Fleet of Foot

Fleet of Foot

FleetBoston Financial Corp. is an apt example. Since 1988, Fleet has acquired nearly 30 financial-services firms, including the $1.6 billion acquisition of discount broker Quick&Reilly in 1998 and the $16 billion purchase of BankBoston a year later. By 2002, this hodgepodge had left Fleet with a set of four distinct product lines—securities brokerage, mortgages, small-business banking and personal banking—each with its own sales force, call center and consumer contact points in branches and on the Web. With tens of thousands of employees spread among these units, account representatives infrequently broadcast leads by e-mail or fax to people in other departments; usually they didn't know the correct contacts. And with Fleet operating an increasingly streamlined operation, they often didn't have the time.

"The most basic illustration of this is when a teller, during a routine transaction in which he learns that you may be needing a mortgage, advises you to go see the lending officer behind the desk," says MarketSoft's Kozub. "Nine times out of ten, or more, you don't have the time and you leave the bank without following up. That's a lead between two separate departments that's lost within a branch, within ten feet maybe. Imagine how many leads evaporate when they have to travel long distances to reach an anonymous person someplace else."

In January 2002, Fleet announced plans to pilot software from MarketSoft that, simply put, links up the CRM systems in each of the firm's four units. Using a Web interface, employees can enter potential customer leads, which are then enhanced with information from corporate databases and delivered to the sales-force automation system in the division with the most appropriate sales rep. A call center employee in personal finance can type into the computer the name of a checking account customer who happened to mention that he plans to open a Segway HT and scooter store. The system seeks any other information in Fleet's computers about this customer and ranks him by such things as activity with Fleet; history of responding to telemarketing calls, e-mails or paper mail; and any known financial data, such as assets or outstanding loans. Having set a priority rating on this lead, the system then sends the customer's information to an agent in the small-business unit, who contacts the customer. Each lead includes a tag that tracks its location as it moves through the system, helping monitor the outcome of sales efforts.

MarketSoft's system employs a series of programmed rules to regulate the ranking of leads as well as how they should be generated and distributed. These rules can be changed frequently and quickly with natural language input to suit, for instance, specific sales campaigns or new-product testing. Most cross-selling systems—whether proprietary or from PeopleSoft, KnowledgeBase Marketing, Siebel or any of the other numerous suppliers—offer similar dynamic, macro-based programming approaches that respond rapidly to changing business conditions and avoid the months-long programming efforts that traditional IT departments require.

Fleet remains enthusiastic about the results of its cross-selling campaign. Brad Warner, Fleet Financial's vice chairman, describes the use of technology as an attempt to "seize the revenue potential of our existing customer base." Fleet's enhanced focus on cross-selling over the past 21/2 years has increased the company's cross-sell ratio to 3.7 products per house-hold from 2.7 in 2001. And Fleet trumpets this statistic in its annual report and in its presentations to Wall Street analysts to defend its claims that its financial performance is on the upswing.

This article was originally published on 07-01-2003
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