A Bank With A Lot of Interest…In It’s Customers!

In a quest to be profitable these days it seems like companies are cutting back on everything from product quality to customer service. Interestingly, a regional bank in the Pacific Northwest, has done just the opposite, an exceptional and unique customer experience is what Umpqua Bank is all about.

In the crowded and undifferentiated world of banking, Umpqua recognized early on the need to distinguish itself in the marketplace. Clearly, providing exceptional customer service was rich territory given how the big banks seem to under deliver on this. Impressed by the level of customer service experienced at various Ritz-Carlton properties, Umpqua CEO Ray Davis sent several associates to a training session lead by Ritz-Carlton. Impressed by the learning’s from the session, Ritz-Carlton training was expanded to include all Umpqua bank associates so they are all equipped to deliver Umpqua’s signature service, including special touches such as gourmet chocolate coins with each transaction.

Umpqua’s commitment to customer service set the stage nicely for their other big differentiators in the marketplace, a branch format that is geared to “invite the public in” and, to be seen as a “gathering place that encourages community involvement.” Umpqua’s branch format is more like a neighborhood store than a traditional bank branch; Umpqua serves freshly brewed coffee, hosts local musicians and features products from local retailers. In many stores, they even have a hotline to the president of the bank; I highly doubt Bank of America would provide this kind of access.

While such extreme focus on creating a unique and memorable customer experience might appear to require a significant financial investment, it has paid off in spades. Umpqua nicely weathered the bank meltdown, they are reporting very strong profits, they have appeared numerous times on Fortune Magazine’s Top 100 Places to Work (currently #25) and, their approach to banking is frequently copied by other financial institutions.

It just goes to show that wisely investing in “product” quality and customer service are good moves…scrimping in these areas rarely pays-off in the long run.

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