College of Business and Innovation

Harvard Business Review article discusses COBI marketing professor’s research

Dr. Xi Zhang

A research paper co-written by UT College of Business and Innovation marketing professor Dr. Xi Zhang was the subject of a two-page feature in the March issue of the Harvard Business Review, widely considered to be the world’s most influential management magazine.

“Winning Back Lost Customers: How to target and appeal to the most likely returnees” is an article under the Idea Watch section of the Harvard Business Review. The article analyzes Dr. Zhang’s research article, “Regaining ‘Lost’ Customers: the Predictive Power of First – Lifetime Behavior, the Reason for Defection and the Nature of the Win-Back Offer” (co-authored by V. Kumar, Yashoda Bhagwat and Dr. Zhang)  which first appeared in the July, 2015 issue of Journal of Marketing.

Dr. Zhang started teaching at COBI in fall, 2015. He conducted the research which is the basis for the article while a Ph.D. student at Georgia State University.

“Businesses everywhere are interested in the subject of winning back customers,” Dr. Zhang said, “so we approached different companies and obtained cooperation from a telecommunications company to conduct randomized field experiments. Using the company’s data, we analyzed the consumption patterns of its customers, built advanced statistical models, and developed actionable and generalizable intelligence.”     

“It’s a long process, but this project was very meaningful as we helped an industry solve its real problems.   It is a great example of how to utilize analytics on a company’s marketing problems, and why a company should rely on data as they manage their customer relationships.”

“I see the potential bridge between data analysis and real business problems,” Dr. Zhang continued. “The process should start from problem recognition, followed by the use of techniques in problem solving and knowledge generation.”

Dr. Zhang said, “The article first appeared in the July, 2015 Journal of Marketing, then other media started to take notice of it.  We were asked to write an article for an academic blog by a Research Center of Arizona State University. It was then re-blogged on, which serves more than 80,000 visitors per month from 200 countries.   The post drew a lot of attention, including a comment from Dr. Michael Lowenstein, one of the two authors of a best-selling book on customer win-back. So we knew we had good content.”

“As early as one week after the HBR article, we could track that more people were reading our original, complete research article.” Dr. Zhang said.

“This article is drawing attention not just from academia, but also from people in industry as they gain insights and apply them to what they are doing,” he said. “It is a good thing. We don’t want our work to be buried.”

“The purpose of research is to solve real problems. I intend to continue to tackle more intense and relevant research projects, continue to educate the next generation of leaders and to apply what I have learned to solve problems that companies have.”

Dr. Zhang teaches courses in principles of marketing, e-commerce and digital marketing.  “I am impressed by Dean Gary Insch’s vision that COBI’s mission is to help students succeed. UT is a school where the faculty are close, help each other and they also put a lot of emphasis on student success. That appeals to me and is something I also value. And of course, I am also attracted by the UT campus, one of the most beautiful universities in the United States.”

Dr. Zhang currently serves on the editorial review board of the Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing.

The Harvard Business Review is published by Harvard Business Publishing, a wholly owned subsidiary of Harvard University. 

Last Updated: 6/24/19