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Improving the Bank Customer Experience Through Cross-Channel Integration: Q&A With Umpqua's Colin Eccles

Achieving a seamless cross-channel experience is every bank's goal. But customers interact with their financial institutions in so many different ways that truly converging channels can be difficult.

Roseburg, Ore.-based Umpqua Bank ($12 billion in total assets) is at the forefront of seamless channel integration. BS&T associate editor Bryan Yurcan recently spoke with Umpqua CIO Colin Eccles about the bank's efforts to provide the same Umpqua brand experience across all channels and the future "post-channel" world in which the customer is at the center of everything.


With customers interacting with their banks through so many different channels today, how important is it to achieve seamless channel integration?

Eccles: It is very important to provide a consistent customer experience that clearly expresses our brand and culture across all channels. That's something we believe is critically important — something consumers simply expect. It's also an opportunity to differentiate. Umpqua created a clearly differentiated experience through our store channel and store experience.

The question now is: How do we bring that experience to every channel so that the customer gets a consistent experience? It has to be a seamless experience as they do business with us; whatever the nature of that business. We are aggressively pursuing that goal and have made a lot of progress. We want our customers to be able to open accounts in one channel, continue in another and finish in a third channel — and know at every point that they're interacting with Umpqua Bank because of the nature of the experience.

How is pursuing channel integration different in a more mobile and connected world than in the past?

Eccles: We always have to think into the future of our next generation of customers. Although mobile doesn't yet have widespread adoption, it's clear that it's going to be of great importance, and soon. So we are being proactive rather than reactionary. We are always thinking, "How are we going to build a certain feature into our digital channel strategy and expect it to get the same reaction from our customers who love our store channel?" It's going to be different and there is a lot of work to be done, but I think we are ahead of the game.

The technology is changing so quickly that it's important to have an approach that allows you to be nimble. We work with a third party to help us come in and build it. That means we leverage our in-house brand and technology experts with outside experts who specialize in various digital experiences to build it. The overall direction in terms of user experience is that customer interaction is the same across all channels and totally integrated.

What is the most popular channel among Umpqua's customers?

Eccles: Today without a doubt it is our store channel — and that's been a deliberate strategy to engage and connect with our core customer base. But we continue to develop emerging channels to meet the needs of all customers. Our store experience has been designed to give consumers and business customers alike a reason to enjoy our stores, and that remains the case. It's a place where you do more than just bank. You can enjoy a cup of coffee, connect with community and do your banking. Our 'Discover Walls' are multiscreen video displays that offer an interactive presentation of Umpqua's products and services as well as information about the community, volunteer opportunities, and so on.

We're also very quick to roll out and test new technology, even if it doesn't work out as we hoped. For example, we implemented videoconferencing in 10 stores, and we found that it wasn't as successful as we hoped, because our customers like to be more in direct contact; so we stopped it.

As the mobile channel becomes a bigger part of banking, do you see it supplanting the store channel?

Eccles: We absolutely believe in continuing to build out our store channel and bringing new technology to the store where it makes sense to do so. Last year we had the most store openings in the history of the bank, and we remain focused on making our stores a relevant and engaging aspect of the overall experience through new technology.

We have also seen significant growth in year-over-year mobile adoption. Obviously mobile and other channels will continue to be a bigger part of the customer experience; however, we don't see them as a replacement for our stores — rather as an opportunity to enhance our customer experience by tapping new channels to create that seamless experience. It's a topic we're all passionate about at Umpqua.

[For more on the early days of Umpqua Bank's branch innovation efforts, such as this Innovation Lab in Portland, Ore., visit: banktech.com/umpqua-innovation.]

Bryan Yurcan is associate editor for Bank Systems and Technology. He has worked in various editorial capacities for newspapers and magazines for the past 8 years. After beginning his career as a municipal and courts reporter for daily newspapers in upstate New York, Bryan has ... View Full Bio

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