John DiJulius | Customer Experience Blog

Commerce Bank; Attitude vs Aptitude; Roy Bivens
August 29, 2012, 8:19 am
Filed under: Client Services, Customer Experience, Customer Service


Making Fees Irrelevant – I think of Vernon Hill as the Steve Jobs of the banking industry. Hill was the founder of Commerce Bank, and when he started that bank decades ago, he had a vision to build a bank not like any other financial institution, but rather like the most successful retailer. In the book, Uncommon Service, written by Frances Frei and Anne Morriss, (which I am really enjoy reading), it depicts how Commerce Bank went about creating an unconventional bank, revolutionizing the banking industry and making price irrelevant. The bank’s niche? Convenience! Commerce targeted customers who were fed up with the traditional bank’s lack of convenience. The bank chose to be open seven days a week, Monday through Friday 7:30-8:00 pm. On Friday evenings (pay day), drive-through windows stayed open till midnight. They were also open all day Saturday and Sunday. This earned Commerce the tagline of America’s most convenient bank. How did Commerce afford the cost of being the most convenient? The bank paid the lowest rates on deposits, and their customers didn’t seem to mind.


Attitude versus Aptitude – Commerce Bank also wanted to be world-class in customer engagement. However, the bank found out that hiring employees who have high technical aptitude and an outstanding attitude was not cost effective. So the bank chose attitude. Commerce set out to have the most cheerful, engaging front-line employees. They focused almost exclusively on hiring enthusiasm and interpersonal skills. These friendly recruits quickly blew the doors off the industry’s poor reputation for service. Not only were employees nice, they were happy and empathetic! They greeted customers at the door with newspapers and walked them to their cars in bad weather.


Simplicity – Since it hired attitude over aptitude, Commerce decided to keep things really simple. The bank’s service offerings were the least in the entire banking industry. But the customer’s got what they wanted: the friendliest interactions and they didn’t mind paying a premium for it (or receiving a lower rate).


But how where the results? – Commerce did things radically different from other banks: they offered the worst rates in the industry, little diversification in services, and made very few acquisitions, which was the conventional model for growth in the banking industry. Yet Commerce Bank operated its banks like a hospitality company, with friendly engaging employees. The results? The bank enjoyed a 2,000 percent stock price increase during the 1990’s!


Experiencing Improvement – An exceptional book on the patient experience is Experiencing Improvement, written by Roy Bivens, Darryl Greene and Karen Branick. This book demonstrates how there are metrics and results that demonstrate the value of taking great care of customers/patients that will produce significant results for business. In healthcare, the patient experience now matters more than ever, thanks to national laws that reimburse healthcare providers, in part, on how well patients score the care they receive. As a result, medical groups and hospitals are scrambling for new ways to address the many challenges of the industry. They are in an environment undergoing dynamic change, including the need to better control costs, increase quality of care, while improving the care for patients.


Roy Bivens, Cultural Change Guru. Roy is the Managing Partner for Orion Advisory, one of the foremost leading strategy consulting firms, and works with some of the biggest names in financial services and healthcare including GE, JP Morgan Chase, and The Cleveland Clinic. Orion’s purpose is to make meaningful contributions which give their clients the ability to lead and achieve success by always keeping three things in mind: 1) Excellence in reputation 2) Delivery of value, and 3) Be part of something special. Roy is a keynote speaker at the 2012 Secret Service Summit where he will be sharing how to implement continuous improvement programs such as performance management, process improvement and strategy across large-scale organizations.




A complaining client is giving us the opportunity to make things right.
 It’s the silent ones that hurt us.
They don’t remain silent once they leave your business.

John R. DiJulius III best-selling author, consultant, and keynote speaker, is the President of The DiJulius Group, the leading customer experience consulting firm in the nation. He blogs on customer experience trends and best practices. Learn more about The DiJulius Group or The Secret Service Summit, America’s #1 Customer Service Conference.

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