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A White Paper on Customer Decision Engines

Ian pointed me to this white paper today - The Customer Decision Engine (free registration required). Unica published this about a year ago but I just saw it today. It's an interesting paper and prompted me to blog about this (in the interests of fair disclosure Unica is a partner of Fair Isaac's).

While the paper is well written and correctly focused on customer decisions as a distinct opportunity for improvement, it is a little limited by its initial position that "a Customer Decision Engine is a framework that integrates both front and back office systems in order to coordinate targeted customer communications...". I think there is a broader opportunity for a customer decision engine to focus on all customer treatment decisions, not just customer communications. After all, your customer's view of your organization is driven by all the decisions you make about them, not just the communication decisions you make (though I take the point that customers will likely find out about 99% of your decisions through your communications). I might describe a customer decision engine as:

A managed platform for coordinating, improving and optimizing customer decisions across the life cycle and across all channels and departments

Or something. Critical items of difference would be:

  • Not just focusing on communication decisions
  • Focusing on improving and optimizing decisions not just coordinating them (adaptive control plays a crucial role here)
  • Considering the customer life cycle as a critical element of decision-making.

Unica's white paper goes on to list some good drivers for the need to do this, again my only point would be to say that I don't think that marketing is the only thing getting more complicated, support and fulfillment, for instance, are likewise getting more complex forcing those decisions also to be managed.

Finally the paper gets into the technology you need and here I agree almost 100%. You need customer analytics (especially predictive analytics), business rules, centralized marketing information, optimization, event detection and real-time responsiveness. All true. Customer treatment decisions (and not just communication ones but all treatment decisions) need to be managed like the corporate asset they are. Your customers think all these decisions are deliberate so you should make sure they are!

There's a lot more on related topics on the blog including these posts on personalization and extreme personalization, this one on how decision management might solve the problems with customer service identified by Seth Godin, this one on scaling 1:1 communication and these on using EDM to do precision marketing and using decision technologies to leverage customer intelligence

By the way I wrote a piece for this same Montgomery Research Publication "The CRM Project" also - check out Automating Customer Treatment Decisions - The Next Leap in CRM

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