Supervisor: Professor Stan Maklan

The rhetoric of relationship marketing has dominated marketing debate over the last ten years. Taken up enthusiastically by the IT industry in its rebranding as CRM, as suppliers recognised that sustaining relationships requires strong IT enablement, the management of customer relationships still struggles in practice to go beyond the 'single customer view' provided by the integrated CRM systems towards genuinely individualised interactions with customers, tailored according to what the firm knows about them.

The blue-chip companies in Cranfield's Customer Management Forum ( are attempting to move best practice in CRM forwards. The Forum gives us a continual insight into practical problems and provides ready research access. The potential topics for research where answers are most demanded by practitioners include:

1. From Customer Service to Customer Experience

What is customer experience? How does it differ from customer service? How can we benchmark it and optimise it? What is the Return on Customer Experience? We have begun to research this topical area but more work is needed.

2. Turning Customer Data into Action at the Front Line

Once we have laboriously and expensively constructed an integrated customer database, how can we turn all that data into insight, and that insight into front-line action in the call centre, on the web, in outlets or via the sales force? How can we choose the right customers to deal with and offer them the right propositions in response to what we already know about them and 'in real time' what we learn from them during our conversations? One DBA student is already working on this topic which is core to the concept of CRM.

3. Segmentation in the 21st Century

Segmentation has long formed a key tool for marketers in trying to treat different customers differently. How should segmentation work in the age of CRM? Should we segment on attitudes through market research? Through customer value or buying behaviour using our CRM systems? Or is the concept of segmentation redundant in a 1-1 age? An empirical study of current best practice is long overdue.

4. Do CRM Programmes Work?

Billions are being spent on CRM programmes' loyalty cards, customer magazines and so on. But yet customer satisfaction is actually decreasing. Do CRM initiatives actually work? The world would love to know!

These doctoral research areas could be researched using qualitative or quantitative techniques.

Candidate Profile

Candidates should have sharp analytical skills, excellent written English and an ability to engage credibly with senior managers to understand current issues, negotiate research access and present findings. These skills will probably have been acquired through excellent educational attainment and at least three years' experience in marketing, sales, IT or a related discipline however, candidates with the relevant skills which have been differently acquired will be considered. Please refer to the website for details of admission requirements.

Candidates with interests in this area are invited to make contact with

Suggested Reading

Klaus, P. & Maklan, S., 2012.  EXQ: A Multi-Item Scale for Assessing Service Experience.  Journal of Service Management, 23(1), p.5-33.

Maklan, S. & Klaus, P., 2011.  Customer Experience.  International Journal of Market Research, 53(6), p.771-792.

Maklan, S., Knox, S. & Peppard, J., 2011.  Why CRM Fails - and How to Fit it.  MIT Sloan Management Review, 52(4), p.77-85.