Enjoy the Journey, Reap the Rewards says Professor of International Marketing

May 28, 2014

Thunderbird School Professor shares global business insights during the international business school’s first Executive Lecture Series event of the 2014 season.

Customer satisfaction is the optimal business driver easily thrown off track if expectations and perceptions of service performance don’t match. The solution, says Thunderbird School of Global Management Associate Professor of Global Marketing, Sundaresan Ram, Ph.D., “Look at the process that drives the outcome instead of only being concerned about the end result. Doing so will ultimately drive organizational excellence.”

Dr. Ram shared global business insights with attendees on May 13, during the international business school’s first Executive Lecture Series event of the 2014 season. He shared that it’s easy for corporations to be so focused on bottom lines that they lose sight of the customer and, more importantly, the power that customer has as a marketer to create an experience that will keep them coming back. 

Optimal customer satisfaction comes when every single interaction with a product or service leaves a positive impression. Making a commitment to a heightened level of engagement with customers at every turn is the difference between a mediocre and an exceptional reputation. 

“People don’t shop at Nordstrom because they need a pair of pants or a shirt,” Ram says. “They are there for the purchase experience. Companies often fail to achieve excellence, primarily due to their inability to manage and meet their customer’s expectations.”

Ram goes on to explain what is called the Gap Model. When a consumer’s expectations don’t match their experience, a gap arises. “This is where customer engagement becomes important. Rather than reacting to problems after they happen, by employing the proper protocols for engagement, companies can have a more accurate understanding of the expectations of the consumer.” 

Matching expectations with customer experience means companies need to walk in the customers’ shoes, seizing the opportunity for positive engagement. “Customer engagement exists on four levels,” explains Ram. “The first level is about the product, price and after-purchase experience. Next, companies need to understand how their product improves their customer’s business, while also understanding their customer’s clientele. Lastly they need to create a solution that includes their competitors’ products.”

By satisfying these methods of engagement, Ram concludes, companies will be able to close the gap between customer expectations and management’s perception of those expectations. 

Companies that achieve organizational excellence also recognize the role that employees play in customer satisfaction. They engage their employees and activate them to be a part of the process. “Employees are your internal customer. If they aren’t happy, your external customer never will be. Enable your employees to make decisions and speak freely as they are on the front lines of customer interaction and ultimately have the ability to manage the customer’s expectations.” 

According to Ram, winning over your customers is simple. “Pay attention to the whole process, manage customer expectations and engage your customers every step of the way. This will produce satisfied customers who are ultimately your best resource for new customers.”

The summer 2014 Executive Lecture Series is a monthly event at Thunderbird School of Global Management, an international business school in Glendale. The lectures are conducted by Thunderbird faculty members, each of whom will offer their global academic and professional insights on a variety of international business topics. There is no cost to attend, but registration is required. To register, visit For more information visit or contact the school at 602 978-7100.

The next Thunderbird international business school event will take place June 10, 2014, 6-7:30 p.m. at Yount Auditorium on the Glendale campus. Mary Teagarden, Ph.D. will address Working in the Future: Growing, sharing and exploiting ‘mindshare’ in innovation networks.