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Hearsay Summit 2019: Creating a Human Client Experience in an Omnichannel Financial Services World

May 9, 2019

Last week, 150 distribution, marketing, IT, and compliance leaders at the world’s largest financial services institutions and Silicon Valley disruptors gathered at our annual Hearsay Summit to discuss the challenges and opportunities we face as we make our way through digital transformation. Here are my top takeaways.  

There’s been a lot of talk about (and investment in) creating a seamless client experience. As consumers have become accustomed to amazing service from B2C companies like Netflix and Amazon, their expectations for digital business services has sharply increased. Even the most conservative enterprises today – and I count many financial services firms among those – have begun their digital transformation efforts. The goal: create those delightful customer experiences.

Yet, for all the talk about customer experience, the one component I don’t hear nearly enough about is the human side of the client experience.

The Human Client Experience

A seamless digital-only experience might work in B2C categories like video streaming and retail, but it doesn’t work for financial planning advice and insurance. The data shows that most customers don’t want to choose one or the other – they want a seamless omnichannel experience which sometimes means looking up their account balance through a mobile app without having to talk to anyone, and other times means being able to get their advisor or agent on the phone (e.g., when Brexit happens or their house has just been destroyed by the Napa fire).

Joe Nadreau, Wells Fargo Advisors

Joe Nadreau, Head of Independent Brokerage & Platform Services for Wells Fargo Advisors shared that as robo platforms have become commonplace, there’s been a trend toward clients looking to advisors for holistic advice. Today’s clients are much more interested in talking to advisors about goals – saving for retirement or to put kids through college – and how to achieve them than about their investment portfolio and its performance.

The issue too with digital-only experiences is that they quickly become commoditized table stakes. Every insurer’s mobile app these days basically has the same functionality (make a payment, file a claim, look up your insurance card), and same for investments (accounts, watch lists, trade, transfer). Digital has become table stakes– you need mobile apps and robo to stay in the game, but having a mobile app and robo doesn’t score you any extra loyalty because everyone else has it too. Typically, it’s a race to the bottom where firms compete on price alone.

What still commands a premium, and is priceless, is the human experience. As Ella Hilal, PhD, Director of Data at Shopify discussed in the Tale of Data Science, the stories we share can stimulate the endorphins that truly engage your customers (and build loyalty). The Holy Grail is, as Steve Jobs said in 2000, “the intersection of computers and humanism” where technology can be used to enhance human connection.

Driving Advisor and Agent Adoption

But getting advisors to embrace technology is hard. There are a host of regulation and supervision burdens that every new communication channel brings with it. After all, advisors and agents are human beings – who can become set in their ways and resistant to change. They must, however, change to accommodate consumer habits and that seismic shift in consumer expectations.

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“In this business, the most critical piece is to get your advisors to use it. With any digital field solution, it’s critical to get the training right and integrate everything fully so there’s an end-to-end workflow. You have to make it easy to drive adoption.”

Neal Maglaque, President, Advice & Wealth Management Business Development and COO, Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc.

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Around the world, the average adult spends over two hours each day on social media and a total of six hours engaging on a digital screen. In this era of Google and constant connectivity, consumers prefer to do their own research and validation – CEB/Gartner estimates that 57% of the buying decision has been completed before a prospect is willing to speak to a rep. This means content marketing and being findable online are more important than ever. Since most individual advisors and agents don’t have the ability to manage content marketing and SEO, corporate marketing teams play a critical role.

We heard from so many of our customers on how they simplify the advisor and agent experience with digital. While some organizations leverage Hearsay’s Dynamic Campaigns to provide their field teams with corporate-suggested content, Allstate provides a customized digital experience of offering their agents the ability to create unique content. And of course, no discussion of marketing’s critical role would be complete without exploring the theme of marketing and sales alignment, which David Karr, Chief Distribution Officer and Kathryn Ferrero, Chief Marketing Officer, from AXA in a fireside chat led by Ty Heath of LinkedIn. I can vouch firsthand that the AXA team’s alignment is impressive; David and Kathryn literally cannot make decisions without one another which leads to the best decisions for their advisors.

David Karr and Kathryn Ferrero from AXA; Ty Heath from LinkedIn

Introducing Hearsay Billing Orchestration and Lead Orchestration, powered by Agent Actions

Telisa Yancy, American Family Insurance

In the US alone, property and casualty insurance companies lose an estimated $30B each year due to billing issues. Telisa Yancy, Chief Marketing Officer of American Family Insurance, said that the very best agents simply do not let their customers lapse. These agents have instinctively figured out that they should be using a combination of texting, emails, and calls to make sure customers pay before their policies lapse, but the process is entirely manual today. And as we know, the very best agents make up a small percentage of any field team within an organization.

On the new customer acquisition front, over $7B is spent each year by P&C insurers on advertising in the US. Then, on top of this, agents spend on local advertising and for leads from 3rd party aggregators. Whether the leads are sourced from corporate or by the agents themselves, the follow-up is poor and inconsistent. Even the best agents don’t always consistently and systematically follow up on leads because there are too many steps and everything is manual.

Hearsay’s new configurable Actions Orchestration Engine changes all of this. It allows every agent to behave as the very top producer does, and automates 90% of the manual steps.

Today’s next best action AI efforts typically fail because agents are not incentivized to manually report back to corporate whether or how they performed the suggested action. Without the closed-loop feedback, machine learning cannot occur. Hearsay addresses this problem by closing the loop with built-in tracking on Hearsay Social, Hearsay Sites, and Hearsay Relate texting and calling.

Thanks to regulations and Hearsay’s role in “last mile” compliant communications, we can harvest and analyze digital exhaust to determine which agent actions result in the best outcomes, such as preventing a policy lapse. This is an incredible opportunity to help all agents become more efficient and systematic through automation and mobile notifications and a closed feedback loop.

As we tackle these field execution gaps with Billing Orchestration and Lead Orchestration in Insurance, and the various moments that matter in wealth management such as Market Movements, Financial Planning and Annual Reviews, and RMDs, we expect to shift the typical normal distribution of low, mid, and high-performing agents to a new world where everyone can easily behave as the best agent would. This will completely change insurance and wealth management, with a human client experience that is also data-driven, leading to the high-tech, right-touch advisor and agent!

Thank you and Congratulations

Hearsay Summit was a success because of our inspiring customers and partners. Your leadership, program best practices and lessons learned have been inspirational to us and have helped define the next phase of our journey together.

To that end I want to congratulate our Innovator Award winners:

  • Transforming the Enterprise – Josh Feyen, Jeff Frye, and Ashley Mortimer from American Family Insurance
  • Best Strategies for Driving Adoption – Stacey King, Sean Carey, Katie Leimkuehler, Katie Pfledderer, Jake Thompson and Nia Copeland from Charles Schwab
  • Greatest Productivity Gains – Joanne Koenig, from RBC Wealth Management
  • Top Digital Performer – Renee Corwin-Rey of Farmer’s Insurance

Finally, if you weren’t able to join us or want to revisit one of the session, check out recordings of some of our main stage Hearsay Summit sessions here.

Clara Shih

CEO, Founder

A pioneer in the social media industry, Clara developed the first social business application in 2007. Her latest book, The Social Business Imperative, is a Wall Street Journal-featured bestseller. She is a member of the Starbucks board of directors.

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