March 22, 2008

Customer Modeling

Sometimes you wonder what your department should be named.

Back in 1994, after spending my entire career (6 years) scratching and clawing my way to the title of "Manager", I was offered the opportunity to name my new department. Our job was to build statistical models that determined the customers that received Lands' End catalogs.

Given my extensive management experience, I opted for a no-nonsense name ... "Customer Modeling". After all, that's what we did, we modeled customer behavior!

We printed business cards. We changed the department name in our internal business systems. I was one happy manager.

About a week later, the phone rang. The conversation went something like this:

Phone: "Hi, may I speak with the manager in charge of modeling?"

Kevin: "Yes, you're speaking with that person. My name is Kevin, how may I help you?"

Phone: "Yea, my name is Chick Mather, I'm a partner at Pyramid Agency. Listen, I represent a model, Therese Jones. You might be familiar with her work. She's a long-time model in the Garnet Hill catalog, and recently did a photo shoot with The Territory Ahead catalog. I'm hoping I can send her portfolio to you, as I think she'd be a wonderful addition to the Lands' End brand. Please provide me with your name and address, and I will expedite her portfolio to you."

Kevin: "Huh?"

It only took a dozen calls, over a two week period of time, to realize I'd made my first mistake as a manager.

Customer Modeling became Analytical Services, until I realized that people focused more on the word "service" than the word "analytical". All too often, we were asked to tell folks how many people used the code "XG143" to purchase chinos. We wanted folks to ask us meaningful questions, strategic questions. By being a "service", you set yourself up for a role where you provide counts.

So in 2001, I went with the term "Business Intelligence".

Years later, I remember a finance person telling a roomful of my peers that the term was an oxymoron. A year later, that term was trumped by a new leader offering the name "Consumer Insights".

In the past fifteen years, we've stripped modeling, analytics, services, business, and intelligence from what we do. Now we simply provide insight.

For most of the folks we work with, that's what they really want ... insight. If they only had the facts, they could make great decisions.

It's a shame we did such a poor job that nobody cared about the modeling, analytics, services, business, and intelligence we can provide.


  1. Anonymous3:41 PM

    Thanks, Very insightful ;)

    I've had the "modeling" thing happen to me as well. Also hard is explaining what market or marketing research is to someone in Finance.

    Tom H. C. Anderson


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

The Milkman

In the mockumentary "Unfrosted", Post and Kellog's are in an arms race to create the first unfrosted toaster pastry. Seinfeld&...