The cult leader of customer service at TD Bank has an office in the middle of one of its call centers for a reason.

"It keeps me close to employees and it keeps me close to customers and feedback," says Linda Verba, executive vice president and head of retail banking at the $134 billion-asset bank. "I can walk the floor to go to the ladies room or pick up lunch and get a bead for what's going on."

Many days she heads to a bank branch on field excursions that are vital for learning how to improve service. Once Verba saw a befuddled elderly woman who thought an ATM gave her the wrong amount of money. Standard procedure required filling out and notarizing forms, but Verba told a greeter who was trying to help, "We're talking 20 bucks here. Do you have 20 bucks in your wallet? Just go give it to that lady and apologize." Now the policy for disputes over low amounts is: "Just give it to the customer," she says.

Moves like this have built what Dennis DiFlorio, who hired Verba more than 10 years ago at what was then Commerce Bank, calls a customer service "cult" - one that has earned J.D. Power and Associates' award for best customer satisfaction in retail banking in the Mid-Atlantic region for the past four years. "She is just a ball of energy," says the retired DiFlorio, who had been president of Commerce before its sale to TD Bank Financial Group last year.

The bank aims to "wow" customers daily, a goal that became an all-consuming part of its identity in a way only someone like Verba, whom DiFlorio affectionately describes as being "on the lunatic fringe," could ever pull off. "People will crash through walls for her," he says.

Ed Clark, president and chief executive officer of TD Bank Financial Group, says the culture Verba helped build at Commerce melds perfectly into his company, which in Canada also has a legacy of enthusiastic customer service. Clark trusts her implicitly to ensure this service continues.

"What's unbelievable about Linda is she gets in very fine detail what it is that you actually have to do organizationally to deliver a legendary experience at 1,000 branches every single day, seven days a week," he says.

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