Voice of the Future Customer: New Methods for Predicting Customers' Behavior Are Changing How We Listen to Them

By Gibbons, Patrick | CRM Magazine, February 2013 | Go to article overview

Voice of the Future Customer: New Methods for Predicting Customers' Behavior Are Changing How We Listen to Them


Gibbons, Patrick, CRM Magazine


LAST SUMMER, a story hit the mainstream media that put predictive analytics in the spotlight. The story was about Orbitz, the online travel site. Orbitz's predictive analytics team determined that Mac users tended to spend more money on hotels than PC users. Once they discovered this, they began customizing search results to deliver higher-priced hotel options to those who were logged in using a Mac. Although some expressed alarm at this, it was quickly clarified that the prices were all the same, regardless of the computer you were using. Only the order in which the options were presented had changed. This seemed to capture the public's interest, opening their eyes to the sophisticated ways that companies are putting customer information to use.

In the world of predictive analytics, this is actually a pretty simple example. Many companies are crunching reams of data to better understand the needs and buying behaviors of their customers. No longer is it good enough to simply ask customers what they want. Instead, specialists are combining all kinds of customer information to predict their behavior, sometimes with remarkable accuracy.

What this means is voice-of-the-customer (VOC) strategies are rapidly changing. This became very apparent to me at a recent forum that featured customer experience professionals from about 25 large companies. During the event, I helped facilitate sessions where we considered customer strategies in the year 2020. There were a number of interesting projections, generally falling into three broad areas:

Customers are changing. Everyone agreed that customers will continue to seek immediate gratification and have higher expectations for innovation, quality, and service. With more options available, they may switch more, and will be less likely to get locked into long-term deals or contracts. Customers will also get used to the fact that companies know a lot about them and will expect them to use that information to deliver products and offer service in a manner tailored to their needs and wants.

Companies must change. To meet these higher demands, companies will need to work harder to know their customers and anticipate their needs. …

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