Customer Centric Lessons learned from Umpqua Bank

It must have taken a lot of courage to instruct all of his employees to answer the phone, “The world’s greatest bank”. But that is just what Ray Davis did back in 1994 when he launched the new Umpqua strategy and direction to build community banks that offer the products and expertise of a large bank and the innovative customer experience of a leading retailer.

And it looks like the strategy paid off. In 1994, Umpqua bank totaled $150 million. Today they total $22 billion.

Umpqua Bank_2


What makes Umpqua bank so different? Almost everything, from the look of the banks, to the corporate philosophy, to the passion for truly exceptional customer service.

Here are just a few lessons that can be learned from Umpqua Bank’s success and customer centric strategy.

Ask the right questions.

Umpqua Bank created a successful banking model by asking the right questions including: What business are we really in? Why are bank branches so formal and uninviting? Why can’t banking be more enjoyable? How can we better serve our customers?

Umpqua Bank_storytime

They looked to other industries for ideas on how to create a different model and took many of their cues from the retail industry. Based on what they learned, Umpqua created community ‘bank stores’ that feel more like neighborhood gathering spots than banks.

Umpqua’s welcoming ‘bank store’ environments–with free Wi-Fi, coffee, play areas for children, and spaces for classes, local meetings, and celebrations–provide a comfortable space where people enjoy banking and spending time and where Umpqua bankers can build deeper, more meaningful relationships with their customers.

Learn from the leaders
Umpqua looked to leaders from retail and hospitality to create a culture dedicated to delivering exceptional customer service. They learned lessons from Starbucks about building and opening neighborhood cafes where customers visit for a social experience, not just coffee. They looked to Apple for ways to use technology to enhance the customer experience by keeping bankers informed in real-time about changing banking regulations, products and service offerings. And, they focused on how to empower their employees to create amazing customer experiences by emulating the Ritz-Carlton culture of empowerment.

Walk the talk

Umpqua’s value proposition is to be a community bank, and that means supporting the communities where they do business.  And true to their word, Umpqua supports the community in many ways. Umpqua banks are physically designed as community spaces where they host community events, meetings, art exhibits and classes.  Their Local Spotlight program supports local businesses where, not only do they feature information about local merchants in their banks, they actually display and sell their products and services.

Umpqua Bank_ice cream truckUmpqua employees are encouraged to do community service and the bank gives businesses who commit their company to volunteering 40 hours to the community .40% APY on any money market account.

Oh, and I can’t forget to mention the Umpqua ice cream truck that gives out free ice cream throughout the neighborhoods they serve. The first Umpqua Bank ice cream truck hit the streets in 2004, and as they say on their website, Why not?


Empower Your Employees

Umpqua’s customer centric culture is what makes it possible for Umpqua to deliver such exceptional customer service. Employees are empowered to create extraordinary experiences in their bank stores without having to ask permission. The Umpqua employees have their hands on the pulse what their customers want and need and they have the power to take actions and schedule events and activities they know will resonate with their customers.

On the Umpqua website, they state they are disrupting the banking industry one customer at a time. By asking the right questions, looking outside the box and outside the industry for best practices, living their values, and empowering their employees, Umpqua seems to be doing just that.