One of the interesting things about studying consumers is that, when consumers make decisions, they take fairly limited time, and yet the interplay of different factors that influence their choices can be quite theoretically complex.
You often hear the advice "listen to your customers." But one thing our research has found is that people might not be able to articulate their preferences or explain how they make decisions. Oftentimes, people are not even aware of what drove their preferences in specific purchase contexts. For example, we have done studies that show that people make systematically different choices when they’re depleted—meaning that they're tired, for instance, or deciding under time pressure—than when they're not depleted. But they wouldn't be able to articulate these factors.
You could say that my research focuses most on the interface of two motivations: psychological and economic. One of the interesting things about studying consumers is that, when consumers make decisions, they take fairly limited time, and yet the interplay of different factors that influence their choices can be quite theoretically complex. It's a range of motivations from economic considerations to psychological influences and social influences. That really makes the study of customers or, more generally, the study of people, challenging and interesting. It's a little bit like trying to forecast the weather. There's a lot of complexity that goes into it.
In the research dimension, the school has always been quite interdisciplinary. In my own research, I enjoy working with colleagues in psychology, in finance, and even people who do econometric modeling. The new curriculum brings this quality to the teaching side. In fact, the new Customer course leverages the interdisciplinary research that SOM has developed a reputation for.
It was natural for the School of Management to develop this integrated curriculum, since the fusion of viewpoints of different disciplines is important for a range of careers. Let's say you're the marketing chief: your job requires growing the customer base as well as finding new customers by developing new products. In order to do this successfully, one must understand customers, how to motivate employees to focus externally, and how to create effective teams and organizational units—a process that requires a fusion of different functions and disciplines.
Interviewed spring 2007.