Fleet Financial Group this week formally opened a call center that it said will improve service.
The 157,000-square-foot facility in the Providence, R.I., suburb of Lincoln will serve as a command center for facilities in Scranton, Pa., Utica, N.Y., and Framingham, Mass.
The technology is designed to give service representatives a full view of each customer relationship. The facilities are linking to Fleet's data warehouse and should benefit from the connection by the third quarter.
"We have been building this infrastructure for the past 24 months," said Mary A. Pilecki, vice president and director of process innovation. She said the new center will support a variety of product lines, including mortgage lending, small-business services, and retail banking.
Among the systems designed to improve the flow of incoming calls is an "aspect switch," which directs a caller to the first available agent at any of the four locations.
The Rhode Island facility also has a high-tech operations console-Ms. Pilecki compares it to the bridge of the starship Enterprise from "Star Trek" - that updates managers on the availability of agents and on the computer programs that feed them information.
In addition to supporting voice-response units, sales applications, staffing modules, and cross-sell management programs, the console keeps tabs on the weather. Notice that a snowstorm is coming in Utica, for example, can alert the bank to staff up at other sites.
"We wanted this center to combine the best in technology, facilities, and people," Ms. Pilecki said.
Some 350 people now work at the Rhode Island site, a converted warehouse. By yearend an additional 450 are to be working there.
Fleet is using Finance Central software, which it co-developed with Scopus Technology Inc. of Emeryville, Calif. The program delivers full account information to customer service agents.
Whether taking in-bound calls or doing outbound telemarketing, a call center employee can refer to a matrix of financial products used by each person within a given household.
Having information on the whole household, not just individual customers, is important, said Nat Natraj, general manager of the financial services division at Scopus.
"You might have a father who is a million-dollar private banking customer and a college-age son who is bouncing checks," he said. "You don't want to charge a $25 fee and risk alienating the entire family."
By September, when the system is linked more tightly to Fleet's data warehouse, Fleet expects to increase its marketing and sales efforts.
Brad C. Adrian, senior program manager at Mentis Corp. of Durham, N.C., calls this "a step in the direction of helping banks to do relationship management instead of just tracking accounts."
"Until very recently call centers were considered their own channel," said Mr. Adrian. "Now call centers are the portals through which all other customer services are going to be routed."