DAA 2017: Harold de Bock, PhD’74

Harold de Bock’s developments in audience and customer loyalty research influenced multiple industries, media platforms and world regions — from media to customer contact, from broadcast to print, from the United States to Europe.

De Bock came to the United States from The Netherlands in 1971 to earn his Ph.D. in mass communications from Indiana University. During the 1972 presidential campaign, for his dissertation, he conducted one of the first field experiments that showed the impact of election poll results on electoral turnout and voter preference.

Upon returning to The Netherlands in 1974 after graduation, de Bock started work as an audience researcher at The Netherlands Broadcasting System. He later became its research director, responsible for all qualitative and quantitative radio and television research for the country’s many public broadcasters. He initiated the transition from paper diaries to people meters for television audience measurement.

In 1985, de Bock joined the Dutch commercial market research firm Inter/View as its director of media research and consultancy. He directed readership, circulation and advertising research for individual newspapers and magazines, as well as the country’s annual joint-industry print media research survey.

For Time magazine, de Bock developed the pan-European Media and Marketing Survey targeting Europe’s top 15 percent affluent audiences for international print and broadcast media. Thirty years, later, the survey is still the global standard.

Later in his career, de Bock specialized in customer loyalty research. He made Inter/View a major partner in the Indianapolis-based Walker Information Worldwide research network, on behalf of which he conducted large-scale, international customer loyalty research projects for multinational corporations around the world.

De Bock took his expertise to Hepworth Consultancy in 1997, working as research and consultancy director and establishing a research unit on customer loyalty and employee motivation. He pioneered techniques we now refer to as “data mining” and “big data” analysis.

The new unit was so successful that in 2000 it was acquired by MarketResponse, one of the largest market research companies in The Netherlands. MarketResponse made de Bock its research and consultancy director. His unit became the company’s largest and most profitable research entity.

De Bock was a leader in an industry-wide effort to improve communication quality of customer contact centers as key to customer loyalty in The Netherlands. He was a founder of the annual National Contact Center Benchmark Survey, which developed into the country’s Top 30 Contact Center program that exists today. He was the first and longest-serving chairman of the jury for the country’s National Contact Center Awards competition, known as the “Oscars” of customer contact. Upon retirement, he received the highest personal performance award at this ceremony. He also developed the Dutch quality standards for customer contact center certification.

For the last 10 years, de Bock has made trips to the U.S. to take long-distance “anthropological” solo rides across the country on his semi-antique Yamaha motorcycle. He also edits and writes for the Dutch Motorcycle Riders Action Group’s full-color magazine. He has covered more than 20,000 miles through more than 25 states, following the original itineraries of America’s first historical continental highways, including Route 66, the Dixie Highway, the Lincoln Highway, the Yellowstone Trail and the Great River Road. He blogs about his environmental observations and personal encounters while on the road.