Service characteristics

May 28, 2007 0 comments

Intangibility

Service characteristics include intangibility, inseparability, perishability, heterogeneity and ownership. Services are intangible in that they cannot be touched like goods. Precise standardisation is therefore difficult to establish, as services cannot be examined prior to purchase. The prospective customer can only rely on evidence of past performance; this will establish a range of expectations of the benefits to be received from the provider. When designing a service package it is essential to consider the range of customer valued benefits that would differentiate the venture from competing goods or service packages. The total customer experience must be considered by designers of 'Pure Goods' to identify ways of enhancing their total offering by including some form of intangible benefits. This means removing barriers to enable customers to access the goods, or to maximise performance, or maintain and extend productive life of the goods. Activities such as product information and demonstration, application advice, training, clear 'user friendly' manuals and parts lists, maintenance advice, user 'hot lines', rapid delivery, certified performance, just in time supply, quality assurance, all add to the range of intangible benefits which create expectations of excellence. (Palmer, 1994)

At the other extreme designers of 'Pure Services’ must identify ways to provide tangible evidence so those customers perceive that they will get, or have received, a valuable service. As perception of service quality is often objective as well as subjective the evidence may include the corporate identify, livery, presentation, premises, certification consumables etc. Service providers must therefore consider the customers' expectations of the total service package. (Berry et al, 1990)

Inseparability

Because it is difficult to separate the server from the service process the attitude, appearance, personality, ability and reliability of the server will combine during the service process and create customer perceptions concerning the quality of service. The server is often seen as the service and variations can occur between individuals performing similar tasks as well as by the same individual performing the same task at different times. This means that all members of the team should fully understand not only the mission of the business, but also the policies governing their behaviour to both customers and other members of staff. They need to understand and adhere to agreed operational procedures to ensure that the level of service that they provide is both effectively and efficiently performed consistently (Thomas, 1995).

Perishability

Service can only occur when the customer demands it. Services cannot be produced beforehand and then stored. Every service provision is different due to the combination of circumstances at that time. This means that service providers need to interpret situations then immediately act. Users of services tend to remember the bad elements long after the event while the feeling of satisfaction tends to decay rapidly (Peters and Austin, 1985).

Heterogeneity

The heterogeneity of service customers can present problems as it is not always possible to customise at will therefore it is often necessary to screen customer groups to focus on effective provision of service for a frame of characteristics. The wide range of characteristics of service customers are conditioned by their variety of backgrounds, status, origins, peer groups, personal environment, wealth, intelligence, disablement and understanding. This is further complicated by irrational behaviour that may be emotional, traumatised or just purely idiosyncratic. Against these conditions it is often difficult, or even impossible to achieve a standardised output. Even though standard systems exist, and are mandatory, staff may experience difficulties in presenting them consistently. The quality of service is determined completely by the individual who deals with the customer. Designers can condition customers' expectations by providing clear messages about the range of products and services offered by the business through advertising and promotion.

Ownership

Ownership, or the lack of it, is a basic difference between the provision of services and goods. Customers buying goods can keep them and use them, as they require. Service customers on the other hand may gain advantage from a service but never own it. Therefore the customer who buys goods will receive satisfaction through ownership while the customer of a service will gain satisfaction by accessing the use of the service at the required location, time and duration necessary (Palmer, 1994).

The characteristics throw up issues about empathy, assurance, reliability, cost effectiveness, responsiveness, competence, access, courtesy, communication, credibility, security, understanding and knowing the customer, and the provision of tangibles (Berry et al, 1990; Palmer, 1994)

Posted by Lisa
Categories: Business Entrepreneurship

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