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How Umpqua Bank ups its digital customer service game


With 350 locations across Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada and Idaho, Umpqua Bank is consistently hailed as one of the nation’s most customer-centric banks. But with the words “customer experience” practically tattooed on bankers’ biceps these days, it’s fair to ask: What will Umpqua do to up the ante?

Well, how about becoming a go-to bank—literally?

Umpqua is two-plus weeks into its rollout of a new Tinder-like app called Go-To that lets customers choose a banker based on professional background, expertise, personal interests and location. The customer can then use secure text and chat to connect with that banker to resolve issues, explore opportunities and receive expertise.

Rilla Delorier, Umpqua’s executive vice president, chief strategy officer, will share some of the bank’s strategies at BAI Beacon, Oct. 9-11 in Orlando, Florida. There she’ll co-present “Humanizing the Digital Experience in Banking” with BAI chief marketing officer Holly Hughes and Jim Marous, owner and publisher of the Digital Banking Report. BAI and the Digital Banking Report will also release a highly anticipated report on the topic at BAI Beacon.

In advance of BAI Beacon, Delorier discussed the formula that drives Umpqua’s digital banking success.

BAI: With “Humanizing the Digital Experience in Banking,” what’s the main point you want to convey and why?

Rilla Delorier: People are overbooked and underserved because banks have historically focused on transactional efficiency rather than truly helping people navigate the intersection of life and money. Digital shouldn’t be used to separate you from your customers but instead to build deeply personal and relevant relationships.

BAI: Umpqua is praised throughout the industry for its customer service focus. What are the keys to your success?

Delorier:  Umpqua’s culture has always centered around people helping people, from its very origin. And we have resisted the temptation to turn that into the product sales goals of many other banks.

We believe fully that solving customers’ issues is the path to a trusted and growing brand.

BAI: What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in this area and how have you overcome them?

Rilla Delorier:  Customers don’t often think of their bank as a place to turn to when they have financial decisions to make. We’ve needed to show customers that you actually can turn to us when you need help.

Associates need to shift from sitting and serving when customers have an issue, to seeking and solving opportunities and being proactive about looking out for our customers’ best interests: finding ways to help them with their money.

Another challenge is taking our customer service model in our stores and translating that into digital channels. So we’ve used data and analytics to uncover customer needs and we’re training our associates not just on products, but also on helping customers navigate financial decisions. We’re building personalization into our digital channels, including our Go-To app that combines human and digital into a new convenient channel.

When you hire people from other banks trained to hit product sales goals, it’s hard to rewire them. So we screen them carefully. We’ve overcome these challenges through what we reward, measure and train. We’re also making sure our systems support our unique focus.

BAI: How is your new Go-To app part of this theme?

Rilla Delorier: Customers want to bank on their terms, in the nooks and crannies of their day… but they still need someone to talk to and trust who can guide them. Go-To gives customers their own personal banker that they can chat with on their terms, at their pace. It provides a person they’re familiar with in a channel they already use throughout their day.

It’s one-to-one banking, which is very unique in retail banking. And with our Go-To app, it’s scalable enough that we can afford to offer this to all of our customers.

BAI: If you had three bits of advice for banks that want to adopt and encourage this customer service focus, what would they be?

Rilla Delorier: Get re-grounded in the role that you play in customers’ lives. Make sure that’s front and center through your associates and that it’s built into and reinforced in how you operate, what you talk about and what you measure.

Invest in training in empathy and connection as much as products and solutions. And be incredibly focused on building trust in every interaction.

BAI: What should we expect to see from Umpqua in 2019? In 2025?

Rilla Delorier:  Expect personalization using data and analytics to make sure every interaction we have with our customers is hyper relevant for them. Strategic partnerships will expand how we serve our customers and what we’re able to provide them. Finally, expect products developed with customers for customers.

Hear Rilla Delorier of Umpqua Bank speak at BAI Beacon, taking place Oct. 9-11 in Orlando, Florida. To register, click here.

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Jeanne Pinder is the founder of ClearHealthCosts.com, an award-winning startup bringing transparency to the health care marketplace. She was an editor, reporter and human resources executive at The New York Times for close to 25 years, and has also worked at the Des Moines Register, Associated Press and Grinnell Herald-Register.