Interview was executed by Matt Weingarden, AMA
Like many other AMA Fellows, Leonard Berry did not expect to be a marketing professor. He grew up in Fresno, California and went to a junior college for 1½ years before transferring to the University of Denver on a tennis scholarship. He would remain there and earn an MBA before joining the inaugural doctoral class at Arizona State University. After teaching at a number of institutions, he joined Valarie Zeithaml and A. Parasuraman at Texas A&M University. The three would eventually publish a series of papers together and develop SERVQUAL.
What current trends in marketing do you find most fascinating?
The rise of the internet has transformed marketing more than any other development in my career. It also has changed consumers’ concepts of convenience. What used to be fast is now slow.
I also am fascinated about the role of marketing in promoting socially responsible business practices. Where was marketing when the big financial institutions were making subprime mortgage loans that nearly brought down the global economy? Where was marketing when pharmaceutical companies jacked up the prices of drugs to unconscionable levels? Where was marketing when Volkswagen was selling cars with false emission levels?
What attracted you to marketing as a discipline of study?
Several factors converged, including my undergraduate area major in psychology, sociology, and economics, and a good marketing course in my MBA program. The marketing course showed me a way to apply my interest in behavioral science.
Is there a contribution or contributions that makes you feel exceptionally proud? If so, briefly describe the contribution(s).
Collaborating with A. Parasuraman and Valarie Zeithaml to help launch the field of services marketing and do the work we did in service quality. Writing the first paper on relationship and background marketing and coining the term. Focusing my interest and background in services on improving healthcare services. My books: On Great Service, Discovering the Soul of Service, and Management Lessons from Mayo Clinic.
What surprises/obstacles did you experience in your early career?
If I could do things over, I wouldn’t have joined the faculty at several schools early in my career. I was inexperienced and naïve and needed a seasoned mentor. I didn’t have enough self-confidence and didn’t aim high enough. The exits were painful but I grew as a result of those experiences. I’ve now been at Texas A&M for 35 years and feel blessed to have had the opportunity to be on this faculty. What was missing for me early in my career was available to me at Texas A&M.
If you had not gone into marketing, what would have been your alternative career?
Until I decided to enter a doctoral program and become a professor, I had no clue of what I wanted to do. Once I discovered healthcare, I would have enjoyed being a physician.
What is your go to relax after a challenging day or at the end of a challenging project?
A workout, a good meal, and a movie.
Coffee or Tea? And how do you take it?
Neither. I drink water and rarely anything else.