The transformation from an agricultural and manufacturing society to a service-based one traditionally brings massive growth to developed economies. For many of these developed countries, the production of goods is decreasing while services are becoming the largest segments of their economies.
Service marketing is different from other forms of marketing in that there is no tangible product to promote. Marketers must compel customers to take an interest in something they cannot see, touch or try. Because of these complexities, service marketing can be one of the most interesting courses to study in a Master of Business Administration in Marketing program.
Shifting the Focus
When marketing a service, certain traditional tactics can be difficult to apply — for example, the selection of images. Service marketers must persuade their target markets that their health will improve, their finances will get better or their flight will be more comfortable. As a result, the focus shifts from imagery to consumer experience.
Nothing Is Purely a “Good” or a “Service”
There are no purely tangible goods or pure services. Rather, goods usually include some type of services. Companies offer products using the “service imperative,” which refers to a key product feature: the service that comes with it — for example, 24-hour support for electronics. Goods come with services to differentiate products for greater market share.
Perceived Benefits and the Client Experience
Whether you develop a service marketing strategy for hospitality, financial or business services, your plan should consider the client experience. How clients feel during a service transaction is critical. Their experience depends on how providers deliver the service, the ideals they share with the provider and how they perceive value.
Clients’ cumulative experiences influence their overall business relationships with service providers. As a result, service marketing largely focuses on what happens during customer service interactions. It may seem difficult to assess the benefits of an intangible service since there is no item to hold, touch or use. To evaluate services, other senses come into play.
The overall experience with the service provider has a dramatic effect on how the customer perceives the benefits.
Many things influence customers when they visit a business. The noise level, decor, music, seating, clientele and temperature can all have an effect. These ambient details can increase the perceived benefits or improve the experience to secure customer loyalty. Starbucks proves this point with its customer experience model — the company’s success is not due only to its coffee!
In addition, service marketers assess the organization of the service and its delivery process. These intangibles can result in perceived benefits, such as quick and easy solutions, convenient ordering, friendly interactions with service providers or the opportunity to contribute to environmentally sustainable practices.
Meeting or Exceeding Expected Results
Customers’ desire for specific experiences can influence how they evaluate a service. When the mechanic fixes their car, they expect the car to start. When they pay for hairstyling, they want to look good. When they take a flight, they want to arrive safely. No matter how many benefits they perceive, the desired experience will always be the most important factor influencing future purchasing decisions or recommendations.
It follows that organizations must focus on the results their services provide. This involves plans that include social proof such as testimonials, case studies and word-of-mouth recommendations. Organizations can expand these approaches into their overall reputation management and other public relations strategies. Failure to meet expectations means that even one disappointed customer can undermine the efforts of the best service marketing.
Effective service marketing requires differentiating which tactics work well for products from those that work well for services. While the 4Ps (product, placement, promotion and pricing) are the key factors in product marketing, processes, personnel and physical surroundings play the most important roles in service marketing.
While customer experience and service benefits are vital considerations, meeting customers’ expectations will have the most significant effect on future purchasing decisions. As such, it should be a company’s primary focus.
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