Culture Wins

by Jeannie Walters

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“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

This quote is widely attributed to Peter Drucker. And I can’t think of a better way to say it.

Except for this: “You can have a great culture without a great strategy, but you cannot have a great strategy without a great culture.” – Ray Davis, CEO of Umpqua Bank.

On Day 2 of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) Members Insight Exchange here in San Diego, I know I’m not the only one who was beyond impressed with Ray Davis, who told the compelling story of creating a bank like no other. Early on, they decided that banking products were largely the same, so the only way to compete was differentiate. And differentiate they did.

Here’s a short list of the ways Umpqua Bank is different in how it delivers an experience like no other:

1. There are no branches of the bank, there are Bank Stores. In these stores, they create a community where people can share the space. Some customers walk in, walk out, check the sign and come back in because they can’t believe it’s a bank. The location is more like a hip hotel, not a typical bank.

2. There are no tellers. They have a different title – one Davis admitted they’re still working on – Universal Associates. The role is defined as helping the customer in any way they can. In fact, everyone in the Bank Store can help you with anything.

3. Everyone is encouraged to know the customer. In each location, there is a Customer Appreciation Fund. It’s up to the individuals at that location spend the money as they see fit. The example shared today was how an associate sent flowers and a personal note to a customer whose dog had died. The connection is what matters – not the specifics of how the money is spent.

4. Instead of examining the successful players in their own industry, Davis looked to other industry leaders to emulate. Service is powerful. He looked outside of banking because, in his words, “banking is boring.”

Ray Davis, in a room full of customer experience professionals, spoke of one topic over and over. CULTURE.

Culture is about doing what’s right, even if it means ignoring some business rules. Culture is about hiring right and firing the wrong ones fast. Culture is about one word – empowerment.

When you are considering your customer experience, consider your culture first, last and always. Ray Davis got it right – you can have a great culture without a great strategy, but your strategy won’t work, no matter how great it is, if your culture sucks.

Is your culture worth defending? Is your culture strong enough to stand up to bad strategy and make great strategy greater?

Photo credit: {Guerrilla Futures|Jason Tester} via Creative Commons

 

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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, a Forbes Coaches Council Member, a C-Suite Network Advisor, a LinkedIn Learning and Lynda.com instructor, and a TEDx speaker. Learn more here.

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