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Customer intelligence is a term used to describe the process of collecting data about one's customers and applying the information gained to a business plan. Knowing one's customers is a very important part of conducting business; if one's business offers products and services that people are not interested in, the business will usually fail. Customer intelligence analysis can be as simple as determining the general demographics of a given area or as complex as analyzing phone and e-mail interactions for key words and phrases that reveal some information about what customers want. A company can use the information to specifically cater its business plan to the desires of the people to whom it is trying to market its goods and services.
Customer relationship management is a broad category used in business that describes a company's attempts to attract new customers and to please existing customers. Customer intelligence is one important aspect of customer relationship management. Without knowledge of one's customers, one can not effectively adjust one's business plan to better serve those customers. Customer intelligence is also related to strategic decision making, another important business concept. Strategic decision making involves gathering as much information as possible about one's customer base and about one's resources in order to make more effective decisions that will better please the customer.
Businesses use many methods to gather customer intelligence. Initially, it is typically important to gather basic information about one's customers, such as geographical information, age, and gender. This information is then supplemented with data about the transactions that various groups make with the company; in this way, products and services can be directed to those who want them the most. Surveys or mystery shopping can also be used to gather more information about customers and about public opinion concerning a company or product. Companies also try to gather information about the customers of their competitors so they can try to figure out how to get their competitors' customers to buy from their company.
A great deal of customer intelligence gathering is conducted on the Internet. Companies closely monitor their websites to see what customers are interested in and what they never use. Businesses sometimes use e-mail surveys as well, which give customers the chance to directly tell them what they want from the company. Sometimes, companies even use complex programs that analyze key words and phrases used in exchanges with customers; these key words and phrases may be used to gauge customer interest in various different products and services.