Can Dunbar’s number aid in Customer Experience Management?

Probably one of the key aspects of CEM is finding out the experience of the customer in his/her day to day interactions with the closest set of people. As it turns out, as per the Dunbar number, the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships is around 150; the remaining are mostly acquaintances- for whom the emotional attachment can safely be counted as marginal. When it is the customer freaks out the most? The answer is, when the service requested is not obtained, especially when the service provides a communication link to the closest set of people for the customer. Also, the grudge that the customer may have, would first be off-loaded to the nearest and dearest ones– who are within the Dunbar number.

A significant aspect of CEM is to find out which are the good customers who need to be served, via-a-vis the not-so-important customers! Howsoever hard/harsh this may sound, but in real life, not all customers are treated equally, and hence the need for profiling and segmentation of the millions of customers. It may also be noted, that the number of most-significant customers are usually around the top 20%, although they may not be the most revenue generating mass. Correct me if I am wrong. Targeted campaigns are usually (for more efficiency) driven to these chosen set of customers!

Thus, to understand the experience of the customer for a service offering, it may be worthwhile in trying to ensure that the associated 150  key acquaintances are also served right; which means, CEM need not be focused for individual customers or customer segments, but need to be associated with the closely tied 150 nearest subscribers. Essentially it is not about the individual customer which affects the experience or affects the churn rate, but may be what counts is the experience gathered around the small set of 150 individuals.

What I feel is, the rules of segmentation and profiling need to find out these set of customers, who otherwise may have different profiles and or belong to different segments under conventional methods of segmentation. So, if there is a need to improve the experience of the customer, it would be about improving the experience of the group that interacts as a whole, and not individual customers in stand alone mode.

Here is what Wikipedia has to say for Dunbar’s number.

Moinak Banerjee
Moinak works at Protiviti Kuwait, as Product Lead for their Risk Technology Services. Over the years, he has worked in product management for several leading vendors of telecom OSS/BSS software.