The interview is part of the ISSIP’s March Newsletter. It is a conversation between ISSIP Editor-in-Chief, Salvatore Moccia with Jochen Wirtz.
Dr. Jochen Wirtz, is Professor of Marketing at the National University of Singapore, and Vice-Dean, Graduate Studies. He is the author of several books including “Services Marketing – People, Technology, Strategy“.
SM – We would like to introduce you to the ISSIP Community and can tell everyone that you are a global leader in service research and a well-published author. You are also (Congratulations!) the 2019 winner of the Christopher Lovelock Award recognizing career contributions to the services discipline. What else can you share about yourself and your work?
JW – Well, I wear a number of hats – first and foremost I am an academic who is heavily engaged in service research, in executive development and Executive MBA teaching, and I am the Vice Dean Graduate Studies at the NUS Business School, National University of Singapore (NUS). Also, I do consulting and dabble in start-ups – my more successful start-ups include Accellion (Accellion.com), TranscribeMe (TranscribeMe.com), and Uplifting Service (UpliftingService.com).
SM – For you, what were the critical steps in your career and life that led you down the path to where you are today?
JW – My first degree was in finance and accounting and I did a 3-year management training course in a bank in Germany that led to me taking the German banking exams. But I must admit, my passion was with marketing and when I went to London Business School (LBS) to do my PhD, I switched to marketing with a focus on services. It was really nice being able to bring what I learned in banking to the then emerging field of services marketing. While at LBS I started working with two professors on consulting projects that were mostly related to business development, mobile and technology, and until today I kept this focus. It has been an exhilarating journey! A final point, I do so many different things, but I am very focused on having synergy between all the different jobs and hats I hold – the common denominator is that they are all related to service in one way or another.
SM – You have also taught for many years, with your present role as Vice Dean, Graduate Studies, for the National University of Singapore. Since you have now encountered many students, what is your opinion of today’s MBA students? How has the educational process and motivation changed over the years- if it has?
JW – Clearly, we are not the sage on the stage any longer. When I teach, I focus on drawing out the knowledge that is in the classroom. Today, our students come from consulting, finance, start-ups, family businesses, MNCs, non-profits from all functional areas and from all over the world. There is so much to learn from a class like this and I view my role to make all this knowledge and experience come alive and be shared. And I am grateful, too, as I am on this learning journey with my students which keeps me at the forefront especially as related to technology and new business models.
What has changed dramatically is that students today are much more entrepreneurial, whether they want to work in a start-up or help shape the future in a role in a larger organization. Overall, today’s students seek meaning in their work, focus a lot more on sustainability and doing good, and want to contribute to a better future. This is a lot more palpable that perhaps 10 or 20 years ago. Given that today we are all connected on LinkedIn and other social media, it is truly most gratifying is to see how our MBA and EMBA students change their lives because of what they were exposed to in our programs and how the program helped them to transform themselves.
SM – What inspires you to keep writing? Your book, Services Marketing: People, Technology, Strategy, 8th edition is a top textbook and you recently co-authored a chapter on Handbook of Service Science Volume 2.
JW – I love working on exciting topics, I am curious and in class discussions we so often touch on topics that have not been truly explored in academic research and are not yet covered in text books. If a topic excites me I am then happy to dive in and start a research project on it. It is my way of learning and developing myself. It helps me to develop clarity in thinking and creativity, not to accept conventional wisdom at face value but dig deeper to get at the ground of issues. In this way I often uncover exciting new insights and develop new models and frameworks.
This approach resulted in some 200 academic journal articles, 6 features in Harvard Business Review and over 10 books that include Services Marketing – People, Technology, Strategy (8th edition, 2016), Winning in Service Markets (2017), and the Winning in Service Markets Series (World Scientific, 2018). With translations and adaptations for over 26 countries and regions and combined sales of some 800,000 copies, they have become globally leading services marketing text books.
SM – What are the most exciting things happening in Services Marketing of late? How has the reception been from business?
JW – There are a number of really important large research areas that are developing rapidly. To me, some of the most exciting are (1) robotics and AI in service delivery, (2) cost-effective service excellence as an idea that allows organizations to be differentiated through excellence while at the same time being a cost-leader (often enabled through technology), (3) platform business models, including peer-to-peer sharing, and (4) corporate digital responsibility (related to AI, massive capturing and processing of data, and algorithms making decisions based on these data). If you want to read more about these topics, follow me on ResearchGate.
SM – How did you get involved with ISSIP and what have you found most beneficial?
JW – Jim Spohrer highlighted ISSIP to me many years ago and since then I love to be a member of this community and learn, especially as related to technology as my background is in marketing and finance. It helps me to better understand what is happening in technology and how it is affecting our economies.