A workshop at Alliance MBS, which brought together academic experts and businesses to discuss marketing problems and strategies, has led to the publication of a special section, Design and Decision Making for Customer Experience at the Academic-Practitioner Interface, in the prestigious Journal of Business Research.
The event, held back in 2018, involved teams of interdisciplinary academics from both AMBS and across the world, led by specially selected lead academic experts, working on specific problems set out by five companies in the retail, power, rail and logistics industries.
Academics then compiled initial reports based on these discussions which were subsequently developed into full research projects, leading to the publication of eight papers brought together in the special section.
Event co-organiser Jamie Burton, Professor of Marketing at AMBS, said the aim of the workshop was to get companies to flag specific problems around customer experience, especially in terms of design and decision-making. “The aim was to encourage these companies to talk very specifically about the background to the problems they were experiencing. The academics then pulled together a number of research proposals to work on the identified problems.”
The workshop, the second such academic-practitioner event on customer experience issues hosted by AMBS, was co-organised with Professor Thorsten Gruber and the Centre for Service Management (CSM) at Loughborough University’s School of Business and Economics.
By collating all the research into the special section, Professor Burton, AMBS Distinguished Professorial Fellow Anders Gustafsson, and Professor Gruber set out in their editorial how the outputs of the workshop can now help advance current understanding of customer experience. In particular it helps consider the role of AI and big data in research as well as ‘atypical’ customer experience such as vulnerability, deviance behaviours and service failure and recovery.
The special section also looks at under-researched organisational and B2B issues such as business model innovation, and customer experience management in business markets.
Added Professor Burton: “Further work is required in all these areas, particularly in AI, big data, and research in relation to the experience of vulnerable customers. This is particularly relevant today given how technology is continuing to evolve rapidly post COVID-19. Our intention is very much to run further workshops to ensure that this work continues to be impactful and capable of co-creating real value with practitioners.”
He added that the feedback from the companies involved in the project had been excellent. “They saw this as a unique opportunity to engage with academics and reframe problems from a new perspective, while they also benefitted from the adoption of fresh approaches for reviewing problems, the generation of thought-provoking ideas, and the value of collaborative working.
“For instance a key action for one company was to review its definition of ‘vulnerable’ customers to make it more encompassing, and it may be that this helped them prepare for the impact of COVID-19 on their customer base.”
Professor Burton says the workshop was an excellent way to tackle the disconnect that can sometimes exist between the academic and practitioner world. “The advantage of an event like this is that it gives companies the opportunity to really tap into the knowledge of problem-solving experts and reflect with different groups of people.
“At our event we deliberately invited very varied teams of academics in terms of both field of expertise and career experience, which is important because companies know that such a mix can lead to much more innovative ways of thinking. This also helps deliver very impactful research focused on a particular company’s problems, and an opportunity for value co-creation between practitioners and academics from differing research domains.”
The event was also run in conjunction with the Executive Education department within AMBS, and was built on long-term relationships that had been built up with the five companies involved.
As Professor Burton adds: “Traditionally access to companies can be very difficult and gaining the necessary confidence can take a long time. As a School we have built up excellent links and relationships with these particular companies and were able to open the necessary doors.”