The quality of their client relationships is what differentiates Crédit Mutuel.

Crédit Mutuel, one of France’s leading banks, has over 5,000 branches that receive more than 350,000 online inquiries a day — and volume is growing 23% a year. Maintaining the quality of client relationships, while dealing with an ever-rising stream of customers and client requests, meant reinventing the role of client advisor or losing their competitive edge.

After running a diagnosis of how client advisors were spending their time, Crédit Mutuel found that a significant part of their work involved answering simple and repetitive questions. With this in mind, the bank turned to IBM to find a solution that could speed up everyday processes and allow client advisors time to address more complicated and nuanced problems.

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A partnership built on mutual trust

“We’ve been in a partnership with IBM for many years,” said Pierre Reichert, Crédit Mutuel’s insurance CEO. “Technological innovation is part of our DNA.” So faced with this challenge, he knew where to turn. “We started with an observation, a diagnosis, and then looked for solutions. It turned out Watson was being developed, so we jumped on it very quickly,” he said.

How Watson learned in 5 steps

1. Watson was trained
Watson learned from four virtual assistants and an email analyzer, analyzing banking and insurance vocabulary and building 50,000 lines of dialogue.

2. Watson was tested
Crédit Mutuel rolled out solutions progressively, across different lines of business.

3. Watson was launched
Watson has been assisting 20,000 customer advisors to strengthen customer relationships in 5,000 branches.

4. Watson got results
Once Watson was adopted, client advisors could answer customer questions 60% faster.

5. Watson keeps learning
Watson continues to be trained by business experts on thousands of customer inquiries.

Making Watson part of the team

When Watson was introduced at Crédit Mutuel, employees began asking about the possibility of their jobs being replaced by AI. The bank needed to convince employees of Watson’s ability to empower them do their jobs better — not replace them. “The challenge was offering something that would be good enough for customer advisors to change their habits,” said one of Crédit Mutuel’s project managers.

Getting adoption at scale meant regularly reminding customer advisors to go through Watson, rather than rely on older systems they might be more comfortable with. As the system improved and became more user-friendly, its use increased. Watson began transforming how client advisors could get work done.

“Watson is my assistant. He’s a time-saver and lets me know my client better,” said one of Crédit Mutuel’s 20,000 customer advisors. “Watson is a job facilitator. It allows resources to be refocused on matters of added value,” said Reichert.

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The Watson advantage

Crédit Mutuel has trained Watson to help its client advisors provide customers with quick and comprehensive information on an array of offerings, from car and housing insurance to a range of savings and investment products. “It’s impossible for our customer advisors to know all of our 200 products. So we provide them with tools to have the right information for the right client,” said Mathieu Dehestru, Head of Transformation, Marketing and Big Data at Crédit Mutuel insurance. “Watson gives more time to our client advisors, so they have more time for client relationships,” he said.

Thanks to its Watson-infused email analyzer and four virtual assistants, Crédit Mutuel is able to enrich interactions between client advisors and customers. Watson has made it possible to find the right answers 60% faster, and it can help deflect and address 50% of the 350,000 daily emails received by the bank’s client advisors.

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Crédit Mutuel and Watson’s future

With Watson, Crédit Mutuel is continuing to build on their industry-leading customer service capabilities. “Watson is full of promise,” said Shabnam Robert, a project manager at Crédit Mutuel. “I’m sure we can find even more interesting and varied uses for it.”