By Neal Keene, Field CTO at Smart Communications

Financial services firms, particularly those in wealth management, pride themselves on providing “high-touch” services to clients.  Agents and advisors often meet customers in person, and then spend hours understanding their needs, family relationships and goals, before working to create customized plans. Building a long-lasting relationship based on trust is key to success and certainly requires a personal touch.

However, times are changing, as is the understanding of what a personal touch really means. Customers’ communications preferences had already begun to drastically change and shift more toward digital before COVID-19 ever entered the picture. As revealed in a recent report from analyst firm Aite Group and Refinitiv, 86 percent of wealth managers consider adoption of digital-servicing capabilities as highly important, with 46 percent only partly or not satisfied at all with their current digital offering.

But in the past few months, the need to “digitalize to personalize” became an understatement. Social distancing and stay-at-home orders made it difficult, if not impossible, to meet face-to-face to conduct business. However, customers never stopped needing advice. In fact, in some ways it seems that agents and advisors are busier than ever, struggling to adjust to working from home while also finding new ways to communicate with customers.

The good news is, the shift to digital doesn’t have to compete with or diminish the personal relationships you have with your clients, it should complement them!

Better leveraging digital experiences allows firms to connect with customers anytime, anywhere on their preferred digital channels— including text, email, and even digital assistants like Alexa or Siri. And even more importantly, lets them seamlessly move between channels as it suits them. To achieve this level of digital transformation, firms should explore which customer touchpoints would be best suited for digital delivery, ideally those that you can quickly test. A good place to start is to look for processes that rely on printed communications (e.g. customer service correspondence) or fillable forms and prioritize those for digital delivery.

Because evolving to become more digital-focused provides agility and scalability, incorporating this approach into a customer communications strategy also helps firms operate more efficiently and be better prepared for whatever the future holds. Advisors and agents with digital-first firms will be more productive and responsive to individual customer needs by using more modern communication tools. Not only does this allow for more timely updates to content as rules and regulations change but also leads to more personalized communications that still adhere to compliance standards.

Moving to a digital-first communications approach doesn’t mean that you lose personal connections with clients.  In many ways the connection can become even more personal as you begin to interact with them on their terms, via their preferred channels—anytime and anywhere.

For more tips on ways to achieve digital agility in the Age of COVID-19, check out my recent post.