KeyCorp is taking its marketing to the Max.

Max is the name of the Cleveland-based banking company's data base for managing its customer relationships. It records all customer interactions and makes targeted marketing suggestions. The system has contributed to KeyCorp's reputation as a leader in data warehousing and mining, industry analysts said.

Many banks are struggling to make the most of their data bases, but $70 billion-asset KeyCorp is seen as being on the right track.

"They are off to a good start," said Scott Nelson, research director for Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Group. "Time will tell if they've got in place a strategy to really work through that information and use it effectively." Max, implemented two years ago, is meant to enhance KeyCorp's brand name, said Steve Cone, chief marketing officer. The data base assists the bank in handling each of its eight million accounts on a personal basis, he said.

"Customers expect more and better service at the right time for them, not at the right time for you," Mr. Cone said.

Max stores all customer activity from all lines of business in one system, an advantage many other banks do not have. The information is updated daily.

Max has three "triggered immediacy marketing," or TIM, components for individual customers and two applications for business clients.

DirectTIM sends letters to customers who do any of 20 things, such as open an account, apply for a loan, use an automated teller machine for the first time, or inquire about an investment product for the first time. These missives reassure the customer that they did the right thing, Mr. Cone said, "relieving post-purchase anxiety."

Each customer service representative uses PC TIM, or Key Lead, to manage about 200 customer relationships. PC TIM tells agents whom they should contact and which products to pitch on a weekly and daily basis. TeleTIM, which will debut next week in Ohio, will greet customers by name and offer them personalized products when they call. The program will be expanded nationwide next year.

Future Max applications include targeted selling to PC and Internet banking customers as well as to noncustomers who use KeyCorp ATMs.

KeyCorp is further along than most banks in delving into their available data, Mr. Nelson said. Fleet Financial Group of Boston is upgrading its data bases to record customer activity on a daily, rather than monthly, basis. Crestar Financial Corp. of Richmond, Va., plans to expand the use of its data bases.

Mr. Cone credits Max with increasing the average number of services per customer from two to three over the past year.

In 1996 KeyCorp said its goal was to reach an average of four services per customer, and Max may help it get there, said Bill Bradway, research director of Meridien Research Inc., Needham, Mass.

"It's important to keep long-term perspective in mind," Mr. Bradway said. "Payoff is sustained over a long period of time."

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