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IBM analytics tapped to predict, prevent churn

IBM’s new analytics middleware promises to predict churn before it happens – perhaps with enough time to prevent it.

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IBM’s Timely Analytics for Business Intelligence (TABI) middleware makes use of the company’s Massively Scalable data-collection technology and rapidly analyzes patterns in call activity, identifying social groups and yielding information IBM says could be used to predict churn, target ad campaigns and detect fraud and abnormal activity. 

Though the TABI technology is still in IBM’s labs and not yet commercially productized, some carriers are already beginning to try it out. MTN South Africa recently concluded a trial of TABI aimed at churn prediction.

Call pattern analysis can identify not only social groups among mobile subscribers but the “leaders” – or most influential members of each group. That’s important for several reasons, one of which is the fact that, according to IBM’s calculations, members of the group are more likely to churn if the leaders do and, if the leaders already use other carriers, followers are more likely to switch to the leaders’ provider.

Mobile operators already mine call data to make such predictions, but historically they have stored that data in large volumes, culling analysis of it over a one- to three-month period. However, that may be too late to prevent some customers from churning, IBM said. With TABI, IBM is promising much faster analysis – on the order of days, or even culled in response to specific events.

Doing rapid analysis opens the door for other possibilities, IBM said, like for example, combining rapid analysis with location-based technology to analyze user behavior around a specific event while it’s still happening – for example, examining mobile use around a football stadium surrounding a game.

“Can you now target social networks that are created because of a given situation?” said Paul Bloom, chief technology officer for IBM’s telecommunications industry. “Can you create services that leverage the fact that you know that 50,000 people are somewhat captive in this stadium? Are there services you could offer to them that would leverage the fact that you know they’re football fans and that they’re all in one place?”

While MTN saw the applicability of IBM’s platform for churn reduction, mobile operators in Asia have expressed interest in using it for marketing campaigns. For example, if the leader of a social group buys a U2 ringtone, the mobile operator, knowing how influential that leader’s tastes are in the group, could offer discounts on the latest U2 album to others in the group.

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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