Right Time vs Real Time

I was at a conference recently where three of the presentations that generated the most interest most were about Event Driven Marketing.

It soon became clear that whilst their definitions of EDM were quite similar, they were actually talking about quite different things. This was to do with their implementations. One camp was in the batch processing of Events and the others were firmly in the ‘real-time’ processing and delivery of leads.

This reminded me of several discussions I have had on this subject over the years, and so I thought I would try and jot down a few comments and my own ideas on this.

Significant Events

Typified by an overnight batch process that analyses all Customer actions to determine if something Significant has happened, then to pass this lead to an outbound channel.

Real-Time Decision Making

Typically a web based rules engine that responds to inbound channel requests, whilst servicing a customer, asking what to propose.

Technology / Infrastructure: 

What are the technologies used and infrastructure requirements?


Files fed from mainframe as part of overnight backup and SQL database processing.


Internet infrastructure backbone connecting channels providing Web services to a Real-Time decision engine..

No dependencies. Cheap. Can be implemented in 99% of banks without problem.

Depends upon internet backbone IT infrastructure throughout the bank providing ‘web services’ to/from all channels. Expensive. Not all banks can do this (yet).

Types of Event: 

What types of Event are supported?

Significant Events

Events based on analysis of all transactions, from all channels.

Compared to a historical baseline for accuracy and understanding.

Can see when something doesn’t happen, eg. no salary.

Triggers / Service Events

Not necessarily all transactions (depends on access to data).

Based on current circumstances rather than historical analysis.

Can’t detect when something does NOT happen..

Can see Events that happen over days, eg. Redundancy, job loss, etc.

Especially beneficial for detecting circumstances of Significant change for the Customer, meaning they are very accepting of communication.

Especially beneficial for detecting and delivering Service Events, ie. Something happened now and we can fix it straight away, for example Provide an overdraft facility.

This is contacting the customer at the Right Time, when they have a need.

These systems are called Real-Time Decision Management (RTDM) systems. The reality is that RTDM systems are NOT typically installed to detect Events but to answer the question The customer is now online. What can I offer them?The techniques employed to determine this are simple rules and the standard, pre-calculated next best product models and scores that you already use.

The only difference is that the customer is currently in contact via a bank channel rather than having to contact them using an outbound approach.

Of course, this ignores the idea of contacting the customer at the Right Time replacing it with Real-Time regardless of whether there is a need.

Speed / Timing:

What Channel(s) can I use?


As a generalisation, most Event leads are delivered using manned channels, eg. Relationship manager, call centre.

Provides a personal touch.Expensive channel.


Event leads are delivered through the initiating channel. In most cases (>90%) this is an automated channel (ATM, internet bank, SMS).

Great for service. Cheap channel.

Communication / Offer:

What offer/communication can be delivered?

Before we discuss about the offer capability of each approach, we need to understand a little background.For example, research shows that there may be up to 17 different reasons why a customer receives a Large Deposit (windfall, salary bonus, inheritance, etc.). Thus it is not practical to make an offer of a product or service until we know which reason it is and what the customer intends to do. The same variability applies to most events.

Some (few) events have a clear linkage between the Event and an appropriate offer, eg. Account overdrawn -> overdraft facility.


People are analysed to see that something significant has happened and there is a communication need.

It is required to communicate with the customer to determine needs.

Therefore the offer is open-ended. It can be complex, variable and choices can change based on circumstances.

This applies for any Event, offer, product or service.


People are analysed to see if they fit an offer.

It is not practicable to provide multiple choices or ask questions using an automated channel.

Therefore the offer is fixed. This means offers are simple and predefined. There are one-shot, one choice.

This in turn means that the only effective Events are those with a CLEAR 1 to 1 linkage between the Event and the offer.


Do I deliver the offer?

In either case, it is absolutely mandatory that the system provides some form of contact Lead Optimisation. The characteristics of this system should include:


  • Determine if the contacts are too frequent.
  • Determine if the contact is too soon after a previous contact.
  • In the case of multiple offers, determine which is the best offer.


Cheap(er) implementation. No technology dependencies.

More expensive (human) channels.

Right Time communication

Best for needs based, relationship communications (lifecycle, aspiration).

More expensive implementation. Depends on infrastructure.

Cheap(er) automated channels.

Real-Time communicatione.

Best for service or simple, trigger based offers.

In summary, I believe that both approaches have distinct advantages, but you need to clearly understand the differences and implications of both approaches. In fact there is a definite advantage to having both systems working together as they each address the others’ weaknesses.

Remember, just because a Customer is in front of you in one of your channels, even if they score well, it doesn’t mean that they want to buy something, regardless of whether you can deliver an offer in 10 milliseconds or in 10 hours.

The key is speaking to them at the Right Time, ie. When something significant has happened and there is an implied need.

I suggest that you concentrate on getting the timing ‘Right’ rather than ‘Real’.

Finally, a link back to an excellent review of info on this topic at David Raab’s customer experience matrix blog.

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