The right relationship is everything. The slogan may belong to Chase, but Fleet Boston Financial Corp. also is capitalizing on the idea in its dealings with its more than 30,000 corporate clients.
Since the introduction in late 2001 of its Business Advisor portal - "a platform based on Siebel Systems Inc.'s employee portal and MicroStrategy Inc.'s business--intelligence technology," relationship managers have had easy, quick access to a wealth of data about clients' accounts, Fleet product usage, profitability, and risk factors drawn from back--end, front--end, and external sources such as LexisNexis. The system was put in place to help relationship managers better drive corporate customer value, segmenting clients into categories ranging from high--value customers to be retained to lower--tier customers where one goal is to reduce service costs. Its results so far argue its success.
Fleet has seen a 21% increase in products sold per corporate customer and a 14% upswing in cross--selling fees over time. "Business Advisor allows relationship managers to view the entire portfolio of services (cash management, trade financing, foreign exchange, etc.) being provided to a customer," says Tom Richards, a Financial Insights analyst. It's a huge undertaking to keep track of all that data, then price deals that, for example, can make up for thin margins from lending with larger margins from services like payments. "The key benefit of Business Advisor is letting the relationship manager come up with an optimal mix of pricing to maximize revenues."
And it gives Fleet insight into how to change its strategies for product offerings. Business Advisor "drives more analysis internally of the industry and the customer," says Mike Caron, director of customer information.
Fleet has plans to build on the platform's success. An upgrade planned for the fall is aimed at developing a rules--based analytics system to provide early warning of potential business customer risks. In October, it expects to debut a feature that will let the supervisors of relationship managers view their teams' portfolios in real time, so they can be proactive about potential shortfalls rather than reactive to missed results discovered at the end of a quarter.
Over the next year, Fleet plans to take advantage of an upgrade to Siebel 7.5 to offer customers self--service functions on its Web site that loop back into the Business Advisor portal. For instance, executives at corporate sites would be able to use a dashboard as their single point of access to log service calls and get relevant info about balances, transactions, and alerts.
One way Business Advisor and the self--service Web site could work together: A relationship manager could use analytical components within Business Advisor to determine which potential customers might want to buy a certain product; a sales campaign that links those prospects to an online app demo on the site could be generated; and relationship managers could be alerted to prospects who click through.
Fleet may have learned some lessons from a poorly received retail CRM effort in the past. It's moving slowly in developing and implementing this latest project, just as it did with Business Advisor. "CRM isn't about the technology," it's about having a strategy and technology that supports that," says Kathie Andrade, Fleet's business development and strategy director.
Instead of going for a big--bang CRM approach, Andrade says, Fleet is looking for incremental victories. They improve executive management's confidence, she says, and the smaller victories over time can continue to pay for the remaining project. Now that Fleet has proven the value of Business Advisor for corporate customers, it may next take the concept to branch managers to use in conjunction with their small--business and retail customers.