customer intelligence (CI)

Customer intelligence (CI) is information derived from customer data that an organization collects from both internal and external sources. The purpose of CI is to understand customer motivations better in order to drive future growth. The application of business analytics to customer data is sometimes called customer data mining.

Internal customer data can be generated by any customer interaction and is typically stored in corporate databases in management systems, call center systems and sales systems. Data external to the organization can be gathered from many different sources. External data typically falls into one of three categories:

  • Personal demographics, which include data such as age, income level, debt level, educational profile and marital status. Such data might be analyzed to explore buying patterns of people in specific income brackets, changes in sales as people age, or sales comparisons of homeowners and renters.
  • Geographic demographics, which include data aggregated from specific locations. Such data might be analyzed to explore buying patterns in rural areas, for example, or areas where most residents are young professionals.
  • Attitudinal data, which includes any information about how a customer -- or potential customer -- perceives a company. Such data might be gathered from surveys, contact centers or even comments about a product or service on Twitter.

In Customer intelligence: From data to dialogue, Sean Kelly contrasts customer intelligence with the traditional marketing approach:

"The reality is that most large service companies continue to be beguiled by the management theories of the past and worship devoutly the holy trinity of price advantage, distribution control and economies of scale. These are the mantras of the mass marketing era where customers are a renewable resource and where it is assumed that their behaviour is totally predictable and driven exclusively by price, quality and convenience. In this world view, because the customer is assumed to have a conditioned response that is totally predictable, any effort to study customer behaviour is considered to be a fruitless endeavour."

Kelly goes on to argue that, to the contrary, customers "are not bound by price-based value propositions or even by contractual obligations but by the systemization of highly flexible service-based relationships in the life of the consumer that anticipate and serve their needs."

See also: customer experience management, relationship marketing


This was last updated in May 2010

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