Lead Story

Service guarantees have a place in healthcare

Kelli Levey Reynolds, January 8th, 2019

Many hospitality, retail, repair, and other businesses offer their customers service guarantees. If the service is substandard, the customer doesn’t pay.

In his article “Service Guarantees Have a Place in Healthcare,” appearing in the Jan. 15 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, Marketing Professor Leonard Berry proposes that healthcare organizations should consider guaranteeing the quality of services they provide that are important to patients and controllable to the organization.

Well-designed and executed service guarantees will strengthen the organization’s culture of service excellence while bolstering its reputation with patients and other stakeholders. Healthcare organizations can—and should—commit to being good enough to guarantee the quality of its services.

This is the first time the concept of service guarantees will be featured in a top medical journal. Annals of Internal Medicine is ranked in the top five of all general medical journals in the world.

Berry is University Distinguished Professor of Marketing, a Regents Professor, the M.B. Zale Chair in Retailing and Marketing Leadership, Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence, and Senior Fellow of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. He has been at Texas A&M since 1982, is a guest lecturer internationally, and has written 10 books, including Management Lessons from Mayo ClinicDiscovering the Soul of ServiceOn Great ServiceMarketing Services: Competing Through Quality; and Delivering Quality Service. He is a pioneer in the field of services marketing and is making a significant mark on the healthcare industry.

The student team of Edward Cho, Lianne Ho, and David Sung from the University of Southern California has won the $20,000 First Place prize in the Humana-Mays Health Care Analytics 2018 Case Competition sponsored by health and well-being company Humana Inc. (NYSE: HUM) and Mays Business School at Texas A&M University.

Nearly 700 master’s-level students representing 246 teams from 42 major universities in the U.S. registered for the national competition to compete for $35,000 in prizes. Students enrolled full-time in accredited Master of Science, Master of Arts, Master of Information Systems, Master of Public Health, or Master of Business Administration programs at an educational institution based in the United States were eligible to enter.

Cho, Ho, and Sung received the top prize following a presentation on Nov. 14 to an executive panel of judges at Texas A&M’s Mays Business School’s CityCentre Houston location.

The Second Place prize of $10,000 was awarded to Hanyin Nifrom, Uyanga (Melody) Sumiya, and Qi Xu from Bentley University, while the Third Place prize of $5,000 was presented to Kyle Cross, Ming-Hsin Li, and Efrat Mordechay from the University of California, Los Angeles.

“Mays Business School is pleased to partner with Humana to bring together the brightest graduate students in the country to innovate using data analytics to solve a real-world business problem in health care, one of the three Grand Challenge areas of Mays Business School,” says Arvind Mahajan, Associate Dean for Graduate Programs at Mays Business School.

The analytics case received by the students was designed to be multi-faceted and complex, similar to a real-world business problem. The students were asked to predict the likelihood of a patient having a heart attack within the next three months using data collected from the previous year. Students had to evaluate more than 400 variables, including age of the patient, sex, geography, and other medical conditions.

“Being new to the health care industry myself, I was impressed with the expertise and professionalism of the students during the competition. We hope that our scenario encourages them to continue learning and growing their analytical skills. It is through creative, passionate people that we will be able to deliver high-quality care for generations to come,” said Heather Cox, Chief Digital Health and Analytics Officer for Humana.

The teams were judged based on the following criteria:

  • Ability to establish key performance indicators aligned to business needs
  • Quantitative analysis identifying key business insights
  • Ability to provide unique insights for business improvements
  • Professionalism and visualization skills

Participation in the Humana-Mays Health Care Analytics 2018 Case Competition represents a 132 percent growth over the inaugural 2017 competition, where more than 300 master’s degree candidates representing 109 teams from 19 major universities in the U.S. registered for the competition. Students Hongxia Shi, Shenyang Yang, and Xiangyi Che from Purdue University received the top prize.

About Texas A&M’s Mays Business School

Mays is a full-service business school that steps up to advance the world’s prosperity. Our mission is to be a vibrant learning organization that creates impactful knowledge and develops transformational leaders. Mays Business School educates more than 6,404 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its programs and for faculty research

About Humana

Humana Inc. (NYSE: HUM) is committed to helping our millions of medical and specialty members achieve their best health. Our successful history in care delivery and health plan administration is helping us create a new kind of integrated care with the power to improve health and well-being and lower costs. Our efforts are leading to a better quality of life for people with Medicare, families, individuals, military service personnel, and communities at large.

To accomplish that, we support physicians and other health care professionals as they work to deliver the right care in the right place for their patients, our members. Our range of clinical capabilities, resources and tools – such as in-home care, behavioral health, pharmacy services, data analytics and wellness solutions – combine to produce a simplified experience that makes health care easier to navigate and more effective.

More information regarding Humana is available to investors via the Investor Relations page of the company’s web site at www.humana.com, including copies of:

  • Annual reports to stockholders
  • Securities and Exchange Commission filings
  • Most recent investor conference presentations
  • Quarterly earnings news releases and conference calls
  • Calendar of events
  • Corporate Governance information

Categories: Featured Stories, Health Care, Mays Business, News, Spotlights, Students, Texas A&M

In a nationwide search, Texas A&M University has been ranked as a top university for graduate and undergraduate students interested in entrepreneurship. It was part of the Princeton Review Top Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Programs 2019.

Coming in at #22, Texas A&M boasts a dynamic entrepreneurial ecosystem that includes the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, Startup Aggieland, Blackstone Launchpad, and the Texas A&M I-School.

More than 300 schools reported data about their entrepreneurship offerings and rankings are based on entrepreneurial curriculum, student, faculty and staff entrepreneurial ventures, extracurricular offerings, and scholarships and aid provided to students pursuing entrepreneurship.

Categories: Centers, Entrepreneurship, Featured Stories, Mays Business, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, News, Students, Texas A&M

By Audrey Adkins ’18, Business Honors

The pursuit of challenging experiences and an unwillingness to condone complacency are key factors contributing to Raja Akram’s success in life. His professional experience in the financial services industry provided a powerful message on the significance of seeking challenge and maintaining focus on long-term ambitions. These factors are important to consider throughout the lifetime of a career.

Akram ’95 (finance) and ’97 (PPA), Controller and Chief Accounting Officer of Citigroup, spoke Nov. 9 with a group of Business Honors students. He shared a number of stories and formative experiences from his career.

He encouraged students to pursue opportunities that promote growth and learning. In his career, growth was often the product of his willingness to work through challenging circumstances. When faced with challenging circumstances, Akram advised students to “focus on being solution providers.” He stated that value creation often comes in the form of solution creation, rather than problem analysis. …Read more

Categories: Executive Speakers, Featured Stories, Mays Business, Students, Texas A&M

Sometimes brilliance in marketing and merchandising takes the shape of a beaver. Texas travelers know when they see billboards with quirky slogans telling them to “Buc-ee’s or Bust!” that clean restrooms, beef jerky, 79-cent fountain drinks, and beaver nuggets soon await them.

Arch “Beaver” Aplin ‘80, the co-founder and current president of Buc-ee’s spoke to almost 400 students, faculty, staff and local business leaders as part of the 20th annual M.B. Zale Visionary Merchant Lecture Series hosted by the Center for Retailing Studies. To excel in this industry, Aplin said, “I must exceed the customer’s expectations.” Buc-ee’s differentiates itself from the general convenience store category by building enormous “travel centers.”

The recently opened Katy store boasts 53,000 square feet of retail space stocked with interesting one-of-a-kind items, like pickled jalapenos. Typical convenience locations are about 3,000 square feet.

Aplin says Buc-ee’s is “always looking for products that get customers exclaiming ‘whoa, who would have thought they carried that!’” …Read more

Categories: Alumni, Entrepreneurship, Executive Speakers, Featured Stories, Former Students, Mays Business, Texas A&M

Returns are typically viewed as costly and problematic for retailers, particularly with shoppers who abuse return policies. But can legitimate returns be used as a way to build stronger relationships with customers and increase profits?

Professor James Abbey, in conjunction with Michael Ketzenberg and Rich Metters in the Department of Information and Operations Management at Mays Business School, highlight this concept in their recent MIT Sloan Management Review Article, “A More Profitable Approach to Product Returns.”

According to Abbey and colleagues, retailers are missing out on a large group of consumers who never make a return when they find a product unsatisfactory. These, often, one-time purchasers simply never return in every sense: no future purchases and no returned products. Using recent advancements in data analytics, the research team discovered that retailers can use legitimate returns as a profitable marketing tool to better meet the needs of these unsatisfied shoppers.

“Roughly 50 percent of customers never make a return. We refer to them as ‘non-returners.’ They make a couple of transactions, then poof – they’re gone. It’s as if they never existed, but you don’t want to lose these customers,” explained Abbey. “What we’re learning is they’re finding a flaw with the product or they don’t like something about it. Yet, these customers never give the retailer a chance to provide a better option.”

The researchers pose the question: What if companies took these dissatisfied non-returners who walk out the door, and convinced them to become occasional returners who continually come back as regular customers?

“A customer is someone who makes repeated purchases. They are the lifeblood of any business. Retailers incur substantial acquisition costs to attract new purchasers. One-time buyers may often cost the retailer more than they make from the sale,” added Kelli Hollinger, director of the Center for Retailing Studies at Texas A&M University.

Abbey’s team suggests that retailers look at non-returners as an opportunity to upsell or cross-sell a product to better meet the customer’s needs, which can lead to an increase in customer satisfaction and retailer profitability. In effect, focus on building a long-term relationship using returns as a selling tool.

“The people who never make the returns provide only a small fraction of the profit compared to customers making frequent returns. If you could find a way to create more loyalty and build a stronger relationship to get them to try more products, you can train these customers to be occasional returners,” Abbey noted.

“The question we’re really posing is not that continual abusive returners aren’t a problem. On the contrary, such abuse can cost millions of dollars per year. Rather, we’re thinking of how to re-engage with customers who don’t make returns. Retailers need to entice them to come back,” Abbey explained.

In order to convince these shoppers to come back, retailers need to understand their consumers. Abbey’s team advocates that data collection and analysis of transaction patterns of shoppers can be valuable tools in figuring out a path to draw these customers back. These factors could include more competitive pricing, targeted incentives, easier return options, or availability of complementary products.

“It’s really gotten easier to understand a customer, to understand their patterns, and understand what it means to get them back in the store,” said Abbey. “If a person truly does not return products and you see this in their pattern, and you can say hey, look if you waive your right to return, we’ll go ahead and give you an extra 10 percent off. This technique is already in action at WalMart’s online portal Jet.com.”

For some non-returners, such a discount could build loyalty because it rewards their preference to avoid returning items.

“In the end, the vast majority of customers who make returns are significantly profitable. In fact, the data shows that customers making sizable returns generate the greatest profit,” Abbey concluded. “Instead of considering all returns as a failure or undesirable outcome, there’s an opportunity to tailor your return options for customer’s needs as a means to form a long-term, profitable relationship.”

ABOUT MAYS BUSINESS SCHOOL

At Mays Business School, we step up to advance the world’s prosperity. Our mission is to be a vibrant learning organization that creates impactful knowledge and develops transformational leaders. Mays Business School educates more than 6,400 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its programs and for faculty research.

Categories: Center for Retailing Studies, Centers, Featured Stories, Mays Business, News, Research, Texas A&M, Uncategorized

Ten students in the Aggie Advertising Club competed in the 2018 American Advertising Federation-Houston student conference and competition Nov. 2-3.

Nearly 100 students from four different states gathered to compete in a day-long advertising campaign competition for Mattress Firm. In addition to creating an integrated multi-media advertising campaign, students were assigned to teams with participants from different schools, rather than just working within the institution they came with. Team pairings were based on each student’s respective backgrounds and strengths. Within just 6 hours, teams had to complete their project and deliver their results.

Out of the 11 teams, Aggie Advertising Club members Christina Maunder, Skyler Watrous, and Krystalyn Geiser led their teams to first, second and third place respectively.

The following day of the conference consisted of resume reviews and panel discussions from industry professionals. Lisa Troy, campaign advisor to the students, attended these presentations and a faculty tour of Deuster and Black Sheep Agency.

Categories: Faculty, Featured Stories, Marketing, Mays Business, News, Students, Texas A&M

COLLEGE STATION, Nov. 5, 2018 – Full-Time MBA student Stephen Haworth helped lead his team to first place at the PepsiCo case competition at TCU from Oct. 26-27.

Haworth was randomly placed into a team of MBA students from other schools and programs. The teams had Friday night to meet one another and had the first half of Saturday to prepare the case given to them by PepsiCo. The second half of Saturday was devoted to presenting the results each team came up with. These presentations were given to PepsiCo executives.

On Saturday evening, results were announced. Stephen Haworth and his colleagues from Columbia, Vanderbilt, and TCU were given first prize for their efforts on the case. Haworth and his teammates were awarded $7,000 for their work on the case.

About the competition

This is the fourth MBA case competition held at TCU through a partnership with the Neely School of Business and PepsiCo. PepsiCo judges included vice president of finance Ralph Goedderz, senior vice president and CFO Stefano Sartoretti, vice president of financial planning Jim Hathaway, senior director of eCommerce Kyle Gore, and senior marketing manager Hana Golden.

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Media contact: Kelli Reynolds, Communications Specialist, Mays Business School,

(979) 845-3167, kreynolds@mays.tamu.edu

Categories: Featured Stories, Mays Business, MBA, News, Students, Texas A&M

By Jacob Billings ’19, accounting and MIS

Grant Thornton LLP’s CEO Mike McGuire is looking for three things in today’s professional services leaders – curiosity, career focus, and courage.

McGuire noted the accounting industry is rapidly changing, thanks to digitization. Clients are beginning to expect substantive contributions immediately even from entry-level staff.

McGuire was invited to speak at Mays by Dean Eli Jones as part of the school’s Transformational Leader Speaker Series. He was the focus of a roundtable discussion with students that was led by Professional Program in Accounting Director Mike Shaub. He also met with key leaders at Mays. …Read more

Categories: Accounting, Executive Speakers, Featured Stories, Mays Business, News, PPA, Texas A&M

The Center for Retailing Studies at Texas A&M University will host the 20th annual M.B. Zale Visionary Merchant Lecture Series at 12:40 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 9.

The lecture will follow a presentation of the M.B. Zale Visionary Merchant Award to 2018 honoree Arch “Beaver” Aplin III ’80, president and founder of Lake Jackson-based Buc-ee’s stores.

After earning his degree from Texas A&M in 1980, Aplin opened his first Buc-ee’s in 1982. His intention was to build the Buc-ee’s brand methodically, with a goal to become the best convenience store available for service and selection. Today, Buc-ee’s enjoys a cult-like following of enthusiastic customers who make stopping for Beaver Nuggets and clean restrooms part of the family vacation.

In an era when many retailers are closing stores, Buc-ee’s is expanding beyond its Texas footprint into Alabama and Florida. Its enormous “travel centers” near 70,000 square feet, dwarfing typical 3,000-square-foot convenience stores.

The M.B. Zale Visionary Merchant Lecture Series, held at Mays Business School, highlights the role of innovation in the success of retail businesses.

Established in 1998, this annual lecture series honors creative merchandising in today’s marketplace. The series also serves to recognize the late M.B. Zale as a legendary retailer, a visionary businessman and esteemed philanthropist.

The speaker chosen to present this lecture epitomizes the leadership, service philosophy and creativity demonstrated by M.B. Zale.

Past honorees include Maxine Clark, founder of Build-A-Bear; Blake Nordstrom, president of Nordstrom; Karen Katz, former president and CEO of Neiman Marcus Group; and Rodney Faldyn ’88, former CEO and president of Academy Sports + Outdoors.

The event is open to the public.
RSVP: crs@mays.tamu.edu

For media inquiries, contact avernon@mays.tamu.edu.

Categories: Alumni, Center for Retailing Studies, Featured Stories, Former Students, Marketing, Mays Business, News, Texas A&M, Uncategorized

(Read a comprehensive story about the conference)

By Bill Peel, Executive Director of Innovation & Strategic Planning

It’s impossible to anticipate the dynamic of being one of five men in a room filled with 400 enthusiastic,  energetic women eagerly anticipating the lessons to be gleaned from a conference titled “From Bossy to Transformational.” That’s exactly the situation I found myself in as I attended the second annual Mays Business School “Women’s Leadership Initiative” conference.

To say that I came with preconceptions about this forum would be a gross understatement. Yet, as I peered through the “looking glass” into the world of women in leadership, I was enveloped by the challenges women face in leadership roles – challenges that are unique and uncommon to their male counterparts. I left with an enlightened respect for a woman’s leadership journey and the manner in which I could better interface with women in the workplace. I also left with leadership lessons applicable to my own career.

Julie Lenzer ’88 challenged the conference participants to get out of their comfort zones, go someplace they’ve never imagined, and follow the thread that will weave their career path. She reminded us that we never know who’s following our careers and the impressions we will make with our actions. I smiled as she noted to “beware of saying something out loud, as it might just prompt your next career move.” It was disappointing, yet realistic, to be reminded that “men can make women feel uncomfortable” in the workplace, vowing to increase my sensitivity to this tendency in myself. The point that resonated the loudest was not to “spend our lives ‘shoulding’ on ourselves.” That one hit home!

Janeen Judah ’81 focused her comments on the three E’s that frame our journey from tactical to transformational leadership – excellence, endurance, and empowerment. She reminded participants to “have a specialty people know us for, finding something we like and becoming good at it.” Be open to new experiences and don’t become rigid in our career plan. Her emphasis on the power of people was vividly displayed as conference participants exchanged contact information and broadened their network. She challenged us to “keep the ladder down, helping those behind us,” reminding me of the importance of being a coach and mentoring someone else along the way, possibly even someone we met that day. Judah cautioned women not to say “yes” to everything, as it causes them to burn out.  She also challenged women to brag about themselves and learn how to tell their own story, noting that “if you don’t know it, no one else will.” That one got a star in my meeting notes!

The lunch panel was a rapid-fire exchange of tips on issues and opportunities facing women as transformational leaders. Men are simply unaware of the “cycle of weariness” that women face as they are not only leaders, but also wives and mothers. It’s true that “a woman’s work is never done.”

Communication and presentation skills were common themes as the panelists implored women to “learn to brag on themselves” and “be ready to present at a moment’s notice.” It was interesting to learn that women often lead with “I think” or “I feel” when men seek direct communication. Authenticity and confidence were tips offered to elevate the perception of women’s leadership acumen.

The power-packed day ended with Shantera Chatman ’98’s presentation and role playing on negotiation. She stressed the power of self-worth and the ability to “quiet the inner voices” that distract us. “Every time you have a crucial conversation, it gets easier,” Chatman noted, as she blended hints with humor to engage the audience. A member of my table thrust her hand high in the air when there was a call for volunteers. The young professional, a mere six months into her career, was hungry for the tips that would empower her to be a better negotiator and self-advocate. It was so rewarding to feel the energy and see the impact the day had made on her and the other women leaders in the room.

The view through the “looking glass” was both convicting and compelling. It revealed a day filled with energy, engagement, enthusiasm, and excitement. And this appreciative male participant left with a new perspective of the challenges women face and the value women leaders bring to our organizations.

Categories: Diversity and Inclusion, Featured Stories, Former Students, Mays Business, News, Programs, Students, Texas A&M, Women's Leadership Initiative