benefitexpress February 2, 2020 10 min read

5-Step Guide to the Benefit Administration RFP Process

Benefits administration RFP

Choosing a benefits administration provider for your organization can be a lengthy and overwhelming process. After all, there's no shortage of options, and a quick Google search confirms it.

From all-in-one solutions to best-in-breed providers, you'll find a variety of vendors to choose from.  

So, where do you begin? What qualities are important in the evaluation process, and how do you know when a benefits administration vendor is the right fit for your business? Gathering as much information as possible about each vendor in question is a great way to start, specifically in the form of an RFP (request for proposal). 

Today we're sharing our guide on how to effectively execute the benefits administration RFP process, so you can conduct a side-by-side comparison of your top benefits administration solutions. 

Getting started

Let's begin at the beginning - An RFP is exactly what it sounds like; a request for vendors to provide a bid and detailed proposal before you decide which one wins your benefits administration business. While the concept of RFPs is simple, they can be challenging to write, if you're starting from scratch

For example, consider your main objectives. Even though your organization might know exactly what it wants, it won’t do you any good if it's not clearly articulated to potential vendors. Meet with the appropriate team members and stakeholders before starting the RFP process to develop a clear understanding of wants versus needs and what you're looking for in a benefits administration solution

Part 1: intros, objectives & process 

The first step to writing an effective RFP is to become very clear about the underlying project and what the RFP should accomplish. Make sure the following are included in the beginning of your RFP:

RFP Writing for Ben Admin: The Basics

  1. Services requested - what does the vendor need to provide? i.e. benefits administration, eligibility, annual enrollment, life event processing, etc.
  2. Bidder requirements - what must the bidder comply with to be considered a finalist? Consider making onsite visits to the bidder's headquarters a requirement. This will help you establish confidence both in services provided and the partnership itself. 
  3. Your contact information - make sure vendors know who to reach out to with questions!
  4. Key dates and milestones - ensure bidders understand the key dates and milestones of your RFP process.
  5. Criteria for RFP review - a solid RFP will include the criteria you’ll be evaluating and the weighting measures you’ll use for each. 

Part 2: company overview & current benefit admin processes 

The RFP process is a two-way conversation. The vendor(s) need to know just as much about your organization as you do about theirs. In order to identify the best benefits administration partner for your business, you'll need to be as detailed as possible in the following areas: 

  • Company information 
  • Population demographics
  • Plan and carrier interface matrix
  • Current benefits administration landscape 

benEXPERT tip: Avoid confusion and ambiguity by disclosing important information about your organization’s benefits environment upfront. This will help potential service providers better assess how their product and/or services can meet your needs.

Concerned about sharing confidential information? Include a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) in your RFP posting. Most vendors are accustomed to and understand the purpose of signing NDAs.

Part 3: scope of service 

Now’s the chance to let your bidders know what is important to you and why you are seeking a new health and wellness administration solution. We suggest you provide information for the following:

RFP Writing for Ben Admin: Scope of Service

  1. Why are you seeking a new administration system? What specific efficiencies do you want to gain?
  2. What goals do you have for your benefits program (participation rates, eligibility, enrollment, plan selection, etc)?
  3. How would you like to provide employee education of health and wellness benefit information (decision support tools, videos, etc)?
  4. What type of communications do you want to send to inform and educate employees (email, text, print, microsites, etc)?

Part 4: vendor questionnaire 

We've reached the fun part. From platform implementation, administration services, enrollment technology, security, pricing and more, this is your opportunity to learn as much about the vendor's capabilities as possible. Remember – you should always be prepared to read and evaluate each response, so make sure to only ask the questions that apply and are important to you.

Good Read: we've included a categorized list of questions to ask vendors in our exclusive RFP E-Book.

That said, consider the people just as much as the technology.

While technology is important when choosing a long-term benefits administration provider, it is only as good as the team that is accountable for the configuration, support and delivery.

Look for a partner that is easily referenceable and offers a “benefits-wise” team with a highly trained, low-turnover staff that can address the most complex benefits issues and advise on best practices.

When you evaluate vendors based on culture and accountability, you’ll be able to select a partner that can help you enhance enrollment participation and, most importantly, empower employees to make informed benefits decisions.

Remember – you should always be prepared to read and evaluate each response, so make sure to only ask the questions that apply and are important to you.

Part 5: requirements for submittals

Many organizations require proof of specific documents, certifications or policies in order to qualify an RFP vendor. Use this section to include any legal information your organization needs to provide regarding confidentiality agreements. It is best to get your legal department and/or Human resources department involved to ensure proper verbiage. 

Finally, use this section to let vendors know how to submit key components of the RFP including: intent to bid, questions, and final bids. Include dates, times and contact information.

In conclusion...

Your RFP will be the start of a bigger conversation, and it needs to set the right tone for the kind of conversation you want to have. Ultimately, it’s about relationships and finding the right partner.

The more detailed an RFP you provide, the better and more thorough responses you can expect to receive from your bidders. With higher quality responses, you’ll be able to quickly find the right partner to help you manage your benefits administration, allowing you more time to focus on what’s really important–improving the health and wellness of your employees. 

Ready to get started? We break RFPs down even further in our new e-book! Download our E-Book: The Ultimate Guide to Writing an RFP, for a detailed step-by-step process and full vendor questionnaire.