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The Wall Street Journal: What Keeps Companies From Thinking Digitally?

Clara Shih, CEO and author, says the problem is often a lack of leadership

MCX110113_147Consumers are spending more and more time online and on social-media sites. Yet many companies have yet to adapt.
That’s the argument made by Clara Shih, chief executive and co-founder of Hearsay Social Inc., a maker of digital marketing software founded in 2009, and a director of Starbucks Corp. Ms. Shih – who has written a new book on the subject called “The Social Business Imperative” – argues that every company needs to accept the fact that it, too, must become a technology company.
In other words, opening a corporate Instagram account won’t cut it.
Ms. Shih spoke with The Wall Street Journal about her role at Starbucks and what’s holding larger companies back digitally. Following are edited excerpts from that conversation.
Everyone’s job
WSJ: What do you see as your role on the Starbucks board? Is it fair to say you’re a digital ambassador to the company?
MS. SHIH: My job is to be a director. You can initially start with digital ambassadors, but ultimately digital becomes so strategic that it’s everyone’s job. You can’t delegate it to a single director or small group of directors. You can’t delegate it to a social-media team or to the digital team. It really has become everyone’s job, whether you’re a CEO, chief marketing officer, front-line salesperson, customer support.
I contribute like anybody else. I ask questions. I offer specific insights. The questions and insights that I tend to volunteer often come from the Silicon Valley startup culture. I by no means am the only person who asks those types of questions, nor are those the only types of questions that I ask.
WSJ: You joined the Starbucks board in 2011 and now it’s 2016. How has the company evolved in that time?
MS. SHIH: We continue to become more technology-oriented. A number of the directors are really digitally savvy. It’s really independent of tenure and generation. I think having Kevin Johnson – having been an executive of Microsoft and Juniper – appeals to Starbucks in that this is a technology executive who really infuses that DNA into Starbucks. It’s further reinforcing that Starbucks is a technology company.
WSJ: In your book, you argue that, today, every company has to be a tech company. What does that mean?
MS. SHIH: You have to be where your customer is. If your customer begins their buyer’s journey online or if they want to complete their buyer’s journey on social, mobile and digital, of course, you have to be there too.
When I think of the store experience, it’s not just the physical merchandising and layout of the store. People are often on their devices when they’re in the store, so part of the store experience is the Wi-Fi, it’s the content we can deliver through the Wi-Fi, it’s the mobile app.
WSJ: Are companies embracing this perspective?
MS. SHIH: I think most are doing something and they’ll acknowledge that technology and digital are important – but it’s all about execution. Transformation is much more than putting up a Twitter account and training your customer-service rep or marketing team to tweet.
The need for leadership
WSJ: What’s the stumbling block?
MS. SHIH: Here’s the thing about companies: They’re made up of people. Of course, there are people within the company who view technology and innovation as imperative. But there are also a lot of people, especially in big companies and especially in regulated companies – take any of the banks that Hearsay works with – whose job it is to minimize risk. We see this with Hearsay, too, where a chief marketing officer or a head of sales will say, this is great. Then somebody in compliance looks at it and because their mandate is to reduce risk they say no. That’s why companies can’t move forward. They kind of get stuck.
Unless CEOs personally take ownership for digital and innovation, it’s not going to happen, because there’s going to be an impasse with the people that want to go forward and the people that don’t.
WSJ: Any good examples of an older company that has transformed?
MS. SHIH: I saw many, and I’ll share one such story with you and that’s John Hancock Insurance. Traditionally, [insurance] was an entirely offline experience for everything from purchase to claims. The second issue is they don’t have frequent touch points. Most of the time you buy insurance and then you never hear or want to hear from the insurance company again until there’s a claim.
Last year, John Hancock partnered with a company called Vitality [owned by South Africa-based insurance company Discovery Ltd.] and they launched this new program in the U.S., where they provide free Fitbits to their insurance customers for the purpose of encouraging them and tracking how active they are. They realized that all the actuarial tables show that the more active you are, the longer you’ll live, the healthier you’ll be. They said, instead of being this passive assessor of risk, what if we became an active coach?
WSJ: How can other companies be more digitally oriented?
MS. SHIH: Every company wants to be innovative, they want to change. That’s why they come out and do these visits in Silicon Valley and they launch these innovation labs. Most of the time, it doesn’t work out.
It’s because there are two issues. One, the company culture was established to be very risk averse. Two, which is related to culture but is more process oriented, is that it’s hard to take an idea and operationalize it. Imagine having 200,000 employees and trying to get everyone to change direction. That’s a struggle that many companies face right now.
Original article published May 30, 2016, in The Wall Street Journal.

Hearsay Innovation Summit 2016: Enabling the Omnichannel Advisor in the Age of the Always-Connected Consumer

Hearsay-IS2016-1409San Francisco was the perfect backdrop to Hearsay Social’s fourth annual Innovation Summit (#hearsaysummit), celebrating the intersection of financial services, innovation, and technology. Last week, we had the pleasure and honor of hosting over a hundred thought leaders in technology, wealth management, mortgage, insurance, and banking.
The Summit, which took place on Thursday at the Terra Gallery, provided a unique opportunity for a select group of senior executives, heads of sales, marketing, and compliance, and technology leaders to discuss the most important challenges and opportunities facing the financial services industry.

Key themes included the ongoing role of human advisors and agents and the necessity of firms to leverage technology to empower their advisors to keep them at the center of all customer journeys. Presenters focused on the changing business models and client expectations, including their perspectives of the industry, companies, people, products, and trends poised to emerge in 2016 and beyond.

Here are additional highlights, photos, and key takeaways from the day’s event.

Meeting the expectations of both advisors and clients will challenge existing financial services firms

Hearsay-IS2016-0409Kicking off the Summit was Shelley O’Connor, co-head of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management (@MorganStanley), who shared how her company’s goals to increase efficiencies in branches, enhance the advisor-client experience, and make it easier for advisors to touch more clients more often will be met digitally. 
Today’s shifting client expectations will require advisors to cut through the noise and deliver insights that go well beyond a company’s product offering, she said during Thursday’s opening keynote. I’ve shared this sentiment before and believe the key to connecting with today’s omnichannel client is to engage them in the ways they want to use, not the ways we find convenient.
Naureen Hassan, chief digital officer at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, outlined four key areas that the company will focus on to reach its digital goals; namely, marketing, digitized processes, next-gen products, and client experience. Hearsay-IS2016-0438The company uses data and technology to better understand, acquire, retain, and serve their clients during their whole life cycle.
My co-founder and Hearsay Social CEO Clara Shih (@clarashih) spoke about today’s omnichannel advisor and client, and what firms must do to own the digital last mile. For example, in order for advisors to move up the value chain over the next several years, firms will need to leverage next-gen technology tools that enable advisors to deliver the right content, to the right person, at the right time.Hearsay-IS2016-0572
This underscores the importance of marketing to millennials and devising effective solutions that help reach, engage, and convert this highly influential market.

Understanding your customer is crucial to building an ecosystem that lasts

Kenneth Lin (@kennethlin), CEO and founder of Credit Karma, a financial technology startup that continues to challenge financial industry incumbents such as banks and payment networks, spoke during a fireside chat with Noah Wintroub (@nwintroub), global head of internet and digital media at JPMorgan, and challenged everyone to think of their data and what it can do to help companies truly understand their customers.
Hearsay-IS2016-0774
The pair spoke about how communicating with customers via social and mobile is a huge part of that, as is optimizing your platforms to get a good grasp of what’s important to your consumer base. In Credit Karma’s case, they’ve built a billion-dollar business disrupting the credit score industry by giving people free access to their scores and helping to match consumers with mortgages, auto loans, and more.
In a fireside chat with The Wall Street Journal tech reporter Deepa Seetharaman (@dseetharaman), Braintree COO Amit Jhawar (@Braintree) discussed the next generation of online payments, and how his company democratizes payments, allowing easy access to loans for the masses. His advice? Companies will need to retool their business models to meet consumers’ growing demand for convenience and security. Hearsay-IS2016-1002

The advice industry must adapt to changing client demographics

Chip Roame (@chiproame), managing partner at Tiburon Strategic Advisors, led an incredible discussion and shared some staggering statistics, noting that consumer wealth is approximately $60 trillion and expected liquidation is $30 trillion. 
Hearsay-IS2016-1046In a robo-advice start-up versus traditional brokerage “debate,” panelists Michael Sha, CEO and founder of SigFig (@sigfiginsights), Bo Lu (@bolu), CEO and founder of FutureAdvisor, and Naureen of Morgan Stanley cleared up some misconceptions that often surround robo-advice options. All parties agreed that the future of wealth management will include a combination of traditional and online advice offerings to meet the needs of a diverse and ever-changing client base. Bo challenged us to think of our own jobs – how many of us utilize software to provide products and services. Advisors and agents have been somewhat under-armed, and firms must do a better job at ensuring advisors are armed. 
Hearsay-IS2016-1187  Hearsay-IS2016-1214
Hearsay-IS2016-1375We were also thrilled to have as a guest Debbie Sterling (@debbieblox), CEO and founder of GoldieBlox, a toy company out to inspire the next generation of female engineers. During a fireside chat with The WSJ’s Deepa, Debbie shared why and how she has made it her mission in life to tackle the gender gap in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. Watch this video for an inside look at how the company has introduced engineering concepts to girls through storytelling and toy building.

Advisors and wealth managers aren’t making the most of technology

Jon Sakoda (@jonsakoda), general partner at New Enterprise Associates (a Hearsay Social investor), discussed the big tech challenges that lie ahead. He says we’re experiencing the “unbundling of financial services” and admonished that “disruption is a leap of faith.”
Hearsay-IS2016-1472The overarching takeaways from all the speakers? Advisors need every advantage to navigate uncertain change, including digital technologies that free their time to focus on what they do best – helping coach clients through tough life decisions.
Thank you to everyone who came to see us, and thanks to the entire Hearsay Social team, our attendees and invited guests, and our partners for the support and for making this the best Summit yet!
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View slides from the presenters at SlideShare, and check out the Summit videos on YouTube.
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The Omnichannel Advisor: An Executive’s Guide to Turning Impersonal Transactions Into Personal Interactions (New Playbook)

The customer journey for offerings from financial services and insurance companies is changing dramatically, with an increasing array of online and offline options for researching and buying new products and services. The old ways of selling are coming to an end, paving the way for companies to deliver highly targeted and personalized communications seamlessly across multiple channels and devices. As companies continue to assess their business needs and strategies amidst the rise of social, mobile and digital technologies, they must become customer-obsessed and examine their budgets in current technology to ensure they align with market and behavioral shifts.
The new playbook, The Omnichannel Advisor: Turning Impersonal Transactions Into Personal Interactions, will help you understand how to lead successfully in today’s dynamic, unpredictable, omnichannel environment.
Download the playbook to learn:

  • How the customer journey has shifted to a nonlinear purchase path  
  • How to transform your customer’s experience with your brand through personalized communications
  • What an omnichannel use case scenario looks like
  • What it means to be a “trusted, omnichannel advisor” and how to enable your field reps to meet the needs of an omnichannel customer
  • Ways to deepen relationships and grow business in today’s omnichannel world

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Related Posts:

 The customer journey for offerings from financial services and insurance companies is changing dramatically, with an increasing array of online and offline options for researching and buying new products and services. The old ways of selling are coming to an end, paving the way for companies to deliver highly targeted and personalized communications seamlessly across multiple channels and devices. As companies continue to assess their business needs and strategies amidst the rise of social, mobile and digital technologies, they must become customer-obsessed and examine their budgets in current technology to ensure they align with market and behavioral shifts.
The new playbook, The Omnichannel Advisor: Turning Impersonal Transactions Into Personal Interactions, will help you understand how to lead successfully in today’s dynamic, unpredictable, omnichannel environment.
Download the playbook to learn:

  • How the customer journey has shifted to a nonlinear purchase path  
  • How to transform your customer’s experience with your brand through personalized communications
  • What an omnichannel use case scenario looks like
  • What it means to be a “trusted, omnichannel advisor” and how to enable your field reps to meet the needs of an omnichannel customer
  • Ways to deepen relationships and grow business in today’s omnichannel world

Omnichannel Blog Banner-01 (1)
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Transforming Traditional Advisor Channels: Announcing Hearsay Messages and the Predictive Omnichannel Suite


Today, there are millions of financial advisors and insurance agents worldwide, including more than 500,000 in the U.S. alone. And while technology is rapidly changing consumer behavior, preferences, and expectations, the way a typical advisor engages with customers has largely remained unchanged. What once worked before – cold calling, Yellow Pages, static advisor websites – no longer have a place in today’s digital world. A recent study confirmed 83 percent of consumers prefer communication via email, text and/or social.
Customers are now omnichannel: researching online, reaching out to connections via social and mobile for recommendations, and making purchase decisions long before interacting with a single sales professional. In fact, the average consumer spends six hours every day online – on social, mobile, and digital.
Add to this the onslaught of robo-advisors, self-service consumer e-commerce sites, and anticipated regulatory rulings, and advisors have even more pressure to deliver more to clients while charging less. Confronted with this reality, advisors must fundamentally change the way they do business in order to stay relevant and survive.
Advisors know they need to adapt; they know they need to deliver more value and be accessible across all the channels their clients and prospects are engaging on. But advisors aren’t marketing or compliance experts. And asking advisors to figure out how to do it themselves – or barring them from using these channels due to compliance concerns – has proven to be both inefficient and ineffective.
Six years ago, we saw an opportunity to leverage technology to begin addressing these inefficiencies and the need for change through social selling. Since then, more than 115,000 advisors and agents are using our platform to connect with today’s social, mobile, digital consumer. Today, I’m thrilled to announce our Predictive Omnichannel Suite (#omnichanneladvisor), a full set of integrated apps purpose-built for advisors to save time, stay relevant, and deliver more personalized service to their clients.

Hearsay MessagesWe’re also announcing a new product: Hearsay Messages. Many of you have told us that clients and advisors want to text each other, but compliance requirements got in the way. Hearsay Messages is our answer to your call – a compliance-enabled text messaging application that will allow advisors to send and receive business-related texts with customers using the mobile device they already have.
What is a predictive omnichannel suite?
Our four integrated apps (Hearsay Social, Hearsay Sites, Hearsay Mail, and Hearsay Messages) will help advisors engage across channels with their clients. Each app will have built-in predictive analytics to help advisors save time – everything from auto-suggesting meeting reminders to suggesting the “next best action,” i.e., who to reach out to, when to reach out, and what to say.
All four apps are built on the same single, unified platform so advisors don’t have to log in to four different systems, and compliance supervision teams don’t have to approve the same action four times.
Why are we doing this?
The world has changed. Clients expect and demand engagement on their terms any time, anywhere, and on every channel. Traditional field organizations have no choice but to adapt. It’s become our mission to help with this field transformation.
Looking back, it’s been an incredible year at Hearsay Social – thanks to your trust and confidence as well as to our second engineering office, which we recently opened in Seattle. It’s been an amazing journey to go from a single social media platform to a full omnichannel suite in less than 12 months.
Social selling, beautiful and modern SEO-optimized advisor websites, personalized email at scale that doesn’t feel like spam, and text messaging – all have become table stakes in today’s buyer journey and client experience.
We couldn’t have accomplished all this without your support. Here’s to many more milestones ahead together and to helping equip your field organization to succeed now and into the future.
For more details, contact your customer success manager and check out our new executive playbook, The Omnichannel Advisor. Also take a look at my keynote, “The Age of the Trusted Advisor,” from our Innovation Summit in June.