Hearsay Founder and Executive Chairperson Clara Shih helped us wrap up three exciting days of learning and networking at Hearsay Summit with a thought-provoking presentation. To set the framework for her closing remarks, she said, “As I reflect on the work that so many of us have done together for the last decade, combined with all of the recent developments in AI, we have a really big opportunity to transform.”
Introducing the concept of “shift to scale”
Clara shared an image of big box retailer Kmart’s website from 2003. At the time, Kmart had figured it out. The brand understood that establishing a digital presence was not optional. But then, Kmart, along with other retail giants with a web presence—including Toys R Us and Sears—went bankrupt. Where did they go wrong?
Clara said, “The digital imperative for the last 13 years has been to ‘be where our clients are.’ This is a very important building block, but it’s not enough.” Each of these retail brands adapted to meet consumer demands by building a digital presence but stopped short of taking the next critical step. “They forgot to transform everything else,” said Clara. “What happens when someone clicks? What happens when someone checks out? Who handles the work? What gets automated versus what doesn't?”
Businesses need to think big picture and update what’s going on behind the scenes—moving away from antiquated analog workflows and incorporating modern-day tech-supported processes. This is as true in banking, insurance, and wealth management as it is in retail.
The concept of “shift to scale” involves using the building blocks you’ve already laid to build operational efficiencies that fit a digital world. “It’s not just retrofitting the ‘store,’ it's retrofitting the entire supply chain,” said Clara.
This can be difficult and complex in an industry as highly regulated as financial services, but it’s critical to long-term success, and it presents a huge opportunity for firm leaders.
Defining transformation priorities
Operationally, firms need to evaluate their entire organization—from sales to service and everywhere in between—and look for opportunities for improvement. Start by speaking with clients and employees to understand daily needs and challenges, then classify and categorize those needs into logical groupings to create a priority list.
Next, use what you learned and identify opportunities to increase efficiency. Analyze where time is being spent and where bottlenecks are popping up, then think about how to minimize those challenges.
For example, Clara said, “You have to do a lot of client servicing that’s necessary, but it’s not actually growing your revenue.” Firm leaders should note activities that fall into this category and look for ways to automate, delegate, and minimize the time impact these tasks have on revenue-generating teams.
Leaning into specialists and technology to drive momentum
Digital marketing is complicated but essential. As the years progress, it becomes increasingly difficult for an individual agent or advisor to master all the necessary concepts and tactical operations required to be successful; a single person can’t do it all. That’s why it’s important to make sure the right people are handling the right jobs.
Clara said, “We only have so many hours in the day, and someone who is an amazing advisor and is great at building a relationship with a client, shouldn’t be doing AB testing and analyzing data. Rather, a marketing specialist should own that task. As you think about transformation, think about all the different departments, roles, and specialists you have, and consider how you can focus on specialists to unlock transformation.”
Evaluating your top-of-funnel activities can be a great place to start. Clara said, “Firms need to activate the channels they put in place and worked so hard to make compliant. Now they have social posts and campaigns that drive free traffic, unpaid traffic that's higher quality to their website and drives interest forms and contact forms.” When top-of-funnel actions are automated, pipeline continues to build on auto-pilot—and more qualified leads come in and convert at higher rates.
Re-evaluating who owns tasks and marrying that assessment with the power of AI and modern technology can be a game changer. For example, firms can use digital tools like Hearsay Relate to route and reroute work across an organization. If a customer sends an advisor a tax question (non-revenue generating service task), and the advisor is in a meeting and can’t respond—the customer sits and waits. But with Relate, a delegated administrator can quickly respond to the text—giving both the customer and the advisor what they need to move forward with their day. Most importantly, it frees agents and advisors up to focus on building relationships and generating new business.
Other companies are already figuring it out. At Starbucks, “Corporate is providing best practices. They're the digital marketing experts building the mobile app and AB testing digital campaigns,” said Clara. “Locally, each store is unique. Managers make it their own and provide an authentic experience to customers. That’s the partnership that can exist in financial services.” McDonald's is taking advantage of technology by staffing drive-throughs from a central location, minimizing the number of people on the clock at individual stores, and dramatically cutting overhead.
At its best, “shift to scale” builds a reliable operational engine that hums along, freeing up revenue-generating team members to focus on what they do best.
It's time to focus on the big picture
To be successful in 2023 and beyond, firms must shift from thinking about operations as one-off channels toward thinking about the whole customer journey as an interconnected system.
“Shift to scale is about looking across the entire client journey and using all of the recent technology advancements to activate channels in really powerful ways. [This helps you] cut tremendous cost out of your organization while delivering a 10x better customer experience,” said Clara. “We get a chance to do all the things Kmart wishes they had done.”
“Doing that successfully means going from incremental change to truly transformational change where you're actually changing the profitability and the revenue growth trajectory of your entire company,” Clara said, “That's exactly the opportunity ahead. It's a simple idea, but it is transformational for the operations and profitability of every single bank, insurance company, and wealth management firm.”
Thanks to Clara for her words of wisdom. We loved welcoming our founder back to the main stage to speak with our customers!