The Wall Street Journal: Companies are secretly giving you a score that determines what kind of service you get

Two people call customer service at the same time to complain about the same thing. One waits a few seconds before a representative gets on the line. The other stays on hold. Why the difference?

There’s a good chance it has something to do with a rating known as a customer lifetime value, or CLV. That secret number is used by all manner of companies to measure the potential financial value of their customers.

Your score can determine the prices you pay, the products and ads you see and the perks you receive.

Credit-card companies use the scoring systems to decide what to offer customers who want to cancel their cards. Wireless carriers route high-value callers immediately to their most skilled agents. At some airlines, a high score increases the odds of a seat upgrade.

“There’s no free lunch,” says Sunil Gupta, a marketing professor at Harvard Business School who has researched models for calculating lifetime value. “The more profitable you are, the better service you will get.”

See an expanded version of this story on WSJ.com.

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