AmSouth Merger Puts DM Focus on Retention

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AmSouth Bancorporation, Birmingham, AL, will leverage its database marketing skills to improve customer retention as it completes the conversion of First American Corp. this month.

Using a system that gives bank branch managers access to a centrally managed database, AmSouth allows customer retention direct marketing programs to work at the local level while it conducts systemwide direct mail efforts.

Each time the bank conducts a direct mail effort, such as its monthly cross-sell campaigns, the company generates what it calls a teleconsulting list for each branch that highlights, among other things, the customers at the branch who are at higher risk of leaving. It generates the list based on profiles of customers who have left in the past. It is one of the few modeling functions the company performs using its database, but one that has become increasingly important since the company completed its merger last year.

"With this merger, there is a very big emphasis on retention," said Craig Tankersley, vice president of database marketing at AmSouth. "We want to make sure we convert these customers to AmSouth because there is a big risk whenever you are going through a conversion."

The acquisition gives AmSouth more than 2 million customers in its database who have a total of more than 4 million accounts with the bank, making it one of the largest banking companies in the Southeast.

Managers at all of the bank's 600-plus branches can develop individualized retention efforts to keep those customers. The efforts can involve telemarketing, direct mail or other actions.

Managers at the former First American bank now are getting the monthly database reports as well, enabling them to participate in the retention efforts.

The monthly teleconsulting reports also contain details about how individual managers are performing in certain categories in which they are evaluated. Among those categories is customer retention. The reports also detail which customers were targeted with direct mail pieces so that branch managers can pair the mailings with outbound telemarketing if they choose.

In the newly converted branches, managers are offered incentives based on the percentage of customers who stay with the bank three months after the banks convert to AmSouth. The first branches -- in Louisiana, Mississippi, eastern Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia -- only recently completed their conversions. Those regions include about 225 of the 339 First American branches that are being converted. The rest are in central and western Tennessee and Kentucky.

Customers who are determined to be at risk for leaving the bank also are flagged in the bank's customer relationship database, which can be accessed by any branch employee who calls up a customer's account and by call center agents who use the information to provide inbound customer service.

In addition to flagging the high-risk customers, the files also contain details about which direct mail offers customers received and when those offers expire.

The company uses the Analytix database software package from Milwaukee-based NuEdge Systems, the database technology company formed by the merger of RTMS and CIC.

Tankersley said he hopes to extend the use of the database even further once the conversion to the AmSouth name and systems is completed.

"Right now, we don't have call center information, but that's something we definitely want to feed into Analytix," Tankersley said. "After this merger takes place, one of our goals will be to revisit how we want to get this call center information in there."

Tankersley said he would like to be able to take the data that is gathered in the call center, such as how often customers call and for what reasons, and group the customers according to whether they are light, medium or heavy users of the call center's services. Customers' names then could be flagged with an "L," "M" or "H" to give bank managers and the direct mail division additional data to use when making direct marketing decisions.

"From a marketing perspective, the idea is not to get so much detail that you get bogged down," he said. "It's better to get summary information."

Analytix has an import function that will allow the company to append data from another source, such as the call center, relatively easily, Tankersley said.

Other changes pending at AmSouth include making the teleconsulting lists available through the bank's intranet, called AmSite. The bank currently distributes the lists in printed hard copies.

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