Online MBA Students Make Marketing Inroads Via Voice of the Customer

MBA Faculty Dr. Greg Rich at BGSU

Bowling Green State University business professor Dr. Greg Rich turned to an old friend, Scott Habegger, to bring a new approach to students in his MBA 6050: Marketing Management and Strategy course.

“I thought it would be interesting to bring in an executive with all of this experience and share with the class,” Dr. Rich said. “We built a project around it, and the students seemed to get a lot out of it.”

Habegger retired as director of portfolio and strategy management after more than 24 years at Harley-Davidson in January 2019. Throughout his experience, he created a lecture called Voice of the Customer that he has shared with Dr. Rich’s students for two semesters.

“You can get all kinds of formal research, which is valuable, but I get into the nuances of some of the behind-the-scenes things that can happen at a company with the virtue of keeping the customer at the forefront,” Habegger said of walking students through his real-world examples.

Dr. Rich loves his students’ response to the lecture and the class project based on it. Last spring, his students did Voice of the Customer projects on Starship Technologies’ food delivery robots on campus and a local arts and music festival in Bowling Green.

“They came up with a lot of good ideas,” he said. The project requires students to talk to the customers, industry experts, and people behind the company. Putting these findings together and making recommendations is part of the assignment too.

“Scott’s process of trying to put yourself in the shoes of the customers and understand the benefits that they get out of it sounds pretty simple, but it’s a neat concept that does not naturally happen without learning about it,” said Dr. Rich.

The Path to Academia

Teaching was not on Dr. Rich’s radar after he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Indiana University in 1985.

“I went to medical school for three months, didn’t like it and dropped out,” he said. “I went into advertising, which was my first job, for four years. Then, I went back to IU for an MBA. I liked school so much that I stayed for the Ph.D. and taught as a graduate assistant.

“I thought teaching sounded like a great job. My research is in the area of sales management and leadership, so I wrote a textbook in sales management and always teach that undergraduate course at BGSU.”

Dr. Rich landed an assistant professor position at BGSU in 1995 — the same year he graduated with a Ph.D. Since then, he has witnessed the Allen W. and Carol M. Schmidthorst College of Business grow by leaps and bounds and transition to the online era. He overcame his initial hesitation with the virtual platform by learning to adapt.

“I have now been teaching online for five years,” he said. “This is the first time I have ever taught the MBA class online. I can bring in guest speakers like Scott from Milwaukee on Zoom, which is cool. The students in the program are very motivated. If you are motivated, you get a lot out of the online format, for sure.”

Revving Up

Dr. Rich and Habegger are from the same town, Berne, Indiana, and they were college roommates who once took turns waiting in line for four days for John Mellencamp concert tickets.

“We go way back,” Habegger said. “When I was putting Voice of the Customer together, I told him this was something I could train companies on. He thought it would be a great lecture for his marketing classes. I loved that.

“I hadn’t set it up as a course — it was more of a seminar. [Dr. Rich has] taken it to the next level and turned the lecture into a case study for the students. The feedback from the students was outstanding. They got a whole different perspective of marketing to customers.”

Habegger has presented the same lecture at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and will do so at the Milwaukee School of Engineering soon. He hopes to turn the methodology into a book based on his experience in the corporate world.

“I have kept in touch with Scott over the years, and I am impressed with his career,” Dr. Rich said. “After he retired, he had a little bit of additional time, so I asked him if he would share his insights with the class. It has worked out great.”

Dr. Rich said his entire family has embraced Bowling Green over the last 25 years. His wife, Linda, is a librarian at the university, while their sons — John (28), Phillip (25) and Brett (21) — all graduated from or attend BGSU.

“We didn’t necessarily expect to be here so long when we came,” he said. “It’s a great college town that we love. It’s been a great job.”

After two semesters of Voice of the Customer lectures and projects, Dr. Rich plans to continue to bring Habegger back to make the presentation in his Marketing Management and Strategy course. It’s a win-win for the longtime friends and the MBA students at BGSU.

“The digital marketing that is happening is amazing and interesting,” he said. “It’s a lot to keep up with. I have been a professor forever. It’s important to bring in the industry experts like Scott who are at the cutting edge to keep my class modern. That’s why I do it.”

Learn more about BGSU’s online MBA programs.

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