Professor Develops `Invention' for Customer Relationship Management

Article excerpt

NEW YORK (NYT) -- The battle to capture the attention of consumers and to influence how they spend money has resulted in an entire industry called customer relationship management. The idea is to help companies attract new buyers, identify valuable customers and win consumer loyalty. To do that, many companies build profiles consisting of the biographies and buying habits of consumers, so the companies can customize marketing and tailor their sales pitches.

Now a professor at New York University has patented a method of building customer profiles and using them to recommend products and services. The professor, Alexander Tuzhilin, says that his invention covers such fundamental profiling practices that it will dominate the business of customer relationship management, or CRM, as it is known.

At the very least, it is almost certain to engender controversy. It appears to be yet another patent based on business methods already widely used in an important and growing part of the economy - - and one that might raise objections from the companies already engaged in consumer profiling.

The patent belongs to New York University, where Tuzhilin is a professor of information systems at the Stern School of Business. He says the university is likely to try licensing the patent to companies it thinks are already conducting business with similar technology. A press release cited customer relationship management companies like Oracle, BroadVision, Clarify, E.piphany and PeopleSoft. …