October 31, 2014

If You Shed Legacy Industry Practices What Could You Become?

Customer experiences are delivered year after year in many industries without challenging or changing process, policy or approach in what they do.  And when questioned the answer is “this how we always do this.”  And then they wonder why they don’t stand out in the marketplace.

velvet rope

Perhaps the answer is that they never took the time to determine how they would stand out.

The banking industry is one of those perennially steadfast industries.  Standing firm on legacy practices and policies, there is real opportunity for those who grasp that customers will respond to an experience delivered from their point of view.

Umpqua Bank Decided to Get Rid of the Ropes.

We’ve all stood in that bank line. Walking between two ropes that force us into a single-file lane, we shuffle slowly, waiting our turn, with nothing to do but watch the person at the counter, look at our watches, and wait for it all to be over. And if there’s a request that the teller can’t handle, there’s another line, and more shuffling. Well, they got rid of those ropes and the lines at Umpqua Bank. As part of Umpqua’s metamorphosis from “bank” to “store,” led by CEO Ray Davis, they shed the ropes and most standard banking practices to get rid of the feeling that banking was a chore.

CEO Ray Davis Explains His Decision to Change Umpqua’s Purpose:

Umpqua Bank has a quirky, lighthearted nature for a financial services company, perhaps because they started with the simple goal to help loggers and farmers with their banking. But despite their heartfelt purpose of being “the loggers’ bank,” customer experiences prior to 1994 were not consistently strong. Service levels varied from one day to the next, from one teller to the next.

I call this “biorhythmic” service, in which customer experiences vary by service provider and by what kind of day he or she is having. Observing Umpqua’s lack of a clear customer-service approach, CEO Ray Davis decided to make a change. In a move away from traditional banking, he renamed Umpqua locations “stores.” In redesigned “stores,” “shoppers” could browse products and services, stay as long as they wanted, sit a spell with their legs up on a comfy chair, and sip a cup of coffee. And when they were ready, they could tap an Umpqua associate to help them with their banking needs—all without the red ropes.

At Umpqua, customers are not herded into a line for service, and they don’t have to stand in separate lines to get different services. Dedicated associates assist each customer from start to finish.

Decide with Clarity to Shed Old Industry Practices

“Umpqua Bank is part Internet café, part community center, and part bank. The coffee’s good and it’s not a bad place to sit and read a book.”

By shedding old industry practices and warming up and humanizing the experience of banking, Umpqua draws customers to them. Through transforming banking into an enjoyable shopping experience, its original five branches from 1994 are now part of a bank network of over 184“stores,” across four states with more than $11.6 billion in assets

Do you have your own version of banking lines that you make customers shuffle through to get help from you? Can you find a way to get rid of your version of the “red ropes”?


Velvet Rope Photo via Shutterstock

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Jeanne Bliss


Jeanne Bliss Jeanne Bliss is the founder of CustomerBLISS; a consulting and coaching company helping corporations connect their efforts to yield improved customer growth. Her best-selling books are; Chief Customer Officer: Getting Past Lip Service to Passionate Action and I Love You More than My Dog: Five Decisions for Extreme Customer Loyalty in Good Times and Bad.

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