How To Retain Members & Grow Business After The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period
Congratulations, you’ve made it through the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP). And no matter if this was your first AEP or your twenty-first AEP, you now have the most powerful resources for successful Medicare agents: clients. In this special guide to customer retention strategies for Medicare agents, we’ll walk through how successful Medicare agents use customer acquisition and member retention strategies to make sure their clients stick with them — and turn these existing relationships into client referrals.
This customer retention guide, combined with our Medicare marketing for agents guide, will help you generate Medicare leads to increase your Medicare member retention numbers. And helping more Medicare members means a more profitable business for you.
The customer retention strategies for Medicare Agents we’ll cover in this blog include:
- 5 Medicare marketing tips for agents, including:
- Organizing your Medicare book of business and securing client records based on Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) regulations
- Staying up to date with Medicare marketing and communications guidelines
- Creating a personal communication game plan
- Implementing regular client communications like a monthly Medicare newsletter
- Hosting in-person and virtual Medicare educational events
- How to ask for Medicare referrals
Then we’ll tie all of these Medicare member retention strategies together into your own customer retention strategy.
Quick Review of the Medicare Sales Timeline
- October 15 – December 7: This is the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP), also known as Medicare Open Enrollment or the Medicare Annual Election Period, is the period from October 15 – December 7 where eligible Medicare beneficiaries have the option to enroll in, change to, or disenroll from a Medicare Advantage plan or Medicare Prescription drug plan to another one or back to Original Medicare. The new coverage will then take effect January 1 the following year.
- January 1 – March 31: This is the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (MA-OEP) in which beneficiaries enrolled in a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan can switch to a different MA plan or return to Original Medicare.
Remember: Licensed insurance agents cannot use the MA-OEP to:
- Target beneficiaries who selected a Medicare Advantage plan during the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period.
- Send unsolicited marketing materials to beneficiaries during this time period.
- Participate in or promote agent activities that target this enrollment period to make sales.
However, you can respond to beneficiaries who request additional information or one-on-one meetings. But remember, this is only at their request – an insurance agent cannot initiate the outreach.
So now that the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) is over, use these tips to help you continue the momentum for the rest of the year.
Medicare Member Retention Tip #1: Organize Your Book of Business
If you are like most medicare agents during AEP, appointments by phone, video conference, or in person can quickly lead to a large stack of client files. These appointments could also leave you with personal health information that you need to keep protected – one of the big responsibilities of being a Medicare agent. That said, taking some time to organize your client records is a basic step that will allow you to efficiently run your customer retention strategy throughout the year.
An organized and secure client record management system will:
1. Allow you to quickly reference client records.
Throughout the year, you’ll want to access your client records to see any pertinent notes you took during the appointment such as doctor preferences and benefits that are important to your Medicare clients (hearing aids, vision coverage, or gym memberships).
You’ll also want to be able to find their birthday, email address and mailing address, for your client communication tips we’ll discuss in a moment.
And of course you will want to know which plan you helped them enroll in so that if you have clients with different plan types you can help them access their benefits.
So at a minimum, make sure you record the client’s contact information, birthday, and plan preference.
2. Help you maintain CMS regulated documents.
Using your client record system to store the Scope of Appointment (or SOA) is extremely important. CMS guidelines require insurance agents to keep SOA’s for up to 10 years, even if no sale was made.
Some web-based Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems such as Radius Bob allow you to make phone calls and record them to the client record so that you can access past conversations. This is a very helpful tool and can help you if you forget anything that was discussed during the appointment.
3. Enable you to be secure.
CMS guidelines also require Medicare agents to take “reasonable steps” to ensure their client data is safe and secure. This may include implementing password protected files if you’re using a computer based system or a locked file cabinet if you’re using hardcopy files.
When it comes to hard copies, keep a separate folder for each client where you can store any handwritten notes, copies of applications, signed SOA’s and a log sheet of any communication attempts made as well as the result.
Staying organized in this way can help you keep track of any client requests or comments, and will help you when you start juggling hundreds of clients.
In summary, an organized book of business lays the foundation of successful Medicare member retention and customer loyalty strategies.
Medicare Member Retention Tip #2: Keep Up With Medicare Marketing and Communications Guidelines
Now that the rush of AEP is over, it’s a good time to review your Medicare marketing and ensure you’re aware of the latest marketing and communication guidelines put in place by CMS because they can change from year to year.
Good resources to stay up to date on Medicare marketing and compliance guidelines include:
- Insurance marketing and sales managers.
- Agency and broker leaders or your designated marketing leaders in your organization.
- Continuing education providers that may include the latest in Medicare marketing and communication guidelines, which is also a great way to complete continuing education requirements for your license.
- The CMS website where marketing rules are frequently reviewed and updated by CMS.
Visit the CMS website to see the latest Medicare Marketing Guidelines from CMS, which are the 2019 guidelines that communicate the most updated guidance.
Medicare Agent Tip: When in doubt, talk to your sales manager or compliance department to ensure your member retention strategies are compliant with CMS regulations.
Medicare Member Retention Tip #3: Have A Personal Communication Game Plan
The first days after the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period is a great time to set high standards and deliver on any promises you made during appointments with your Medicare clients. It will also establish you as their Medicare agent and help create a relationship that will last for years.
The Personal Communication Game Plan for your existing Medicare clients should include completing these 3 steps:
1. Conduct welcome calls
Beginning in January of each year, consider calling each new client and welcome them to their new insurance plan membership as one of your customer loyalty strategies.
During the welcome calls, remember to thank your clients for trusting you to help them with their Medicare insurance needs, confirm that they have received their new insurance card, and remind them that you appreciate their referrals to friends and family members (which will help you generate Medicare leads).
Medicare Agent Tip: Try practicing this call a few times with a colleague to make sure you sound natural and comfortable.
2. Send personal thank you cards
In addition to conducting welcome calls, send personal thank you cards to all of your clients. An example card could say:
Dear [client name],
Thank you for trusting me with your plan from ABC Medicare Insurance. After reviewing your insurance and healthcare needs together, I believe we have chosen the right insurance plan in place for your needs this year. If you ever encounter any issue or question, please feel free to contact me at [your phone number].
I have enclosed several of my business cards for your convenience and it is the highest compliment I can receive if you pass my information along to anyone who you believe I can help in the future.
Medicare Agent Tip: If you would like to automate this step while maintaining a personal touch, a service like sendoutcards.com is a great choice for sending thank you cards.
3. Find ways to keep clients engaged.
It’s important to find personal ways to keep yourself top-of-mind for your Medicare clients. One way to do so is by sending birthday cards. It shows that you appreciate their business and view them as an individual.
This also gives you another channel to include your business cards as a way to generate Medicare leads.
Medicare Agent Tip: Try implementing an email drip campaign through platforms approved by your agency (HubSpot or SalesForce may be examples) to automate birthday emails to your Medicare clients.
Medicare Member Retention Tip #4: Implement A Monthly Newsletter
Like your personal communication game plan, a monthly newsletter is a powerful way to keep in touch with your clients. It gives you a space to communicate directly with your clients about all things Medicare, and it’ll quickly become a key part of your Medicare customer retention strategy.
In terms of content, you can create short articles on relevant topics which may include:
- Covering common Medicare FAQs that you hear from members.
- Explaining the difference between Medicare Advantage vs. Medigap plans
- Highlighting seasonal health and wellness tips (think American Heart Month)
- Reminding members of how to access benefits like telehealth, vision, and gym memberships.
- Explaining Medicare Special Enrollment Periods (SEPs) that your members may be eligible for based on CMS guidelines.
- Weaving in the other products that you offer, whether it’s life insurance, long-term care, or pet insurance. Just be sure to use this tactic sparingly: It’s best not to make your newsletter a sales letter by including too many other product solicitations.
- Adding personal touches like your favorite local restaurants or what you did on your recent vacation. Create a strong relationship with your clients by being yourself.
A monthly newsletter is also a great place to communicate Medicare news and updates. For example, COVID-19 has had a significant impact on Medicare, so it’s good to link to relevant CMS announcements and explain what it means to your members.
Delivery options for your newsletter can be either by mail or email, depending on the side of your book of business.
Medicare Agent Tip: Be sure to contact the marketing and compliance departments at your insurance carrier or agency to make sure your newsletter design follows brand guidelines and the content complies with CMS regulations.
Medicare Member Retention Tip #5: Host In-Person or Virtual Events
While sending cards, email marketing or implementing a newsletter are great Medicare marketing tools for agents, hosting events is a personalized Medicare member retention technique.
But before we get into event examples, it’s key to understand CMS marketing guidelines for events – beginning with educational vs. marketing/sales events.
Educational events inform attendees about Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans, Prescription Drug (Part D) plans, or other Medicare products in an unbiased way. Meanwhile, marketing/sales events could steer Medicare prospects towards one Medicare plan or a limited set of plans.
As a general rule of thumb, all educational events must clearly be marketed as “educational” on any event invites or promotions. These events may also be held at public venues that fall within CMS guidelines. But agents can never host events in one-on-one settings.
With these guidelines in mind, here are 3 ways to maintain a presence in your community.
Certain grocery stores and pharmacies have contracted with insurance plans to have agents present in the stores as a resource for their customers needing information on Medicare insurance plans. The benefit here is that these are often filed as sales events, which means you can possibly enroll an eligible Medicare member throughout the year. While not everyone will meet the special requirements that allow this, gathering a permission to contact and giving expert advice will increase your chance of enrolling that individual next AEP.
Holding regular coffee and Medicare chats at a local cafe or diner will allow you to send invitations to existing clients as well as prospective ones. Just be sure not to offer meals at these events per CMS guidelines.
Virtual webinars are efficient and safe ways to invite prospective and existing clients to join you in an online forum where you can present valuable Medicare insurance education. As examples. Medicare agents can use platforms like Zoom or Facebook Live to host virtual Medicare events.
Medicare Agent Tip: While in-person or virtual events are powerful customer loyalty strategies, it’s just as important to keep your social media accounts just as active and engaging.
How To Ask For Medicare Referrals
There is no question among agents that referrals are the best source for potential Medicare clients. A referral basically indicates that you are a trusted and reliable Medicare agent. And referrals are a natural byproduct of becoming the best Medicare insurance agent that you can be.
However, you can only ask for a referral’s name and mailing address and may only send unsolicited materials by mail or email, provided that your unsolicited emails have an opt-out process on each communication.
When asking for a referral from your client, it’s best to begin by reminding the client of the service that you provide them with a brief summary.
To start, you could say:
“Ms. Client, we accomplished a lot in this appointment, and I believe you chose the best Medicare insurance plan for your health needs this year. Now that I’m your agent, please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions throughout the year. Does that sound good to you?”
After you receive a confirmation here, ask for a referral:
“Ms. Client, my job is to help people just like you in the way that we did during this appointment. If you know anyone in a similar situation that I can help, it would be a compliment to me if you would let me send them an introduction letter with my contact information.”
You can practice this type of scenario out loud until you feel fully comfortable. Then, start grading yourself on how many times a week you have asked for a referral. This number should start to go up and should become automatic in any interaction with your clients.
Keep any prospective client information you receive, even if they do not become clients in your first interaction. Any referral or potential client that you did not enroll this year should be kept on file to be at the top of your marketing for the next Medicare AEP.
Medicare Marketing Resources for Agents
Now that AEP is over, your business should consist of marketing to prospective clients, and maintaining existing clients using the customer retention strategies for Medicare agents we discussed above.
By staying organized, writing down goals, and staying consistent, your efforts will begin to pay dividends. Even better: You’ll provide a more valuable experience to your clients.
For more Medicare tips for agents, check out our other articles: