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School of Business spearheads customer research initiative

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

LAWRENCE — With the help of three area companies, the University of Kansas School of Business is introducing a new research initiative this fall that will study the customer experience.

The Center for Integrated Customer Experience is a collaborative project between the school and founding partner Cerner Corporation, along with Hill’s Pet Nutrition and The University of Kansas Hospital. Directors Kissan Joseph and Alan Halfen will lead the center’s research, which will focus on the increasing complexity of understanding customers and how to interact with them.

“The options that firms have to communicate and connect with their customers are increasing, and the channels through which we can communicate have expanded,” Joseph said. “It’s not only print but websites and social media. Customers are getting more information, and they are more demanding about the service experience.”

The center’s research will help bridge the gap between real industry issues and the school’s research capabilities.

“Companies are currently evaluating the way they interact with their customers, and they want to know about their customers, but at times external insight and experience in capturing consumer perception and preference is helpful,” Halfen said. “We can come into that role and help them develop research projects that hone in on the specific things they want to know about their company and about their customers.”

In addition to producing meaningful research, the center also provides opportunities for students. As part of the partnership, Cerner will provide two fellowships and Hill’s Pet Nutrition and The University of Kansas Hospital will each provide one fellowship for MBA students to participate in the center’s research.

“It’s important to involve students because it’s a service to the companies, and it’s a good opportunity for students to learn to develop and carry out research projects,” Halfen said. “That’s experience they can use in their careers in the future.”

Students will gain firsthand knowledge about the issues companies face and how they adapt their marketing strategy, Joseph added. Having skilled students on board is also helpful to the center’s work. With so much analysis and so many details to implement, smart and capable manpower is very welcome, he said.

Forging relationships like this are fruitful for all entities involved, Joseph said, and he’s excited to see them at the School of Business.

“The challenges, the opportunities, the paths for businesses these days are expanding, and there is a recognition that collaboration between businesses and universities can be productive not only for us, but for them as well,” he said. “Businesses get to solve real problems, and we get to do research with our students. For me as a professor that’s really exciting to be involved with.”

Halfen said the research partnerships also speak volumes of the businesses involved, making it a fulfilling experience for the researcher.

“It’s fun and exciting to work with people who really care about their customers and really want to come up with a good answer to solve problems,” he said.


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