Raymond Fisk is Professor and Chair of Marketing at Texas State University. In 2016, he was selected as the inaugural SIG Leadership Award recipient, honoring his significant contributions to the SERVSIG and AMA's Special Interest Groups as a whole. In addition to founding the AMA's Services Marketing Special Interest Group, Professor Fisk was asked to serve on the Academic Council where he was an advocate for SIGs as well as a number of other initiatives.
Would you tell us about your childhood and how you ended up at Arizona State?
My childhood began in the small town of Yuma, Arizona, continued in small towns in Idaho, Nevada and New Mexico, but it ended in the very cosmopolitan Las Vegas, Nevada. As a high school student, Las Vegas was accidental preparation for studying customers in the service system they inhabit. For fun, my high school buddies and I would hang out in the many large Vegas casinos and people watch. We watched the amazing spectacle of people gambling for hours, almost always losing money, and still walking away smiling. People are remarkably strange!
My three college degrees are all from Arizona State University. I chose Arizona State because I wanted to become a lawyer, and I was impressed with their law school.
What attracted you to marketing as a discipline of study?
When I first took marketing, it was as a pre-law student steeped in the turbulent civil rights and anti-war unrest of the 1960s. I chose law because I wanted to help change the world into a fairer place for everyone. I thought the legal system was the way to do that. I knew virtually nothing about marketing, but I was immediately entranced by the fundamental power of persuasion. The legal use of force is the essence of the legal system, but marketers can’t force anyone to do anything. They can only attempt to persuade. It was then I decided that marketing had the power to be the most ethical system for influencing human behavior for the better. To my young mind, fairness required ethical behavior.
What was your amazing AMA experience?
My most amazing AMA experience happened accidentally. As the Internet was emerging, I met Charlie Hofacker and Chris Bonney (a business person and an AMA officer with the Professional Chapters). At the time, I was an AMA officer in the Academic Council. The three of us had never met in person, but we met via Market-L, which was an Internet e-mail discussion list Charlie had created. We became good friends via our many e-mail conversations about technology, the Internet, and the AMA. In June 1994, we decided to “Take the Bull by the Horns” and unofficially put the AMA on the Internet. Charlie wrote the html code and hosted the web site from his home Internet server. Chris and I persuaded the AMA practitioners and AMA educators to try it. I was then asked to officially chair the AMA Marketing Mix Taskforce in February 1995. Notably, the taskforce (Ray Fisk, Chris Bonney, Mike Etzel, Les Girolami, Charlie Hofacker, Jim Narus, and Peter Palij) never met in person and accomplished all of its work via the Internet in 48 days. We were the first virtual AMA taskforce. Our taskforce officially put the AMA on the Internet, and we helped pick the “ama.org” address before the American Medical Association could get it.
What do you love about SERVSIG?
As the founder of SERVSIG in 1993, it has been my great pleasure to observe and encourage the growth and success of the SERVSIG community. One of my decisions at the beginning was to write three rules for SERVSIG. I’m not a fan of formal rules because they tend to prevent progress. The rules I wrote were intended to enable progress. So, I wrote the rules in three words – open, flexible, and fun. We have demonstrated openness, flexibility, and fun in many ways. Perhaps, the most impactful examples are the SERVSIG Doctoral Consortium and the SERVSIG International Research Conference. The Consortium brings new service scholars from around the world to meet leaders of the service researcher community. The International Research Conference is hosted every other year by a different university, in a different city, and in a different country. Both events are light hearted, intellectually nourishing, and culture building.
What has been your most memorable publication?
In 1993, Steve Brown, Mary Jo Bitner and I published a Journal of Retailing article we titled “Tracking the Evolution of the Services Marketing Literature.” It was a synthesis of a bibliography of service literature, which I had done for the AMA and then updated electronically for ASU’s Center for Service Leadership. The three of us had great fun reviewing the literature, discussing the trends, and developing our evolutionary metaphor to describe the literature. We knew we were writing the first history of the literature, and it has been most gratifying that our work was well received by the service research community.
Was there a key person in your career?
Two marketing faculty at Arizona State changed my life. Ken Coney was the first. Ken taught a very difficult marketing course. My first exam grade from Coney was a C, but that humbling experience challenged me. Through hard work, I finished Coney’s class with an A. More importantly, I changed my major to marketing because of his inspiration. Steve Brown was the second mentor. He guest-lectured in a marketing class shortly after joining Arizona State, and I was so impressed that I asked him to be my undergraduate advisor. Not long after that, I took a marketing research class from Brown, which I found so thrilling that I decided I wanted to work in marketing research. Brown told me I should consider getting a master degree to be fully prepared. Coney told me the same thing. Both men strongly urged me to consider other universities for my graduate degree, and I did. Nonetheless, I decided the chance of finding two great mentors anywhere else was too low to pursue other universities. Six months into my MBA, Brown and Coney both encouraged me to consider getting my PhD in Marketing. Becoming a professor had not been on my planning horizon, but I quickly decided to pursue it. Once again, they encouraged me to consider other universities, and I chose to stay because of them. So, in nine years, I received three degrees and became a marketing professor.
What is the most fascinating journal article that you’ve read in the last 6 months and why did you find it so interesting?
Some journal articles set benchmarks for progress. Without doubt, the recent (2015) Journal of Service Research on "Service Research Priorities in a Rapidly Changing Context” by Amy Ostrom, Parsu Parasuraman, David Bowen, Lia Patrício and Chris Voss is just such an essential benchmark for future progress. All of the authors are esteemed service scholars and friends. They systematically develop research priorities that are a sequel to a major research priorities article just ten years before and also led by Amy Ostrom. It was fascinating to observe the similarities and differences between the two sets of priorities. As her dissertation co-chair just ten years ago, I was particularly pleased to immediately spot Lia Patrício’s contributions on service design.
What about you surprises new students and/or colleagues?
The “Oh Wow” story of my life is my whirlwind courtship and long-term love affair with my wife Jamie. We barely knew each other when we went on our first date on July 4, 1980. We were engaged on our fourth date (six days later) and married five weeks later on August 8, 1980. When I asked Jamie to marry me on July 10th, she laughed and said “What took you so long?” She told me that after the first date, she had decided I was going to ask her to marry me and that when I did, she would say “yes”.
Coffee or Tea? And how do you take it?
Coffee, black and strong. Strong flavors and strong-minded people make life much more meaningful!