A novel evolutionary data mining algorithm with applications to churn prediction

WH Au, KCC Chan, Xin Yao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

235 Citations (Scopus)


Classification is an important topic in data mining research. Given a set of data records; each of which belongs to one of a number of predefined classes, the classification problem is concerned with the discovery of classification rules that can allow records with unknown class membership to be correctly classified. Many algorithms have been developed to mine large data sets for classification models and they have been shown to be very effective. However, when it comes to determining the likelihood of each classification made, many of them are not designed with, such purpose in mind. For this, they are not readily applicable to such problem as churn prediction. For such an application, the goal is not only to predict whether or not a subscriber would switch from one carrier to another, it is. also important that the likelihood of the subscriber's doing so be predicted. The reason for this is that a carrier can then choose to provide special personalized offer and services to those subscribers who are predicted with higher likelihood to churn. Given its importance, we propose a new data mining algorithm, called data mining by evolutionary learning (DMEL), to handle classification problems of which the accuracy of each predictions made has to be estimated. In performing its tasks, DMEL searches through the possible rule space using an evolutionary approach that has the following characteristics: 1) the evolutionary process begins with the generation of an initial set of first-order rules (i.e., rules with one conjunct/condition) using a probabilistic induction technique and based on these rules, rules of higher order (two or more conjuncts) are obtained iteratively; 2) when identifying interesting rules, an objective interestingness measure is used; 3) the fitness of a chromosome is defined in terms of the probability that the attribute values of a record can be correctly determined using the rules it encodes; and 4) the likelihood of predictions (or classifications) made are estimated so that subscribers can be ranked according to their likelihood to churn. Experiments with different data sets showed that DMEL is able to effectively discover interesting classification rules. In particular; it is able to predict churn accurately under different churn rates when applied to real telecom subscriber data.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)532-545
Number of pages14
JournalIEEE Transactions on Evolutionary Computation
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2003


  • data mining
  • genetic algorithms
  • evolutionary computation
  • customer retention
  • churn prediction


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