In case you’re counting, we’ve now surpassed day 400 of the COVID pandemic. New habits are formed after repeating a behavior for an average of 66 days, so it’s no surprise that behaviors that previously would have taken decades to go mainstream transformed in a matter of weeks. Fundamentally, our market and clientele evolved.
Hearsay’s 2021 Summit analyzed these shifts in client demands and how agent and advisor practices advanced to facilitate deeper, stronger client engagement. At our opening session, CEO Mike Boese and guests examined three key challenges that we must tackle in order to build authentic, long-lasting connections in our post-pandemic environment.
Challenge #1: The new trust criteria
2020 saw record low trust in financial institutions and record high levels of switching. Why? We think some of this can be attributed to how the customer’s decision criteria has shifted. In addition to service and price, consumers demand that companies take a stand in alignment with their values.
To underscore this point, Nicohle Schluender, VP of Integrated Marketing at Thrivent, shared research that since the pandemic, 70% of clients are doing research online before taking a meeting with financial professionals. To meet clients’ new trust criteria, Thivent has adopted a coordinated approach across local websites and social media to ensure their advisors can authentically showcase their practice and put forward their firm’s unique values. This “digital storefront” has been invaluable in digitizing trust-building, resulting in a 21% increase in YoY leads and a remarkable 1 in 4 inbound leads converted.
To ignite a deeper connection in this new environment, firms must strive to address these principles, and adopt a point of view beyond financial advice. Do you facilitate diversity and inclusion? Do you speak to societal and personal challenges with empathy? Do you have a robust ESG offering? Beyond your corporate brand addressing these trends in a targeted, personal manner, they must empower advisors and agents to express their views and personalize corporate value messages on channels like social media, for it’s field teams that can cultivate and nurture deeper, more personal connections to their clients.
Challenge #2: The “social” experience
Since the pandemic, we’ve experienced a dramatic spike in the use of social networks for financial advice….in particular with younger investors. Younger investors are five times more likely to get financial advice from social media, and not just for investing; new participants are engaging networks to evaluate insurance, mortgages, and other financial products.
When the pandemic started, social activity—and web traffic—surged. Then we all hit a virtual wall, and engagement plummeted. So how did programs adjust their activity in the digital realm to give participants the best shot possible at breaking through the noise and really connecting?
Tim Rickards, Director of Marketing at Charles Schwab, honed in on video as a medium that resonates with younger audiences. Looking ahead to the next generation of clients, video will likely become the preferred medium for learning and information sharing. No longer will a purely face-to-face strategy suffice (more on that below), investors will increasingly turn to video for its balance of accessibility and humanity. To win client hearts and minds, it’s imperative that firms seek to ignite connections online in more places while leveraging modern mediums like video to demonstrate social and financial savvy in a compliant and engaging manner.
Challenge #3: The artful mix of human & digital
The pandemic drove new behaviors and challenged some preconceived notions regarding client engagement. Perhaps you don’t need to travel as often for client meetings. Maybe clients preferred a simple text vs. a call. Maybe lunch has been supplanted by a Zoom meeting? Our post-pandemic approach will require a skillful blend of both old and new techniques, combining the best of human and digital techniques.
Finding the right balance will require an even greater focus on data and leveraging insights to guide the right experience. Hearsayers Gabby Levin and Iain Duke-Richardet highlighted this point, unveiling new Content and Compliance dashboards full of actionable insights to help you better understand your advisor and audience populations, so that you can continuously iterate, improve and manage engagement accordingly.
Because of COVID-19, customers are even more attuned to ease of use and a frictionless experience. Firms must drive productivity that unlocks more customer touches and high-quality interactions for field teams. This was on display as Alex Falls, VP of Product at Hearsay, laid out a future vision of unifying engagement around the client, not the channel. A client-centric experience allows advisors to communicate with customers in the most intimate, seamless, and effective manner, while maximizing the value of each conversation.
Above all, the Hearsay Summit saw customers, partners, and thought leaders come together to share strategies and best practices for the future of last-mile engagement. We stand in awe of the massive shifts programs have made to meet customers where they are in this new world. We’re excited to see how our customers and programs evolve to transform these new challenges into opportunities to ignite connections.