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Executives with customer experience and firm performance in the B2B context

Cong Feng (Department of Marketing, University of Mississippi, University, Mississippi, USA)
Jiong Sun (Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA)
Yiwei Fang (Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, Illinois, USA)
Iftekhar Hasan (Fordham University, New York, New York, USA)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 8 March 2021

Issue publication date: 13 July 2021




This paper aims to examine the presence of an executive with customer experience (ECE) in a supplier firm’s top management team (TMT). The role of ECE presence remains understudied in the marketing literature. This study attempts to examine the relationship between ECE presence and firm performance.


This paper draws on the resource-based view of the firm and adopts a panel firm fixed effects estimator to test the proposed hypotheses. The empirical analysis uses a sample of 1,974 firm-year observations with 489 unique supplier firms. Selection-induced endogeneity is mitigated through the Heckman procedure.


ECE presence improves firm performance. Additionally, firms benefit less from ECE presence if a board member with customer experience (BCE) is also present, if a chief executive officer commands a higher pay slice (compared to other executives), and if a TMT is more functionally diversified. However, ECE presence is particularly beneficial if the overall economy is in contraction. Comparing the functional positions held by ECEs reveals that ECE in the marketing function (as a chief marketing officer) offers the largest benefit to an average supplier firm. ECE presence is also associated with other firm outcomes (e.g. bankruptcy odds, innovation and customer orientation).

Research limitations/implications

This study makes four contributions to the literature. First, this research contributes to existing studies that investigate marketing expertise in the upper corporate pyramid. Second, the study contributes to the burgeoning body of work across business disciplines that attempt to understand the impact of CxOs on firm performance. Third, the study contributes to the vast literature on customer orientation indirectly. Finally, this paper contributes to the broader literature studying the influence of board and TMT characteristics.

Practical implications

The findings are of particular importance to business-to-business firms. This paper shows that suppliers can benefit significantly from managers with customer experience. Four contingency factors moderate the relationship between ECE presence and firm performance. Among the various functional positions held by an ECE, the findings suggest that hiring an ECE for the marketing functional area is the most beneficial. ECE stands out as a better option for a company than BCE to improve firm performance. ECE presence is also associated with bankruptcy odds, innovation and customer orientation.


This paper provides the first empirical evidence regarding how ECE affects firm performance and also extends prior research on the value of human capital in TMT.



The authors gratefully acknowledge the helpful comments from the seminar participants at the Department of Marketing, University of Mississippi.


Feng, C., Sun, J., Fang, Y. and Hasan, I. (2021), "Executives with customer experience and firm performance in the B2B context", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 55 No. 7, pp. 1805-1840.



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