Tell us about your background?
I did not expect to be an academic let alone a marketing professor! For many years after my undergraduate degree I thought people with PhDs were had wild woolly hair and stained coffee cups and spent lots of time discussing theoretical ideas while putting their feet on their desk at work. How wrong I was!
What attracted you to marketing/service research as a discipline of study?
When I was a teenager I had a friend whose mother was an interviewer with a market research agency. I remember she was interviewing VW owners for one study. I wondered who was interested in this data. Thinking more about it I became really interested in the ‘why’ question, the psychological side of marketing and later realised that theory could explain much of this, for example in terms of decision-making, motivations or perceptions. This I found fascinating.
What surprises/obstacles did you experience in your early career? How did you address them?
One of the obstacles was that while I was bringing up the family I was also doing a PhD. However, having the opportunity to do a PhD was to me a great privilege. I enjoyed both motherhood and also studying. In fact, these were the best some of the best years of my life so I certainly would not complain. I really enjoyed the work and the research and everything else, including promotions, that largely followed.
What have been your most memorable publications/projects?
I think really my publications in the areas of word of mouth and value co-creation are the most memorable. My passion is around the area of what customers do and why they do so. Essentially I am interested in customer power in relationships, including how customers come to have this power, how it evolves, how it is used and how marketers can harness this power or work synergistically with it for not only organisational but beneficial customer outcomes. This is reflected in my work in word of mouth and value co-creation
Was there a pivotal moment or key person in your career?
Yes indeed. First of all when my children went off to school and I was working part-time as a tutor at Murdoch University in Perth, Dr. Bob Armstrong took me on side and he and I together in the space of less than a year developed and published two papers, one also with Professor Lester Johnson who was also a source of support. At this time I was on a 60% contract and new to the academic world. Bob was very encouraging and easy to work with. In fact, if it hadn’t been for him I would not have started a PhD. I did my PhD with Professor Geoff Soutar, Curtin University as my supervisor. Geoff has been a friend and inspiration for a long time. He made research exciting, achievable and enjoyable, what more can anyone ask for! My third source of inspiration has been and still is my Honours and PhD students. Many in their special way helped me just as I helped them. I consider many of them great friends today. Indeed, some are co-researchers!
How do you pick research partners and/or co-authors?
My co-authors are both great researchers and likeable people. These include high-level professors, up and coming academics, and research students.
What current trends in marketing/service research do you find fascinating?
I think the trend towards consumer power and the move away from organisations dictating to customers is fascinating. This reflects my previous research interests, yet continues to be a critical trend. It will become even more important in the context of modern technology and social media. I think marketers’ interest in automation and robots will be important, and will likely throw up some unexpected benefits as well as negatives as organisational control of robots and robot learning start to conflict. I hope marketing practitioners will display strong ethical, sustainable and environmental values in dealing with this potentially new source of power.
How do you envision the future of our service research field?
As well as the above, I think one of the main innovations will be in the context of research methods and data capture. While we talk about Big Data, I think that new methods and approaches need to be developed, whether with or without technology. I think we can find methods that can get closer to the customer in a natural organic environment that will reduce the reliance on experiments and surveys.
What is your go to relax?
Good tea, coffee and wine all go down well at different times of the day! Also, l, I love tennis, bushwalking and trips in our caravan with both my husband and dog. Only 2 months ago we went across the Nullabor to South Australia for 5 weeks, a journey of over 6500 km. We enjoyed the travelling, the adventure, the wildness, the bush and meeting like-minded people in remote campsites. Incidentally, I did collect some interview data on Grey Nomads – a new subculture in Australia – while I was travelling this time. We hope to write up for a tourism journal.
If you had not gone into marketing/academia, what would have been your alternative career?
When I was young I always wanted to be an air-hostess. I thought it was so romantic flying to all sorts of exotic places and this as part of your job! It was a long time later that reality struck.
I should mention that I did not start my career in academia. Following my undergraduate degree in math and a post-graduate diploma in statistics, I went into the marketing research industry working in London, Sydney and Perth over several years. I enjoyed this very much. However later, I started to understand academic research, thanks to doing a Master’s Degree at Curtin, to my involvement in a Research Centre at Murdoch University that carried out industry-funded academic projects and to my working with Bob Armstrong at Murdoch University. I found the academic side so fascinating and crossed the divide!