Electronic Chat with Tara Kelly
Laura Mazzuca Toops | February 24, 2020
A serial innovator, published author and founder 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 resulted in creating three customer experience companies and turning an innovative idea into a patented, proprietary technology that harnesses data streams to create personalized, automated messages. SPLICE solutions were 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.
An open source activist and recognized user experience designer, Kelly has served as a board member for the International Board for Voice User Interface Design, the Canadian Cloud Council, Technology Alberta and the Entrepreneurs Organization. Kelly’s expertise, combined with tenacity, knowledge 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.
You were just named among the 10 most trustable insurance tech providers by Technology Headlines. What makes SPLICE Software so trustable?
We’ve earned our clients’ trust with honest conversations about how and where we create value and by sticking to our commitments, including timeframes for platform rollouts. In this regulatory environment, compliance with GDPR and CCPA, as well as general data compliance standards are table stakes — clients rightly expect that, but they look to their customer engagement platform partner for more than that.
Clients trust SPLICE because of our technical expertise and innovation, our obsession with security and compliance, and our unwavering focus on delivering ROI. But we also earn trust by working with clients to understand what they want and focusing on their objectives. Some want access to a technology platform, whereas others need that plus consultative guidance. Those are our perfect customer partners — we deliver service on their terms.
SPLICE's foundation was based on a bad AI experience at a bank. Please tell us a little of how you went from there to starting the company.
I’ve been a coding nerd since I was a kid, but I’m also an optimist with an unshakeable belief in technology’s capacity to make life better. When I had that experience with the robotic voice interface with my bank, I was already a technology entrepreneur with a company that was helping smaller businesses (dog groomers, massage therapists, etc.) engage customers.
The experience with the bank got me to thinking about how to scale the service we were offering to smaller businesses. It occurred to me that companies of all sizes collect a lot of small and large data from customers, and if we could combine that data with a warm, friendly automated interface, we could make customers’ lives easier. That was the inspiration behind SPLICE Software.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing insurers today?
There are generational and communication challenges that loom large today. Consumer values are shifting, and insurers have to respond to that. At the same time, communication channels and service expectations are changing, and insurers must respond to that, too. Younger consumers have a different worldview than previous generations. They aren’t as focused on material possessions.
Millennials and a growing number of other generations tend to value experiences more than material things, so in one sense, there may be fewer things they own to insure — maybe they’re participating in a ride-share scenario, taking a sabbatical or working at home from a foreign country. But they need insurance as much as ever to protect them from risks. Also, they respond to authenticity and demand personalization in their communication with brands.
Communicating value authentically and in a highly personalized way across multiple channels is a huge challenge, but I also see it as an incredible opportunity. Insurers who understand how consumer values are changing respond with a diverse product approach that addresses those needs and find a way to meet customers where they are and consistently deliver relevant information and value will prosper.
How do you see insurtech evolving over the next decade?
Companies are already laying the groundwork for the future of insurtech in the movement to the cloud, standardization of offers and ecosystems of partnerships that are driving value. The API economy is coming into its own, allowing companies to offer products and services by tapping into existing business-critical information from an array of sources — all without creating a stand-alone ecosystem.
The API economy will bring increased agility in insurtech, enable consent-driven responsiveness and allow insurers to reach out to consumers at the micro-moments along the customer journey to provide the information and assistance people need. It’s an enormous opportunity for insurtech to prove its value, and companies that don’t will be winnowed out.
With everything that’s going on in the insurance field, how can companies maintain their focus on the customer experience?
The fundamentals still apply: walk a mile in their shoes. That’s a concept I’m a stickler for in my work. Whether we’re building a form or creating a dialog or developing an interface, I believe it’s essential to test it and go back to the drawing board if it’s not a process we on the backend absolutely love and would enthusiastically experience ourselves. It’s important because the ability to deliver a great customer experience is more crucial than ever.
The possibilities for creating an excellent experience have expanded, which is so exciting. Thanks to technology, we’re able to create a one-to-one experience at scale, and that’s a huge accomplishment that will get more refined over time. Insurers compete on a lot of axes, including offer assortment and price point. But at the end of the day, the customer experience is the key differentiator.
The convergence of big data and different data sources is creating more concerns (and regulations) around data privacy. How is SPLICE working to protect consumer privacy?
We are committed not only to compliance and data security but also to creating trust between consumers and brands and making it easy for clients to see where they stand. We’ve profiled the customer journey and architected a process to capture consent at appropriate touchpoints, and we’ve worked with clients to gamify the process, rewarding people who handle consent and data the right way.
I believe that creating incentives for people to do the right thing contributes to a rewarding and fun environment on the brand side and builds trust on the consumer side. When companies respect their customers’ boundaries and consistently deliver value, that’s good for customers, employees and brands. That’s the way the relationship should work — as an honest, transparent exchange of value.
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The Email Chat is a regular feature of the ITA Pro magazine and website. We send a series of questions to an insurance IT leader in search of thought-provoking responses on important issues facing the insurance industry.
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