Services play an increasingly important role in the US economy. Adding services can be an important strategy for manufacturers looking to differentiate themselves from the competition. However, it’s important to realize that marketing these services should be approached differently from marketing products.
Services Are Different
A product provides benefits to the user because of what it does, its functions and physical characteristics. On the other hand, a service is intangible. A service can be:
- An intangible act, such as legal services, financial services, education, medical care, or consulting, just to name a few.
- An activity performed by the service provider that requires the presence and involvement of the customer. For instance, a medical procedure, a hair cut, fitness training. The customer must to be present and involved in the process, in one way or another.
- An activity applied to someone’s business, home, or other possessions. For instance, lawn care, car repair, house painting, dry cleaning, or janitorial services.
Key Characteristics of Services
Services Are Intangible – Services are intangible, products are tangible. A service has no physical size, shape or weight. You can experience a service or see the end results of a service, but the service itself cannot be touched.
Services Are Performed, not Produced – A service is an activity performed by people. Tools and equipment may be used in the service delivery, but the personal activity is essential. There may be a tangible component to the service, e.g., a lawyer producing a legal document, a dentist putting in a crown, but the personal activity is critical to the service delivery.
Services Are Delivered, Distributed and Consumed Simultaneously – Typically, service delivery, distribution and consumption all happen seamlessly and at the same time. There is no clear distinction between these stages, nor is there typically a time delay.
Services Are Customized – A service is always tailored to a specific customer, their particular needs and situation. Unlike products that are usually mass produced to a common standard, services are not ‘cookie-cutter’, standard solutions.
Services Cannot Be Stocked – It’s impossible to create an inventory of services prior to delivery. You can’t create an inventory of root canal treatments, equipment repair.
Services Cannot Be Returned or Undone – Once a service has been provided, it cannot be undone or returned. You cannot undo a haircut, a paint job, a surgical procedure, or legal advice. If the service was not done properly or if the customer is not satisfied, the provider can attempt to remedy the situation, but the initial work cannot be erased.
Service Delivery Is Highly Dependent on People – The quality of the service depends on the skills, training, experience, and attitudes of the people providing the service. Often, the customer is a direct participant in the process. For example, you cannot have a surgical procedure done without being present. The customer’s ability and willingness to play their role in creating the service has an impact on the outcome.