Thursday, October 16, 2014

Oh Hell No: What to do when your flex vendor sells you out

These white boards that I
saw at Motley Fool are the greatest!
When we implemented EBIX as our online benefits enrollment system two years ago, we switched flex vendors to FlexCorp because they were business partners. Flexcorp had already been acquired by TASC (Total Administrative Services Corporation) at that time, but they operated independently. Because Flexcorp was fully integrated with EBIX, we had a single sign-on. Our staff were happy with FlexCorp. They appreciated the single sign-on and the requested levels of substantiation seemed reasonable. From the admin side of things, Flexcorp was ok. Their responsiveness wasn't great, but it wasn't causing many problems. We planned to continue our relationship with them into 2015.

In August, our staff started letting us know they couldn't log on to their accounts and we couldn't get an explanation of the problem from FlexCorp or an expected time frame for fixing it. On August 11, we received an email that FlexCorp had joined forces with TASC and they would be transitioning our account. TASC had actually acquired Flexcorp in December of 2011. For reasons unknown to us, they decided to move our account to TASC midway through our plan year. I didn't know much about TASC when we received this notice, but I contacted our broker, Mark Sager at Alliant, immediately and asked him to help us look at other providers. I figured if we were going to have to change vendors, why not look at all our options. We had a call with TASC on September 12. It didn't go well. They couldn't answer any of the questions we asked. I called Mark again and told him we needed to find a new vendor FAST.

Our team got busy and mapped out the plan you see in this image. I sent out an SOS to the HR directors at other large associations and made note of who they had experience with and who they liked and didn't. The feedback about TASC was not good. (Evidently they've acquired a lot of other flex vendors recently.) Connie Castrogiovanni, our payroll guru, set up a meeting for us with ADP. I posted questions on LinkedIn and got a few responses that helped me hone the list a bit more. On September 16, Mark Sager brought Bridget Holt from Benefit Resource, Inc. out to meet with us. They're a small firm in Rochester, New York that seemed to be a good fit for us. At the end of the meeting, we asked Connie to hold the next transfer of funds to FlexCorp. We figured there was no sense giving them funds that we would just have to collect back. 

Benefit Resources' references stressed the quality of their customer service. We like their app that allows participants to submit claims or receipts necessary to substantiate a claim right from their phone. And, they could meet our ambitious timeline for making the transition, so our staff had access to their funds in less time than they would have if we'd made the transition to TASC. We quickly executed the contract and they had us up and running in record time. 

What we couldn't do is shut down the process with TASC. Of course we informed them we would not be making the move -- verbally and in writing. But, they didn't seem to get the message. They continued to email our FSA participants, so we blocked incoming email from TASC. They even sent debit cards to our staff. We did a pretty good job of keeping the staff informed about what was going on, but TASC certainly did everything possible to confuse matters. 

It was a real scramble and certainly a lot of work that we had not planned on at a particularly busy time for us, but we got it done. Most employers would have just gone along with the transition to TASC, but there is no reason to be a victim if you have a good network of people that will help you when you're in a pickle. 

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