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Salesforce releases Tableau CRM telco churn prediction AI

For telcos that use Communications Cloud, Salesforce adds an AI-powered tool that predicts customer churn, part of its vertical strategy in the wake of its Vlocity acquisition.

Salesforce released Churn Predictions for Tableau CRM, which enables Communications Cloud users an AI tool to show when a customer is a flight risk.

Tableau CRM Churn Predictions' data model takes into account many factors that affect a customer's likelihood of staying or leaving a communications service provider (CSP), such as customer service records, revenue and sales history. AI then creates an account health score that predicts churn likelihood, and gives agents recommended actions to take that may help customer retention -- such as discounted billing or changes in products and services. The tool can also take Salesforce Marketing Cloud activity data such as email and social media posts from a customer and add that to the churn prediction model.

Churn Predictions for Tableau CRM is generally available now, and comes with Communications Cloud, Salesforce's platform for telecommunications companies. It and other vertical-specific clouds arose from the 2020 acquisition of Vlocity.

The tool may prove to be a good fit for Salesforce CSP users because the telco market has had a hard time predicting when a customer might jump to another carrier, said Gartner analyst Jason Wong.

To telcos it's a big deal, because churn is everything to them.
Jason WongAnalyst, Gartner

On top of generally hard-to-predict fickle consumer behavior, the last two years have rendered historical data less relevant. Between the pandemic causing cashflow problems for some consumers who were out of work and tech trends such as cord-cutting, it's hard to understand what is a temporary trend and what it more permanent.

"To telcos it's a big deal, because churn is everything to them," Wong said. "[They want to] retain as many customers as possible, because switching costs are very expensive -- especially when you factor in some of the device giveaways."

Salesforce continues vertical plays

Furthermore, with different smartphone billing modalities such as monthly subscription billing vs. prepaid phones, telco customer churn is hard to predict, said David Fan, vice president of communications product management at Salesforce Industries. For example, it's difficult to tell if a customer will buy more minutes after the most recent purchase runs out for a prepaid phone, so customers need to look at metrics beyond a customer's past purchases to predict churn.

"There are [enough] different nuances in communications that it is worthwhile for us to provide a more purpose-built engine and data connection for people to start that journey of understanding the churn factors," Fan said.

Salesforce Tableau CRM
Salesforce has added churn predictions for Tableau CRM.

The churn likelihood for telco customers around the globe varies from 2% to 75% depending on what players are active in a particular market, Fan said. And that's without considering the future possibility that "digital dragons" such as Amazon or Alibaba may bring their own communications offerings that could entice consumers to switch.

Salesforce has invested recently in both Media Cloud and Communications Cloud because users in those industries rely so heavily on subscriptions, and those markets now are seeing more entrants -- and therefore, more competition -- Wong said. It could also be a testing ground to productize these features into other verticals where subscription models are less mature but emerging.

Confusingly, Tableau CRM Churn Predictions has "Tableau" in the name, but it's actually built on Einstein Discovery lead-scoring features that predate Salesforce's 2019 acquisition of Tableau. Since the $15.7 billion merger, Einstein Analytics -- which includes Einstein Discovery -- has been managed by the Tableau side of the business. The company hinted that it may change the "Tableau CRM" part of the name at some future point.

Don Fluckinger covers enterprise content management, CRM, marketing automation, e-commerce, customer service and enabling technologies for TechTarget.

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