Finger on smartphone, tapping social network (Image: Shutterstock)

Over 500 marketing, distribution, and compliance leaders from the world’s largest financial services and insurance institutions gathered   for the first time virtually   at our annual Hearsay Summit last month to reimagine the advisor-client journey.

Together, we explored the ways our clients are delivering a human experience to their customers in these extraordinary times.

When we started planning this year’s Summit, we never thought the world would be going through a collective reimagining quite so extensive as it is right now.

Our planned theme, “Reimagining the Advisor-Client Journey,” aimed to explore delivering the last mile of the human client experience at digital scale.

But once the COVID-19 crisis hit, it accentuated the profound need for a human touch to reach across digital channels. So, within a month, we turned our live event virtual.

What stood out were the creative and inspiring ways our clients have responded to our environment and led the financial services industry forward.

The interaction and engagement throughout the two-day event illustrated the power of driving human connection through digital channels. We learned that no matter the channel, it’s the human connection that matters.

Here are the three key lessons for advisors on delivering the human touch.

1. Address the accelerated need for a human-via-digital touch

COVID-19 has highlighted things we already knew, and it also exposes the gaps in our systems.

While the financial services industry has been working on digital transformation for some time, it’s no secret that steering the ocean tankers of large enterprises through transformation is a lengthy, sometimes painful process  particularly when it comes to the tools and processes of often distributed workforces of advisors.

Kathryn Lattuca, leader of Emerging Experiences & Analytics at the Royal Bank of Canada, shared some insight on this topic during the opening keynote at Hearsay Summit.  Given the current environment, she’s focused on enabling advisors to more proactively and quickly step into digitization.

“Now that we’re sort of ‘coming together, apart’, these channels [that RBC provides its advisors] are becoming increasingly important and access to advisors through social media sites and texting is bridging all kinds of really complex gaps that we have around mobilizing our core business,” Lattuca said.

While the crisis is temporary, the changes to behavior and digital acceleration we’re experiencing as a result  more remote work, an expansion of digital communications, upgrades in digital processes and tools  – are not.

As Naveen Agarwal, Chief Marketing Officer at Prudential, succinctly stated: “Technology will not replace advisors and agents, but non-technology-using advisors and agents will replace themselves.”

 2. Build human connections on the client’s terms.

From speakers with firms ranging from Starbucks to Allstate, we learned how important it is to give customers control and choice. Allow them to choose the channel they prefer to connect or receive information.

Deliver human engagement when they want it. It’s on the firms to create the authentic, convenient experience whatever channel they have arrived from.

Accelerated timelines or not, it’s essential to focus on creating a cohesive, customer-centric interaction model. As Glenn Shapiro, president of Personal Property-Liability at Allstate, shared with us in his keynote, it’s imperative to give customers control of their experience.

“Customers want to take work that we have somehow and for some unknown reason tried to keep from them for years, and they really want to do it because it gives them control and power in the process,” Shapiro explained.

An example of this is how Allstate transformed its claims process from one where customers had to physically drive into a claims center to one done exclusively through photos, video, an app and a network of body shops.

By eliminating human friction in this process, and adding it only where it adds value, they delivered a more efficient and satisfying customer experience.

Having choice and control feels empowering to the client when they can receive the same responsive, personal service with each choice.

 3. Leadership + Humanity = Trust

Across the board, it’s been inspiring to see the actions that many of our customers are taking in this time to take care of their people, their clients, and their communities.

We’ve seen fees waived, grace periods extended, and general leadership with firms doing the right thing at a time when it matters most.

But the personal, last-mile communications from their advisors are the critical actions that truly cinch their positions as trusted institutions right now.

Empathy isn’t shown in a press release, automated message or a tweet, but rather the personal text, direct message, email or phone check-in that counts so much right now.

When advisors connect with their clients and have the digital conversations that people need right now, it pays dividends in the long run by building trust and being an approachable authority.


Clara Shih is CEO and co-founder of Hearsay Systems. Clara Shih is CEO and co-founder of Hearsay Systems.