Humanity Is the Focus for New Tobin Professor

Timothy Keiningham headshot

Timothy Keiningham, Ph.D., is ready to rock and roll—but not in the way he originally intended.

At one time, Dr. Keiningham dreamed of playing guitar in a rock band to sold-out crowds. Today, the New York Times bestselling author is delighted to serve as the new J. Donald Kennedy Endowed Chair in E-Commerce and Associate Professor in The Peter J. Tobin College of Business.

Embracing St. John’s mission, Dr. Keiningham incorporates Vincentian values in the Service Marketing and Marketing Management and Policies classes he teaches this semester. “I’m in this space to start a revolution,” he said. “I have students coming into my Service Marketing class twice a week who have transformed from passive consumers to individuals who realize, ‘Hey, what really matters is people.’ And that’s why I came here.”  

Imparting Wisdom through Professional Success

Dr. Keiningham, who began teaching here this fall, shares with his students many other life lessons he has learned through years of work and research in the field of service marketing and management. He most recently served as Chief Strategy and Client Officer at the marketing research firm Rockbridge Associates.

Before that, Dr. Keiningham worked for 17 years in senior positions at Ipsos, the world’s third largest market research firm. Ultimately, he became Global Chief Strategy Officer and Executive Vice President at Ipsos Loyalty, the world’s largest research and advisory firm specializing in customer satisfaction and loyalty. “That was enough,” he said. “I did everything I wanted.”

Well, almost everything, he added. “I felt it was time to change some lives. And I’m a part of that at St. John’s.”

Fostering Change through Research

Paralleling Dr. Keiningham’s industry success is his award-winning research in service management and marketing. His work has appeared in leading academic and management journals. He also has received awards including the Marketing Science Institute/H. Paul Root Award from the Journal of Marketing (twice); the Excellence in Service Research Award from the Journal of Service Research; and the Emerald Management Review’s Citations of Excellence “Top 50” Award (for the best management papers, from approximately 20,000 submissions in 2006).

Much of Dr. Keiningham’s research explores the concept of loyalty and its role in business. His interest stems from a conversation he had with his coauthor and mentor, Roland Rust, Ph.D., a distinguished professor at the University of Maryland. “I asked Roland why he focused on service research, a nascent field at the time,” Dr. Keiningham recalled. “He said, ‘I realized that if I could show managers how to win by doing the right thing, they would do it.’ It was a ‘road to Damascus’ experience for me: my work could make the world better in some small way.”

Dr. Keiningham has authored, edited, or coedited nine books—most recently, 2015’s The Wallet Allocation Rule, with Lerzan Aksoy, Luke Williams, and Alexander Buoye. Considered an innovative approach to boosting customer share, the book made the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists. He most enjoyed writing the 2009 Why Loyalty Matters: The Groundbreaking Approach to Rediscovering Happiness, Meaning, and Lasting Fulfillment in Your Life and Work. “Loyalty,” he said, “is essential to our happiness, and to a civil society.”

Dr. Keiningham is confident his students will help make society better. “At the end of every class,” he said, “I thank them for giving me an hour and 15 minutes of their life—and I shake each student’s hand. Looking at them, I see the future: ‘You will change the world,’ I tell them.”