Business Challenge

Consumers increasingly expect the ability to bank on any channel, anytime. How could BMO deliver relevant offers and incentives whenever and wherever customers chose to engage?


BMO deployed a real-time interaction management solution based on IBM Interact, enabling it to automatically present the optimal offer to every customer on their preferred channel.


300m interactions

each year help BMO identify and adapt to unique customer preferences

3x boost

in offer response rates thanks to enhanced targeting based on customer behavior

6 months

to deliver return on investment in IBM Interact

Business challenge story

Engaging with customers on their own terms

Picture the scene: you’ve just sat down to a delicious meal after work, and the phone rings. If that call was your bank asking if you’re interested in a new credit card, would you continue the conversation?

BMO, a leading provider of financial services in North America, knows that consumer expectations are changing. Increasingly, customers prefer to engage with banks at a time and on a channel of their choosing. For marketers, the goal is to turn each of these inbound opportunities into a compelling moment of engagement—an approach that also cuts the risk of alienating customers by reaching out at inconvenient times.

Will Duong, Director, Leads Management Engine and Data Strategy at ‎BMO Financial Group, explains: “At BMO, our vision is to be the bank that defines great customer experience. Achieving this goal requires us to understand individual customer needs and preferences, and deliver a consistent and personalized service on every channel: whether it’s through one of our ATMs, our websites or our branches.”

Ali Kazerani, Business Initiative Lead, Senior Analyst at ‎BMO Financial Group, comments: “When our customers reach out to us, they expect us not only to know which products they already have with us, but also to anticipate and respond to their needs quickly. In the past, we had no efficient way to harness our data in a timely manner.”

BMO’s reliance on manual, batch processes meant it could take as long as eight weeks to create and launch a campaign. Because campaigns took so long to create, the bank was often using information that was at least a month old by the time it launched, which created the risk that its messages would no longer be relevant.

Duong continues: “Compounding that challenge, we were focusing our efforts on the outbound channel, which meant we were missing out on opportunities to engage with customers in a personalized way when they reached out to us. To lift conversion and enhance the customer experience, we wanted to deliver tailored offers and incentives via inbound channels.”

Thanks to IBM Interact, we can identify the best offer for every customer in real time and inspire them to trust us with more of their business.

Will Duong, Director, Leads Management Engine and Data Strategy, ‎BMO Financial Group

Transformation story

Enabling inbound personalization in real time

BMO selected IBM Interact—a real-time interaction management solution that delivers relevant and personalized messages where and when customers choose to engage.

“Many of our customers lead busy lives, and there’s rarely a good time to answer a call to talk about their financial needs,” says Duong. “Similarly, we know that open rates for direct mail campaigns tend to be relatively low unless they’re precisely targeted. We feel one of the best ways to ensure that a customer has seen what we’re offering is to present it to them at a moment they’ve chosen to engage with us—and IBM Interact enables us to do exactly that.

“One of the factors that played a key role in our decision to select IBM Interact is the roadmap for the solution. Delivering personalization rapidly and at scale means automation is essential. With technologies like IBM Watson, we feel that IBM is leading the way in the fields of machine learning and artificial intelligence [AI]. IBM Interact enables us to determine the best offer for every customer in fractions of a second, which means we can deliver tailored content in a way that doesn’t impact load times on our website or the customer experience in a branch or contact center.” 

Today, BMO uses IBM Interact to analyze customer data from across all its channels and identify the optimal way to personalize their experience. For example, the bank adapts content on its homepage dynamically based on a customer’s recent banking transactions and website journeys. If a customer has been exploring mortgages on BMO’s site and later calls the contact center, IBM Interact prioritizes the list of available offers accordingly for the contact center agent—empowering them to have more relevant conversations.

“We can now present offers to customers on any touchpoint—even our ATMs,” explains Duong. “When a customer accepts an offer, it’s automatically suppressed and doesn’t appear again, which helps ensure they’re always seeing relevant content. Similarly, if a customer has ignored a message a certain number of times, the solution will seamlessly switch to the next-best offer to help keep interactions with us feeling fresh.”

He adds: “We value our partnership with IBM—particularly the conversations we have with the product development team. We really feel like our feedback is heard, and over the years, a number of the capabilities that we discussed with the IBM team have become an integral part of the solution.”

As well as helping us achieve a return on our investment in IBM Interact in six months, personalized campaigns have made our customers feel more valued, and we’ve seen significant increases to our net promoter scores.

Will Duong, Director, Leads Management Engine and Data Strategy, ‎BMO Financial Group

Results story

Boosting conversion and lifting satisfaction

By offering customers the flexibility to choose their preferred time and channel to engage with the bank, BMO is enabling more people than ever to accept its offers.

“In the past, when a customer transacted with us, we’d help them with their request and thank them for being a customer, and that was typically the end of the conversation,” says Kazerani. “Today, we’re equipping our people with instant information about individual customer preferences, which has really transformed our approach to customer engagement.”

Duong comments: “Because our in-branch and contact center employees have near real-time customer profiles to support their conversations, they can suggest more relevant products and services. Delivering offers in a consistent way across all our channels has also proven to be a key to driving up conversion rates. We see that customers who have been served with a personalized inbound offer online are three times more likely to accept that offer when they engage with us in the contact center or in-branch.”

BMO has accelerated its campaign development processes substantially, enabling its teams to turn around campaigns in as little as a week—up to 90 percent faster than before.

“Our new approach to customer engagement means that we spend less time on repetitive, manual work and more time on value-added activities like campaign analytics,” says Kazerani. “For example, if we want more information about the best way to reach a certain audience or demographic, we can run A/B tests to see the practical impact that deploying different content and offers has on our bottom line. We’re now managing 400 active, targeted campaigns simultaneously with a lean team, which is a testament to the power of automation.”

Because it can now engage with customers in real time, insight from more than 300 million annual unique interactions enables BMO to understand how customer attitudes to banking are changing.

“Traditional marketing wisdom says that showing content to your customers at three a.m. is a wasted impression, but in fact we’re seeing the opposite,” says Duong. “Some of our customers prefer to fit their banking into times that fall outside of our usual operating hours, and thanks to IBM Interact we can offer them the same personalized experience they’d receive from one of our team members at any time, day or night. We’re also noticing that customers are increasingly relying on our mobile app for transactions such as booking an appointment with an advisor for a mortgage renewal, which speaks to the importance of empowering customers to see and accept offers in the channel of their choosing.”

Based on its success on the inbound channel, BMO is now using behavioral data from IBM Interact to refine the audiences for its outbound campaigns.

“Before, our outbound conversion rates were sometimes low, which meant that our marketing team often needed to distribute offers to very large audiences to achieve return on marketing investment,” says Duong. “Today, we’re using data from IBM Interact to see which customers have been actively exploring key products and then creating fine-grained customer segments.

“By triggering outbound campaigns based on data from IBM Interact, we’ve boosted our average conversion rates—and our campaigns with one-click fulfillment are performing especially strongly. As well as helping us achieve a return on our investment in IBM Interact in six months, personalized campaigns have made our customers feel more valued, and we’ve seen significant increases to our net promoter scores.”

Looking ahead, BMO is interested in harnessing the AI capabilities of IBM Watson® Campaign Automation to boost the efficiency of its outbound communications.

“AI is the natural evolution of our customer engagement strategy, and we believe that IBM Watson Campaign Automation would help us to adapt faster to changing customer needs,” concludes Duong. “When a customer comes into one of our channels, they’re ready to bank—and we need to meet them where they are in that moment. Thanks to IBM Interact, we can identify the best offer for every customer in real time and inspire them to trust us with more of their business.”

Bank of Montreal logo

Bank of Montreal (BMO)

Serving customers for 200 years and counting, BMO is a highly diversified financial services provider and the eighth-largest bank, by assets, in North America. With total assets of $728 billion as of January 31st 2018, and a team of versatile and highly dedicated employees, BMO provides a broad range of personal and commercial banking, wealth management and investment banking products and services to more than 12 million customers and conducts business through three operating groups: Personal and Commercial Banking, Wealth Management and BMO Capital Markets.

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