Personalized Service, Client Education Stand Out for Eagle Ridge Services
Located in Sioux City, Iowa, Eagle Ridge Services provides employer benefit plan administration services to brokers, agents and employers. Their services range from Section 125 Cafeteria Plans and Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) to self-funded plans, Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs), COBRA administration and more. With over 18 years of service, Eagle Ridge has built a loyal client base that looks to the firm for cost-effective health benefit solutions.
When Neil Bartholomew co-founded Eagle Ridge Services in 2000 with Jim Freshwaters, the two had a very clear goal in mind – to help companies increase profits with cafeteria plans that focus on individual attention and prompt service. Over the years, they have added many services to keep up with the ever-changing healthcare benefits industry. But one thing that hasn’t changed is their commitment to friendly, personalized service.
DataPath recently asked Neil Bartholomew to share his insights on running a successful healthcare benefits TPA administration firm.
What motivated you to start Eagle Ridge Services?
I worked in the flex benefits business for 20 years, and it seemed that the quality of customer service was not where it should have been. Jim and I wanted to create a benefits company that stood out not just for our knowledge and expertise in the field, but also for a high level of personalized service.
How would you describe your company’s value proposition to clients?
We help our clients realize substantial tax savings while empowering their employees to make smart decisions to control their medical expenses. We offer competitive pricing, and we tailor our products and services to meet the specific needs of each client. Most importantly, we emphasize individual attention, prompt service, and quick access to a knowledgeable staff. Our personalized response results in reliable processing, swift reimbursements and satisfied customers.
Who has been your greatest inspiration?
My greatest inspiration would have to be my parents. My father worked as an engineer at a local utility company. He always taught me that if you did something well the first time, it would pay off in the long run. My mother always found time for anyone that needed it, and had a keen ability to listen and feel empathy. That ability to empathize with others and appreciate where they are coming from is what we try to do at Eagle Ridge. We listen to our customers’ concerns and frustrations and do our best to help them address their issues through the products and services we offer.
I’m proud of the outstanding, consistent service that our clients can rely on from Eagle Ridge. We often hear from our clients that no one provides our level of service. Our employees truly make a difference.
Is there anything else you offer, such as COBRA?
Most companies of our type offer COBRA administration services. It’s such a complex subject that it can be a real drain on time and resources for companies to do it in-house.
Just keeping up with the rules and regulations can be a full-time job, so we provide a complete menu of COBRA administration services from setup and event notification to enrollment, collections and correspondence. That way, our clients can focus on managing their business rather than administering COBRA.
We also go the extra mile to educate our clients so they can understand their benefits. In fact, education is the foundation of Eagle Ridge. We don’t expect our clients to be experts when they sign up for their flex plan or HSA. But they know we will be there for them when questions arise, and that we will help get their claims paid in a timely manner. We focus on when the client wants to be reimbursed, not when we get around to it.
What hurdles have you overcome as a TPA and how?
The Affordable Care Act and the insurance markets in the Midwest have presented many barriers and obstacles for our clients and for us as an administration firm. At the same time, participant perceptions are often misguided by the reporting in the media. We were able to weather the storm, and employers are again looking for affordable ways to provide health and benefits programs to their employees in the realm of consumer-driven healthcare. The world keeps changing, and Eagle Ridge strives to bring applicable services to our client partners.
How has benefits administration software streamlined your day to day tasks?
Eagle Ridge has always stressed personal service, and encourages participants to call and visit with our staff to answer all their questions. As people have gotten more comfortable with the Internet, we now encourage participants to visit myRSC and our website for statements and information. Service, timeliness, and knowledge on compliance issues provide additional benefits (pun intended) to our clients.
How has your experience been using DataPath’s Partner Marketing program?
DataPath Partner Marketing is a wonderful resource that helps Eagle Ridge with creative services so we can do our job better. Their marketing team is easy to partner with, and they have created custom communication and marketing pieces for us that highlight our services. Their work helps differentiate us and enables us to provide the best possible branded service and relationships.
What piece of advice would you give to other professionals in your position?
Competition abounds in today’s benefits markets, and many in sales will say whatever it takes to get the business. We prefer to take a longer-term perspective and develop strong relationships with our customers and their participants that will last for years. We want our clients to consider us as a trusted business partner rather than just another service provider. In order to do that, you have to deliver good products and superior service. My one piece of advice would be, no matter what line of business you’re in, always let your clients know how much you appreciate them.