The Changing Face of Services Marketing

Marketing of Services has emerged as an important sub discipline of marketing in its own right. It has evolved phenomenally to emerge as a major field of study with far reaching implications in today’s increasingly service driven economies. It is then, only natural, to wonder what is the future course that this field of study is most likely to take.

At first glance, one can see that there are as yet many opportunities available for Services Marketing to evolve and gain in relevance as the role of the service economy continues to expand. A large chunk of Third World economies are now beginning to move into the service domain. The role and share of the service sector in these economies is growing with an increased monetization of services

However, there are several challenges also. There has been a change in the basic nature of services. Services, today, can no longer be described according to the parameters of - intangibility, heterogeneity, inseparability and perishability. These changes are detailed below:

  1. Intangibility: While services maybe intangible, the process of delivery and even the customer experience of the service is not necessarily so. Thus while service providers focus on pre purchase behavior they often fail to pay attention to customer experience during the process of service delivery, the nature of output (which may manifest in an observable physical change) or the learning outcomes of the delivery process.

  2. Heterogeneity: Heterogeneity of services is also not applicable to the services domain today. Across sectors and industries we see an increased pressure for standardization of services. This is being achieved in some instances through automation such as through ATM’s and vending machines. Even in cases where automation is not possible there is greater focus on standardizing the service delivery process by way of service scripts and strict adherence to service cycles. For example, most fast food outlets and quick service restaurants follow the & steps of the service cycle that starts with greeting the customer (using standard phrases) through to saying good bye.

  3. Inseparability: Even this criterion does not hold true for all services rendered. Inseparability implies that the production and consumption of services is simultaneous. Thus, consumers need to be present and/or involved in the production process. In reality however, there are several services that are separable. Example: insurance, repair and maintenance where production happens prior to consumption and the customers need not necessarily be present at the time the service is rendered. The same is witnessed in the phenomenon of outsourcing of services.

  4. Perishability: even though this is true for a lot of services, there are several notable exceptions. In today’s information era there are several information based services that can be recorded and saved in electronic media and reproduced on demand. Moreover, for greater clarity in this regard it is necessary to have a distinction between the perishability of productive capacity, of customer experience and of the output.

Thus the definition of services is not as clear cut as it was once assumed to be. Consequently this is one of the major challenges lying ahead for the field of Services Marketing.


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