rivera says. "We had to show our broker that he would make more on the increased total enrollment, despite receiving a smaller percentage on each individual enrollee."
The only other issues were wish-list items the vendor will address in upcoming releases. "For example, Trustnode is working on multi-language support," Rivera says. "And we look forward to the ability to customize characters to match the employee base -- such as attire or ethnic origin. Trustnode has been very receptive to our suggestions and worked to incorporate them into future releases."
Adopting Trustnode was a home run. "We doubled participation for the first group," he says. "We improved our relationship with our customer, and we made the broker look great. So that broker has become very generous in writing new business with us."
And other brokers are taking notice. Three more are introducing the solution to their customers with "a dozen interested in the technology and looking for the right opportunity," Rivera says.
Organizationally, Trustnode is deployed at three other regional offices. "One was a virgin deployment, where participation went from 0 to 40%," Rivera says. "Another grew participation from 22 to 40%, and a third achieved a 65% participation rate in a plan they offer."
In addition, the technology is proving an excellent leave-behind. "Employers can use it to educate and enroll new hires," Rivera says. "And employees can continue accessing it for education even after the enrollment period."
Most important, Trustnode makes Mutual of Omaha look good. "It's now part of our value proposition," asserts Rivera. "Instead of just bringing products to the table, we also offer solutions to other challenges our distribution network faces."
As a result, relations with brokers and their customers have improved. "We've seen significant advancements in stickiness," Rivera says. "That's extremely important to us."
CASE STUDY SNAPSHOT
Company: Mutual of Omaha (Omaha, Neb.; $29 billion in total assets)
Lines of Business: Life, disability, dental, and specialty
Vendor/Technology: Trustnode (San Francisco) cloud-based interactive employee education and enrollment platform
Challenge: Provide a tool for automated education and enrollment to meet a situation-specific need