Industry-leading experts in the AEP and Medicare Advantage space joined RISE for this week’s virtual AEP Medicare Readiness Summit 2020 to share best practices, strategies, and tips to navigate member needs amid a global pandemic. Here’s an inside-look at one Medicare sales manager’s recommended steps for annual election period (AEP) planning in such an uncertain time.

Social distancing and isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic has limited sales agents’ abilities to connect with members and prospects, igniting concern for member acquisition and retention. But there are ways in which agents can tailor their sales approach to touch their members and prospects in a touch-free world, according to Christopher Javor, Medicare and individual sales and operations manager, HAP, who presented at the session, AEP Planning in a COVID World, on day one of the virtual event.

In his presentation, Javor recommended organizations focus on the following focus areas for the upcoming AEP:

1. Marketing

Establish an effective marketing strategy using consumer segmentation to drive an integrated campaign. Communicating to the right individuals using their preferred methods of communication is critical leading up to and throughout AEP, he said. Once you establish the consumer segmentation, use an effective omnichannel marketing approach to maintain communication during COVID-19.

Steps you can take to improve digital tactics include:

  • Build a robust search engine optimization (SEO) through your blog so individuals can find you organically and easily
  • Refine your pay-per-click advertising
  • Include video testimonials or any other media on your website to increase your ranking
  • Use email campaigns for another form of communication
  • Highlight member testimonials in prospective emails to share success stories
  • Plan for an increase in Original Medicare and Medigap shopping

Some of the main focuses in a prospective integrated campaign should include online display, paid search, and paid social to drive people to a sales representative or the website. It’s also important to develop end-of-campaign reporting to better understand how people find you and how well your sales approach is working.

2. Sales

A sales strategy throughout this time should use technology for strategic growth. Javor recommended that organizations create a cost-effective approach that will increase overall communication to ideal prospective members like call centers, agents, and field marketing organizations (FMOs).

Making online enrollment as easy as possible for external agents will ensure they adopt better digital sales techniques, he said. This can include providing unique URLS they can send to their prospects, telephonic enrollment through a call center, resources for online meetings, and a personalized agent portal.

The same concept applies for internal agents. A heightened focus on providing resources such as digital enrollment kits, webinars, and phone outreach will increase their use of digital sales techniques.

3. Retention

Members can be your best advocate, or your worst enemy based on their experience, explained Javor. Therefore, your member retention strategy relies heavily on a positive member experience. Reaching out with a welcome call to a member right after the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services confirms enrollment is critical, in fact, members who received an orientation call are more likely to recommend their insurer, he said.

After the initial contact, make sure it’s easy for members to contact you in a user-friendly manner, whether it’s through a customer service line, online chat, or a member portal with tools and information.

Most of all, be sure to provide personalized welcome kits to members based on their plan. You can collect this information through welcome calls to determine the terminology they may or may not be familiar with regarding supplemental benefits so you can provide the proper guidance and support. Effective member education is a key contributor to member retention, he said.