As soon as December 8th arrives, all of us Medicare agents enjoy a sigh of relief. Right after we've been in the storm, it's the perfect time to plan for what we'd do differently next year.
I happen to have a very large book of business, so my perspective is laser-focused on efficiency and only seeing the clients I truly need to see during AEP. For agents who are just starting out or have a more manageable client load, my advice for you will be a bit different.
No matter what your current book of business looks like, reflecting on AEP is so important. Before you know it, it'll be next year, and you'll have forgotten everything about last year's AEP. (Been there, done that.) So don't skip this!
Here's how to improve your next AEP by doing a simple post-mortem.
Focus On Efficiency
Every year, we ask this question in our office: How can we do things more efficiently next time?
We're always trying to find ways to streamline how we see our customers and ultimately, serve them better. So each topic I reflect on is about how to do things faster and better.
Pacing and backlog is always a huge topic to reflect on after the AEP is over. My first piece of advice is to use the Thanksgiving break as part of your mindset.
Because of how many clients I have, I'm just trying to weather the storm until Thanksgiving.
I've found that if I can mentally tell myself I'm going to get a nice break at Thanksgiving and get refreshed and rejuvenated, I can make it through the final 10 days. Anyone can see the light at the end of the tunnel if you break it up.
So I'm definitely going to prepare myself for next year with that mindset. I don't think about making it until December 7th. I think about making it until Thanksgiving. It feels so much more manageable after that break.
Something to reflect on after AEP is appointment length and turnaround time. Did you feel rushed? Did you see everyone you needed to see?
Something I've tweaked over the years is how long my appointments are during the AEP. Because I have so many clients to see, I've adjusted my turnaround time to 30 minutes.
That's pretty aggressive, but it's something I have to stick to in order to help everyone I need to see during the AEP.
Clients know that this time of year is short, and we just don't have as much time for small talk. That said, you have to be cautious about it. Most retired individuals aren't in a rush, and you don't want them to feel rushed.
Related: The easy way to schedule appointments during AEP
Another topic to consider is the location of your appointments. Should you try to do more calls over the phone vs. in person? Should you consider seeing clients in a different place?
I've personally tried to shift a lot of conversations to phone appointments, because those conversations are naturally shorter. So that might be something you want to think about for next year.
Related: How to Sell Medicare Advantage Over the Phone
We know another agent who sees his clients in a restaurant, right next to his office. He has an open tab there, and he meets his clients very quickly over a cup of coffee. You can get creative with how you see your clients to make it enjoyable and efficient at the same time.
Another big topic to think about is how you communicated with your clients before and during the AEP.
A lot of Medicare agents sent a letter to their clients prior to AEP telling them to call and schedule an appointment or to send in their drug lists. This is definitely a proactive approach, but for me and other agents with a large book of business, I wouldn't necessarily recommend it.
If you send a letter to all of your clients, you'll get a flood of people contacting you that you don't even need to see. If their existing plan is still the best one for them, they don't need to do anything.
It's the clients that do need my help that I want to talk to. So, I've become more selective about who I reach out to leading up to the AEP. That's something I had to learn the hard way.
That said, this advice is not for the new agent trying to build their book of business. The more communication, the better. If you can send out a letter to all of your clients and reasonably manage the responses, you want to do that.
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Prepare for a Tipping Point
Can you reasonably see every single one of your clients during the AEP? Do it! You want to build that relationship and possibly plant new seeds for discussions at a later date. Even if their current plan is still the best plan for them, it's great to get in front of your clients.
But I put myself in a corner by making that the expectation, and now I have so many clients that it's not manageable to see everyone. So I do want to put out a word of caution that there will be a tipping point where you'll need to transition away from seeing every single client during the AEP.
For me, that tipping point happened around 400 clients or so. I would recommend turning your computer screen during your appointment and showing your client how you are running their Part D comparison. They'll start to learn that anyone can do this, and all you need is a drug list and preferred pharmacy to get going.
That transparency in the beginning will serve you down the road, and it'll also give your clients peace of mind that you are selecting the most competitive plan for them.
Related: How to Prepare for AEP (10 Tips)
Prioritize Who You See
I always focus the most on new clients for their first AEP with me. I want to make sure they are off to a great start and know what to expect during the AEP season.
I have a requirement that I need their drug plan ahead of time, and I can check on my end if their plan is changing in a big way for next year. Some carriers have plans that are just fine for next year.
So for me, I prioritize new clients and clients who need to change their plan for the following year. Clients who are already in the best plan for them really don't need to come in for an appointment.
For agents who do a lot of Medicare Advantage business, now is definitely the time to think about MedicareCENTER. If you didn't use it during AEP, add it to your to-do list for next year to get set up and trained on it.
And if you did, did you have any hiccups to work out? Is there anything you would've done differently?
LeadCENTER was also recently integrated with MedicareCENTER, and you may want to test that feature out next year. When things are calm, it's the perfect time to look at your technology setup and make sure everything is working for you, not against you.
Related: MedicareCENTER's Free CRM Tool for Medicare Insurance Agents
If you were overwhelmed during AEP, I would seriously consider hiring some part-time help next year.
That has been a huge win in our agency. Keep in mind you have to hire before the AEP starts because you can't train and take care of everyone at the same time.
When my clients call in, our assistant schedules the appointment and makes sure I have everything I need to run a drug comparison. If that client doesn't need to make any changes, my assistant can call and let them know they're all set for the following year. That has saved me a tremendous amount of time.
Having someone to be your right arm during that time frame is so well worth it.
The bottom line is serving our clients with Medicare Advantage and PDP is something we need to in the senior space. So, how can we do it more efficiently?
Every operation is a little bit different. Take some time to reflect on yours now that the AEP season is over, and look for ways to make yourself more efficient next year.