A service is the action of doing something for someone or something. It is largely intangible (i.e. not material). A product is tangible (i.e. material) since you can touch it and own it. A service tends to be an experience that is consumed at the point where it is purchased, and cannot be owned since is quickly perishes. A person could go to a cafe one day and have excellent service, and then return the next day and have a poor experience. So often marketers talk about the nature of a service as:
Inseparable – from the point where it is consumed, and from the provider of the service. For example, you cannot take a live theatre performance home to consume it ( a DVD of the same performance would be a product, not a service)
Intangible – and cannot have a real, physical presence as does a product. For example, motor insurance may have a certificate, but the financial service itself cannot be touched i.e. it is intangible.
Perishable – in that once it has occurred it cannot be repeated in exactly the same way. For example, once a 100 metres Olympic final has been run, there will be not other for 4 more years, and even then it will be staged in a different place with many different finalists.
Variability – since the human involvement of service provision means that no two services will be completely identical. For example, returning to the same garage time and time again for a service on your car might see different levels of customer satisfaction, or speediness of work.
Right of ownership – is not taken to the service, since you merely experience it. For example, an engineer may service your air-conditioning, but you do not own the service, the engineer or his equipment. You cannot sell it on once it has been consumed, and do not take ownership of it.
Western economies have seen deterioration in their traditional manufacturing industries, and a growth in their service economies. Therefore the marketing mix has seen an extension and adaptation into the extended marketing mix for services, also known as the 7P’s – physical evidence, process and people.
Physical evidence is the material part of a service. Strictly speaking there are no physical attributes to a service, so a consumer tends to rely on material cues. There are many examples of physical evidence, including some of the following:
Paperwork (such as invoices, tickets and despatch notes)
Signage (such as those on aircraft and vehicles)
The building itself (such as prestigious offices or scenic headquarters)
Mailboxes and many others
Process – Part of the Marketing Mix
Process is another element of the extended marketing mix, or 7P’s.There are a number of perceptions of the concept of process within the business and marketing literature. Some see processes as a means to achieve an outcome, for example – to achieve a 30% market share a company implements a marketing planning process. Another view is that marketing has a number of processes that integrate together to create an overall marketing process, for example – telemarketing and Internet marketing can be integrated. A further view is that marketing processes are used to control the marketing mix, i.e. processes that measure the achievement marketing objectives. All views are understandable, but not particularly customer focused.
For the purposes of the marketing mix, process is an element of service that sees the customer experiencing an organisation’s offering. It’s best viewed as something that your customer participates in at different points in time. Here are some examples to help your build a picture of marketing process, from the customer’s point of view.
Going on a cruise – from the moment that you arrive at the dockside, you are greeted; your baggage is taken to your room. You have two weeks of services from restaurants and evening entertainment, to casinos and shopping. Finally, you arrive at your destination, and your baggage is delivered to you. This is a highly focused marketing process.
Booking a flight on the Internet – the process begins with you visiting an airline’s website. You enter details of your flights and book them. Your ticket/booking reference arrive by e-mail or post. You catch your flight on time, and arrive refreshed at your destination. This is all part of the marketing process.
At each stage of the process, markets:
Deliver value through all elements of the marketing mix. Process, physical evidence and people enhance services.
Feedback can be taken and the mix can be altered.
Customers are retained, and other serves or products are extended and marked to them.
The process itself can be tailored to the needs of different individuals, experiencing a similar service at the same time.
Processes essentially have inputs, throughputs and outputs (or outcomes). Marketing adds value to each of the stages. Take a look at the lesson on value chain analysis to consider a series of processes at work.
People and the Marketing Mix
People are the most important element of any service or experience. Services tend to be produced and consumed at the same moment, and aspects of the customer experience are altered to meet the ‘individual needs’ of the person consuming it. Most of us can think of a situation where the personal service offered by individuals has made or tainted a tour, vacation or restaurant meal. Remember, people buy from people that they like, so the attitude, skills and appearance of all staff need to be first class. Here are some ways in which people add value to an experience, as part of the marketing mix – training, personal selling and customer service.
All customer facing personnel need to be trained and developed to maintain a high quality of personal service. Training should begin as soon as the individual starts working for an organization during an induction. The induction will involve the person in the organization’s culture for the first time, as well as briefing him or her on day-to-day policies and procedures. At this very early stage the training needs of the individual are identified. A training and development plan is constructed for the individual which sets out personal goals that can be linked into future appraisals. In practice most training is either ‘on-the-job’ or ‘off-the-job.’ On-the-job training involves training whilst the job is being performed e.g. training of bar staff. Off-the-job training sees learning taking place at a college, training centre or conference facility. Attention needs to be paid to Continuing Professional Development (CPD) where employees see their professional learning as a lifelong process of training and development.
There are different kinds of salesperson. There is the product delivery salesperson. His or her main task is to deliver the product, and selling is of less importance e.g. fast food, or mail. The second type is the order taker, and these may be either ‘internal’ or ‘external.’ The internal sales person would take an order by telephone, e-mail or over a counter. The external sales person would be working in the field. In both cases little selling is done. The next sort of sales person is the missionary. Here, as with those missionaries that promote faith, the salesperson builds goodwill with customers with the longer-term aim of generating orders. Again, actually closing the sale is not of great importance at this early stage. The forth type is the technical salesperson, e.g. a technical sales engineer. Their in-depth knowledge supports them as they advise customers on the best purchase for their needs. Finally, there are creative sellers. Creative sellers work to persuade buyers to give them an order. This is tough selling, and tends to offer the biggest incentives. The skill is identifying the needs of a customer and persuading them that they need to satisfy their previously unidentified need by giving an order.
Many products, services and experiences are supported by customer services teams. Customer services provided expertise (e.g. on the selection of financial services), technical support(e.g. offering advice on IT and software) and coordinate the customer interface (e.g. controlling service engineers, or communicating with a salesman). The disposition and attitude of such people is vitally important to a company. The way in which a complaint is handled can mean the difference between retaining or losing a customer, or improving or ruining a company’s reputation. Today, customer service can be face-to-face, over the telephone or using the Internet. People tend to buy from people that they like, and so effective customer service is vital. Customer services can add value by offering customers technical support and expertise and advice.
Services Characteristics – the features of services that distinguish them from tangible products; these are intangibility, variability, inseparability and perishability. See Inseparability; Intangibility; Perishability; Variability.
Services Marketing – the marketing of intangible products, such as hairdressing, cleaning, insurance and travel.