Fleet Financial Group has retooled its call center systems to improve sales and service.

Using software from Scopus Technology Inc. of Emeryville, Calif., Fleet is trying to transform its call center into a revenue producer. The effort could address investors' concerns about the bank's ability to grow.

"When a customer calls our 1-800 telephone number, we are scanning the Scopus data base not just for account information but for members of direct mail lists and for contact events," said Ann N. Christensen, senior vice president and director of telephone banking at Boston-based Fleet.

"Contact events" are occasions when a consumer calls in response to an advertising campaign or in relation to a specific financial need.

"A lot of bank systems keep track of customers only if they open an account," said Ms. Christensen. Fleet's system also tracks noncustomers who have, in some way, responded to Fleet marketing material, she said.

Because few consumers buy financial products impulsively, Fleet retains information about past contacts that can be useful during future calls. "The idea is to manage a customer relationship through its life cycle and to provide a '360-degree view' of the customer," said Scopus senior vice president Jeff Bork.

When a customer or prospect calls in, Scopus' software records the name and address. That information touches off a search that yields information about accounts, if the caller has any, as well as summaries of previous phone conversations and records of the bank's direct mail solicitations.

The customer service representative's computer screen displays this information along with sales scripts.

Operational since July, the system eventually will be linked to the data warehouse that Fleet expects to complete by yearend.

Before Fleet turned to Scopus, a fast-growing six-year-old company with $63 million of revenue, "there was nothing like what we wanted," Ms. Christensen said. "Many banks buy 'smile-and-dial' systems that don't even support inbound calls."

Fleet executives declined to estimate the sales that might be generated through the call center.

In an average month, the bank makes about 100,000 outbound marketing calls and receives about 100,000 incoming service calls. Finding a system that allows the same staff to handle both types of calls was one of Fleet's objectives, Ms. Christensen said.

"Scopus and vendors in other industry segments are looking to get in" to the bank call center market, said Robert Landry, director of retail banking research at Tower Group, Newton, Mass.

While other vendors "have roots in branch automation systems," he said, "Scopus is very much of a call center customer service product."

According to Mentis Corp., a Durham, N.C., research firm, the 20 largest U.S. banks will spend $454 million on call centers this year. u

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