Experiences from a research visit in the USA

Sunny greetings from LA! When I received a grant for research exchange visit from Foundation for Economic Education in November 2019, I was excited! The last time I had been on a research visit was to Atlanta, USA in 2013 and it had remained in my mind as a great and memorable experience. I quickly started planning a new visit for autumn 2020, but COVID-19 decided otherwise. My plans changed and the visit was postponed several times until finally this September I was on a plane and on my way to Los Angeles.
A large lawn area with couple of big trees and a few people sitting under the shade of the trees. The university building shows on the right.

The target university of the research visit is Loyola Marymount University, College of Business Administration (CBA) in LA. I had originally planned a research visit to a different university, but due to the two-year postponement caused by pandemic, my original contact person had already retired, and I had to make new plans for the visit.

One important criterion for choosing CBA was the fact that it is ranked as one of the best business schools in the USA. Even more important was that I found there a Professor of Marketing whose research interests were very similar to mine. In addition, she had published her research in top ranked marketing journals such as Journal of Marketing. I contacted her and she kindly invited me as her guest. The fact that I had a grant ready for the visit made it much easier to make contact. The research collaboration with the Professor started effortlessly and will certainly continue in the future as well. Our research interests met immediately, and she has e.g. helped me collect research data in the USA, introduced me to her professor colleagues, invited me to CBA research seminars and overall promoted my research a lot.

A woman wearing pink t-shirt, black trousers and having a light pink bag on her shoulder, standing in front of a building next to a large rock that says 'Conrad N. Hilton Center for Business'.

The topic of my research is customer orientation in the context of digitizing health services, and it is related to the development of customer-centricity in Finnish health service organizations, especially in the public sector. The topic is very timely in the Finnish health service field, which is currently going through a transitional phase. The purpose of my research visit is to familiarize myself with digitizing health services and customer orientation in the United States because American health care is fundamentally different compared to Finland. Since health services are here mainly produced by private, profit-seeking organizations that compete for paying customers, customer orientation is built into the operations of these organizations, unlike in Finland, where public healthcare plays a central role.

During the visit, research data has been collected with the help of a qualitative survey (similar data has already been collected in Finland), in order to compare and understand differences in the manifestation of digitizing health services and customer orientation in Finland and USA. Based on this, the aim is to create an understanding of how customer orientation could be developed and improved in Finnish health service organizations. The data is currently being analyzed and hopefully several publications will be written about the topic in collaboration with professors at CBA.

My research visit is now a little more than halfway through and I am already more than happy that it finally came true. In addition to the fact that the visit is very important for my future research and career development, I have gotten to know the local culture and the incredible sights and experiences that LA and its surrounding areas have to offer. I can very warmly recommend research exchange visits to all my colleagues. It certainly requires effort in applying for grants and planning the trip, but it's definitely worth all the effort!


Docent, Associate Professor (Senior Research Fellow)
Department of Marketing, Management and International Business
University of Oulu