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Customer Analysis when you have millions of customers

This interesting article on Customer Flashcards caught my eye yesterday. Chris and Zach do a nice job of presenting the idea of customer flashcards, combining lots of information into a single image, and how that might help you see more complex patterns and recreate a feel of customer intimacy (about which I have blogged before). I really liked the concept and their examples were fascinating. What made me pause, though, was thinking about how to apply this kind of approach when I have hundreds, thousands or even hundreds of thousands of customers. Am I really going to scan that many flashcards? The discussion of Blink was also interesting but again made me wonder about applying this kind of "thin-slicing" (at which humans excel) to huge datasets (something at which humans do not excel).

So how could you apply this kind of approach to huge numbers of customers? It seems to me there are two ways:

  • Firstly you could apply the approach to customer segments. After segmenting your customers using a data mining approach, you could then display the various aspects of each segment using the flashcards. This might help turn the statistical view of the data mining tool/analyst into a more business-focused flashcard, enabling the business folks to better understand the segments that were statistically significant.
  • Secondly you could take the approach of using flashcards as part of identifying the kinds of variables that might make sense in a predictive scorecard. For instance, a cardholder risk scorecard will typically use information like credit history trends and patterns as part of the data analyzed to produce a risk score. This essentially automates for a system the multi-variable/patterns/trends combination presented so nicely in a flashcard.

Like all visualization techniques this has great potential for helping people make decisions. Equally, like all visualization techniques, it becomes challenging when your volume gets high enough to need decision automation so that, for instance, your website can do as good a job deciding as the people who can see the flashcards..

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