FleetBoston Financial says it will give higher priority to customer retention in its branches and less to efforts to shift clients to its Internet site. As a result, it is installing CRM software in all its 1,200 branches. Fleet claims it will be the first very large banking company to have CRM software in every branch.The decision is a boon for Boston-based Xchange Inc., which provides the front-line CRM software, EnAct, to Fleet. While other banks are busy trying to lure customers online, Fleet said this software will help it focus on customer retention and improving customer relations.Xchange has been customizing its EnAct software for Fleet for three years, gradually increasing the number of branches operating on EnAct. The available customer history provided by EnAct is limited to activities that take place in the branch. Although EnAct can track all of a customer's accounts, "it's currently only being utilized in the branch network," says Maura Fairbanks, manager of Fleet's retail distribution group. For the time being, the program will not include inquiries, complaints or transactions made online or through a bank's call center.Tom Richards, research director with Meridien Research in Newton, MA, says the deal between Fleet and Xchange, is "more interesting than it is unique." Richards says the program allows Fleet to target the best candidates for bank promotions. "I call it 'contextual marketing'," Richards says.Richards and others have said that the full-scale branch deployment should be watched closely. He says that Fleet is a "pace-setter" in customer relationship management, and will attract a lot of attention with this deal. Richards says the full-scale branch deployment will be "a learning process for banks searching for the best methods of customer relationship management."

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