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Carroll School of Management Graduate Programs

Prof. Kay Lemon: “Working at BC is a Blessing”

Top researcher makes lasting contributions to marketing research and practice

Accenture Professor of Marketing Katherine (Kay) Lemon, Ph.D.
Accenture Professor of Marketing Katherine (Kay) Lemon, Ph.D.

November 15, 2011

Accenture Professor of Marketing Katherine (Kay) Lemon, Ph.D. is a successful academic and prolific researcher in the Boston College Carroll School of Management. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on dynamic customer relationship management, customer equity, customer value creation, marketing strategy and marketing ROI.

Early starts
While Lemon’s academic career is extensive, her interest in customer retention started very early. Lemon grew up in eastern Connecticut and northern California where her father worked in marketing and retailing for department stores around the country. Every evening, store managers called their house to report how well or how poorly they did in sales that day. Lemon always took those calls, relaying the messages to her dad. “This was my early start into researching customer retention, services and marketing," Lemon laughs. "My dad’s work focused on bringing customers back and generating repeat business for his stores — essentially he was my first mentor."

Lemon went on to pursue a master’s degree in business administration from Wichita State University in Kansas and hold several senior marketing executive positions for a Silicon Valley high-tech venture and a health care company. She never really set out to become an academic, she says. Then, one year, when high-end (and very high-priced) sneakers produced by big brands  became extremely popular, people became violent with one another just to own a pair. Although recognizing the positive influences of marketing, Lemon began to worry about the negative influence marketing can have on society. Her husband suggested she do something about it by getting her doctorate and becoming a marketing professor. She could then influence how people think about and practice marketing through her teaching and research. "As usual, he had good advice and (this time) I followed it,” she says.

Working for the Carroll School

Lemon secured her doctorate in marketing from the Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley. After teaching at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University and Harvard University Graduate School of Business, Lemon joined the faculty at the Carroll School. She was most attracted to the program’s strong values, the great research environment and excellent students, she says. Additionally, she enjoys sharing the Boston College experience with her son, who graduated in 2008 with a bachelor's degree in theology and philosophy. "I just love walking in across the quad to work. I get the feeling that every day is a new day.”

Teaching at Boston College is extremely rewarding, especially hearing from students after graduating. “Students often report that they are using much of what they learned in my class in their current jobs. Or they ask me to send them copies of my lectures on customer relationship management so they can share the ideas with their colleagues and implement them in their organizations. It feels wonderful,” she says.   

In addition to teaching, Lemon is editor-in-chief for the Journal of Service Research, the premier research journal focusing on service. In this role, she is responsible for publishing 30 out of more than 300 submitted manuscripts each year. Services represent more than 70% of all developed economies in the world, which makes this an exploding area of research.

A Rewarding and Growing Field of Research

Lemon continues to feel rewarded by her research. She is frequently published in top-tier marketing journals and wins copious awards for her work. In 2009 she received the prestigious Sheth Foundation/Journal of Marketing Award for her article “Return on Marketing: Using Customer Equity to Focus Marketing Strategy.” This award honors articles that have made long-term contributions to the discipline of marketing.

This semester Lemon is speaking on customer relationship management and on the future of service research at various Australian universities in addition to working on four new research papers exploring how to understand and manage customer engagement. "I feel blessed to have found an area of research that I love, that enables me to make contributions to the theory and practice of marketing,” she says. "I also feel fortunate to teach such excellent students, work with talented colleagues and to hear back so regularly from my graduates. That’s why we do this."