• Ajay Mohan

What is Services marketing?

A service is an act of labor or a performance that does not produce a tangible commodity and does not result in the customer’s ownership of anything. Its production may or may not be tied to a physical product. Thus, there are pure services that involve no tangible product (as with psychotherapy), tangible goods with accompanying services (such as a computer software package with free software support), and hybrid product-services that consist of parts of each (for instance, restaurants are usually patronized for both their food and their service).

Services can be distinguished from products because they are intangible, inseparable from the production process, variable, and perishable. Services are intangible because they can often not be seen, tasted, felt, heard, or smelled before they are purchased. A person purchasing plastic surgery cannot see the results before the purchase, and a lawyer’s client cannot anticipate the outcome of a case before the lawyer’s work is presented in court. To reduce the uncertainty that results from this intangibility, marketers may strive to make their service tangible by emphasizing the place, people, equipment, communications, symbols, or price of the service. For example, consider the insurance slogan “You’re in good hands with Allstate.”

Services are inseparable from their products because they are typically produced and consumed simultaneously. This is not true of physical products, which are often consumed long after the product has been manufactured, inventoried, distributed, and placed in a retail store. Inseparability is especially evident in entertainment services or professional services. In many cases, inseparability limits the production of services because they are so directly tied to the individuals who perform them. This problem can be alleviated if a service provider learns to work faster or if the service expertise can be standardized and performed by a number of individuals or in some cases by software that the consumer purchases or uses online for a fee (as H&R Block, Inc., has done with its network of trained tax consultants and its tax-return software packages and online tax-return service).

The variability of services comes from their significant human component. Not only do humans differ from one another, but their performance at any given time may differ from their performance at another time. The mechanics at a particular auto service garage, for example, may differ in terms of their knowledge and expertise, and each mechanic will have “good” days and “bad” days. Variability can be reduced by quality-control measures. These measures can include good selection and training of personnel and allowing customers to communicate dissatisfaction (e.g., through customer suggestion and complaint systems) so that poor service can be detected and corrected.

Finally, services are perishable because they cannot be stored. Because of this, it is difficult for service providers to manage anything other than steady demand. When demand increases dramatically, service organizations face the problem of producing enough output to meet customer needs. When a large tour bus unexpectedly arrives at a restaurant, its staff must rush to meet the demand, because the food services (taking orders, making food, taking money, etc.) cannot be “warehoused” for such an occasion. To manage such instances, companies may hire part-time employees, develop efficiency routines for peak demand occasions, or ask consumers to participate in the service-delivery process. On the other hand, when demand drops off precipitously, service organizations are often burdened with a staff of service providers who are not performing. Organizations can maintain steady demand by offering differential pricing during off-peak times, anticipating off-peak hours by requiring reservations, and giving or requiring of employees more flexible work shifts.

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