Academic journal article Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship

Selling Services IS Different from Selling Soup - A Thought Leader Interview with Professor Leonard Berry

Academic journal article Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship

Selling Services IS Different from Selling Soup - A Thought Leader Interview with Professor Leonard Berry

Article excerpt

In this our fourth special issue based on service management papers presented at QUIS we changed the format of having an interview with a prominent service executive to interviewing a service thought leader. This change allows us to introduce leading contributors to service management from the academic world to readers of JAME. Thus we use this interview feature to introduce readers to Len Berry, not only a leading contributor to the theory and research on services marketing and management, but also an individual who helped develop the field of services marketing. Len has not only created some important tools for measuring service quality but has also expanded his early work in marketing to include the study of how management practices and systems influence service excellence. He has published three major books assessing the characteristics of service exemplars and written numerous articles in both marketing and management journals reporting the findings of his extensive field studies of these organizations. We are delighted to share his thoughts with you in this special issue and hope you are as intrigued with his ideas as we are.

Authors: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us today. You have had a remarkable career and certainly can be considered one of the key pioneers responsible for developing the relatively new discipline of services marketing and management. Let us begin with an obvious question. What sparked your initial curiosity into the largely unexplored academic area that we now call 'services marketing?'

LB: When I was a brand new assistant professor, 2 or 3 years after earning my PhD in marketing at Arizona State University in 1968, the phone rang one day and it was the American Bankers Association in Washington D.C. calling. Why they called me, I'll never know. They wanted to know if I would be interested in collaborating on a textbook on bank marketing. They had identified another marketing professor at the University of Kentucky, Jim Donnelly, who was interested and they wondered if I would also be interested in collaborating with Jim on this. The field of banking did not have a marketing textbook at that time. The American Bankers Association has an educational arm called "The American Institute of Banking (AIB)" which puts on various banking related courses in schools. And they needed a textbook for a new marketing course that they were going to offer through the AIB. So I said yes even though I didn't know Jim! We met, talked about it, and wrote our book. And the book was successful. That launched a mini career for Jim and me in that period of time in the 1970s. We spent considerable time traversing the country and giving seminars to state banking associations and other groups about bank marketing based on the research and marketing ideas from our book. I spent most of the 70s studying financial services marketing and interacting with bankers and then teaching bank marketing to big groups of bankers, which was totally unexpected when I had finished my doctorate and started my career. I was going along happily not really thinking what else I was going to do. I was not a strategic career planner at the time - I was a rookie professor. I was getting paid. I was getting published. It occurred to me in that period that what I was teaching in bank marketing, what was in our book, was quite different from what I learned as a PhD student in marketing. What I really learned in my classwork was manufactured goods marketing - services marketing is different. That time with the bankers and doing bank marketing, which extended into the early 80s, is what sparked my interest in services marketing.

Authors: In your own career, was there a watershed moment/research project/consulting job/influential person that changed the direction of your thinking on service management?

LB: One watershed moment was reading a book in 1975 by Stanley Marcus called Minding the Store (Neiman Marcus Stores). It was a beautifully crafted, compelling book about the service philosophy that separated Neiman Marcus from other retailers of its era. …

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