From Dating to a Meaningful Relationship – The Science of Customer ‘Match-Making’


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Valentine’s Day. Whether single or happily paired off, each February brings to mind the milestones we encounter on the road to finding true love. The awkward first date. Debating whether or not to go on a slightly-less-awkward second date, evaluating the potential for a lasting relationship, and finally making that big commitment.

These steps are not exclusive to the dating world – we each do them in some form every day as consumers – and generally it all begins online. For instance, searching for a new golf driver, heading to the store to “meet” the potential purchase, and running out of the store in shock upon seeing the price tag. Maybe, we return to see if it really takes the shot that much farther, and we decide the total price divided by less strokes justifies the investment. Finally, swiping the card and completing the transaction.

While running a successful business is slightly more challenging than dating (depending on who you ask), both share a common goal of building a lasting relationship that benefits both parties. Luckily for business executives, there are ways to ensure the organization becomes, or remains, a leader in customer retention and satisfaction, attracting new customers and driving revenues.

Businesses need to not only take a hard look at how well they truly know their customers (beliefs, preferences, opinions, behavior), but how they are managing each individual interaction (online, in the store, or on the phone). Successful organizations are analyzing all of the interconnected streams of data – inside and outside the enterprise walls – to establish better customer intimacy and know how they are likely to behave at a precise moment in time.

Implementing a predictive analytics solution can help businesses reach consumers at various “moments of truth” – those interactions that can disproportionately affect the customer’s view of the organization, positively or negatively. Building predictive analytics into a website means customers will be automatically presented with a personalized suggestion that is most likely to result in a sale. When used in a call center, sales representatives immediately know which products or offers are most likely to suit a particular customer’s needs.

In other words, predictive analytics helps organizations stop selfishly obsessing with their own products or logistics, and instead refocus on the customer. Establishing true customer intimacy means better anticipating customer preferences that change from day to day, and sometimes from hour to hour. Not only that, but a customer’s context (where they are and what they’re doing) can change from minute to minute. Having this knowledge directs the business to be more responsive as to when, where, how and why to interact with a customer.

Organizations also better realize the influence that social media has on buying decisions. Today, customers have the power to assert their opinions and be heard, and they know it. They engage in relationships and conversations that extend beyond the point of purchase, and outside of your control.

The goal then, is to determine which conversations are useful, as a few voices might determine the success or failure of millions of dollars spent on your marketing campaigns, product development or operational efficiencies. Understanding the influencers and sentiment in this larger network is paramount to getting even closer with customers.

Now back to that awkward first date. Imagine your date has suggested your favorite bar, without knowing. They know you so well already! Follow that up with a much less awkward second date to see a band you’ve been listening to. Where are they getting this information and how are they anticipating your next move? By the third date, you’re a happy repeat “customer,” and you have established the most important factor in that relationship…trust.

Erick Brethenoux
Erick Brethenoux, Executive Program Director, Worldwide Predictive Analytics, IBM.


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