What is a 'Customer Information File (CIF)'

A customer information file (CIF) is a file, either electronic or physical, that stores all pertinent information about a customer's personal and account information. The customer information file (CIF) allows the business to view its customer accounts by relationship and not strictly by account type. For example, information such as credit relationships, account ownership information and accounts owned are included.

BREAKING DOWN 'Customer Information File (CIF)'

The CIF records such information as a customer's vital statistics, account balances and transactions, and types of accounts held. It is updated as often as daily to ensure accuracy. The CIF is also used to cross-sell various products and services to customers, and to assist in other administrative functions.

CIFs provide the business with a summary of all of the activities associated with a particular customer. More commonly held in an electronic format today, a CIF can also be a paper folder holding relevant documents. It functions as a central point for examining customer data without having to look up each account or transaction individually.

In the case of commercial banking, it provides information regarding the products currently in use by a customer. It may also show information regarding any previous inquiries, to help provide targeted information for the purpose of upselling.

Customer Information Files and Personally Identifiable Information

A CIF often contains personally identifiable information (PII). This can include the customer’s name, address and phone number, for the purposes of fulfilling purchases. It can also include additional information such as a person's birth date and Social Security number, which is more often required in banking or in circumstances in which credit is relevant. Further information, such as race and gender, may also be included if the information is available.

Any business or entity that records certain customer information is required to disclose how it is collected and how it will be used. Additionally, it is required to take certain minimum steps to protect the data from accidental or forced exposure by unauthorized parties.

Customer Information Files and Marketing

In marketing, a CIF provides relevant information on a current or potential customer. With online retailers, the file may include information on previous product searches, previously viewed products, or any purchases. This helps the business determine other items that might interest the customer, to solicit new or additional sales.

Service providers also maintain CIFs for the purpose of future marketing. This can include notices to a consumer about services the consumer uses at specific intervals, such as vehicle maintenance or landscaping services. By gathering information on when a service was last used, the company can anticipate when the customer may need it next, and can send a reminder.

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