Customer experience, personalisation and how not to be creepy – Interview with Tara Kelly


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Today’s interview is with Tara Kelly, President & CEO of SPLICE Software, who are helping retailers, insurance companies, and banks optimize customer communications through the marriage of patent-pending human voice software, and personalized automated messaging systems. We talk about personalisation, how many companies are struggling to get it right and what companies can do to help their customers feel more comfortable with the personalisation and privacy balance.

This interview follows on from my recent interview – Opaque and transparent AI and the ethical implications for customer experience – Interview with Rob Walker – and is number 225 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, providing valuable insights, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to both their customers and their employees.

Highlights from my conversation with Tara:

  • Tara considers herself an accidental entrepreneur and has been coding since she was 9 years old.
  • Companies are struggling to get the balance right in their customer experience personalisation efforts.
  • Many efforts are going too far and getting tagged as creepy.
  • These efforts can be helped by companies being more open and transparent in their data driven personalisation efforts. That way they can manage expectations and give themselves a better chance of getting it ‘right’.
  • Too often companies are using data that is inferred or purchased and not volunteered and that causes many of them problems.
  • If a customer freely gives you data and/or confirms their own data then that often takes ‘awkward’ out of the equation.
  • However, there has to be a value exchange for all parties, like in all relationships
  • If you are not clear why your customer is your customer (the what, why and how they are your customer) then you will have a hard time doing that.
  • Target offers an example of bad use of customer data.
  • Owning customer information is a privilege and should be treated as such.
  • There are a lot of companies out there collecting a lot of great data but you have to create a connection within context for it to create value.
  • Companies need to go further and define what personalisation means for different customer groups as it will help them better define the value exchange.
  • That would allow them to do inspired and purpose driven marketing.
  • Bits of advice:
    • 1. Every time that you bring in a new piece of data about your customers ask yourself two questions: 1. How will the customer feel about us having this data? and 2. What do I want them to do? If the answers to these questions are not clear then don’t use the data.
    • 2. Start building a data base architecture that allows you to see which data was volunteered and which was purchased.
    • 3. Always know what your end purpose is. What is my absolute best journey my customer can take and is my personalisation efforts making that journey better?
  • The concept of lean data came up, as previously discussed with Jascha Kaykas-Wolff of Mozilla.
  • Hoarding data that you don’t use or your customer does not know you have could promote wrong action.
  • Small data could be seen as the data that is volunteered and lean data could be regarded as cleaned data.
  • Your data should always pass the ‘sniff’ check.
  • Data goes bad and we should periodically check to see if data is still good to use or whether it has passed it’s ‘sell by date’.
  • Data architecture should allow for this.
  • Tara cites one nameless company example where a company bought some data that was a month old which overwrote data directly from their stores that was only a week old.
  • Tara cites a client example from retailer and chair manufacturer LazyBoy, where they helped them build and localise both their personalisation and loyalty efforts using volunteered and purchased data. Their efforts were both award winning and delivered significant business results including a 50% higher average repeat order value for opted in customers.
  • Tara cites another couple of examples from insurance clients (AAA and Germania) who are warning people of catastrophic events in their local area as part of their personalisation efforts and also to keep their customers safe.
  • The assumptions that we make are often at the root of many of the problems that we face.
  • Start with what can I do that will truly be of value to my customer and then think what things do I need to know to do that. Rather than the other way round.
  • Begin with the end in mind.
  • We need to remember that we are still humans selling and talking to other humans.
  • For Splice, the connected home and the internet of things (IoT) is the next, new and exciting frontier for data and personalisation.
  • Wow service/experience for Tara is being there when you need something but just before you ask for it.
  • Take a look at Splice’s Dialog Controller and LeaderBoard app that helps gamify the collection and permissions surrounding customer data.

About Tara (taken from her Splice Software bio)

Tara KellyTara Kelly, SPLICE President & CEO, is a serial innovator, published author and founder, president and CEO of SPLICE Software, Tara Kelly is passionate about technology’s potential to change lives for the better. She has consistently channeled that belief into developing technologies that enhance operations, enable better service delivery, and improve the customer experience. This has led to the creation of three customer experience companies and turning an innovative idea into a patented, proprietary technology (US Patent Number 9348812) that harnesses data streams to create personalized, automated messages. The technology solution was included in Gartner’s “Cool Vendors in Insurance, 2016” report and Forrester’s “IoT and Analytics Startups Can Turn Insurers into the ‘Good Guys’” brief.

Kelly – an open source activist and recognized user experience designer – served as a board member for the International Board for Voice User Interface Design, the Canadian Cloud Council, Technology Alberta and is a member of the Entrepreneurs Organization. Kelly’s expertise combined with tenacity, understanding of market trends, and strong communication skills has allowed her to create dynamic solutions and successful teams; not only in her businesses, but also as a community leader on volunteer boards including Food for the Sol, EO Water Walk, and Special Olympics Ontario. Kelly shares these experiences – and her goal of creating a healthy, humane work environment – in the recently published book, Our Journey To Corporate Sanity: Transformational Stories from the Frontiers of 21st Century Leadership.

Find out more about Splice at, connect with Tara on LinkedIn here, and do say Hi to the team at Splice and Tara on Twitter @SPLICESoftware and @TKtechnow.

Photo Credit: Tom Simpson Flickr via Compfight cc

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adrian Swinscoe
Adrian Swinscoe brings over 25 years experience to focusing on helping companies large and small develop and implement customer focused, sustainable growth strategies.


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