Understanding the nature of the Service:
Understanding the nature of the service is the first task in services marketing. The nature of the service gives useful clues on benefits expected by customers from it. Though customer characteristics are also an important factor here, the nature of the service is the crucial factor. Service marketers have to therefore analyze the nature of the service and gain relevant insights on it.
Component Tasks in Service marketing:
* Understanding the nature of the service.
* Understanding the customer and his expectation of the service.
* Giving a shape to the service (developing the service product).
* Organizing delivery systems and creating channels/intermediaries
* Harnessing the special elements of service marketing
* Achieving differentiation
* Measuring service quality
* Monitoring customer satisfaction
As a starting point in understanding the nature of the service, the marketer should figure out what exact need is met by the service. It gives the basic clue to its nature. Some services are directed at people while others are directed at goods, though in the final analysis both aim at satisfying people. For example, entertainment is directed at people while dry cleaning is directed at goods (clothes). Again, out of the services directed at people, there can be three categories: Those directed at peopleâ€™s bodies, those directed at peopleâ€™s minds, and those directed at their bodies as well as minds. An analysis from this angle will give some additional clues on the nature of the service.
Whether the services are availed of as a recruiting/continuous requirement or as a one-time, or occasional, or intermittent requirement is another aspect that will throw some light on the nature of the service. Whether the service is provided at a single location or at multiple locations and whether the customer goes to the service provider or the latter goes to the former, and whether the service is more equipment dependent or people dependent are the other relevant aspects. The extent of intangibility will also help understand the nature of the service better. Services that stand at either end of the spectrum in this respect need different marketing approaches.
One can get useful insights on the nature of the services by looking at the nature of interaction that goes on between the service provider and the customer while the service is actually performed. Similarly, one can get such insights by studying the service process â€“ how the service is actually performed / delivered. Proportion of product inputs and pure service inputs in the service can also give clues about its nature.
Understanding the Customer and his expectation of the Service:
Service marketers must understand the customers well and correctly size up their expectations of the service. For this, they must obviously carry out a thorough customerâ€™s analysis. The important point is that customer analysis in a service context involves first-hand and not second- hand knowledge about the customers. The sales and service staff must be encouraged to make plenty of personal contacts with the customers and gather relevant first hand data on their requirements/expectations of the service.
Exit response from customer: Collection of exit response from the customer is one commonly used method of sizing up customer expectations and extent of gap in the service as per their perception. The response is often gathered though a questionnaire. Sometimes, the service provider talks personally to the customer. Airlines usually follow the first method, while hotels usually follow both the methods. Many hotels keep questionnaires in the rooms and elicit useful from the guests. However, in some situations, it may not be easy to obtain exit responses from customers. An in service response can be gathered in cases where an exit response be difficult to get.
Consumer care panels: Consumer care panel is another tool for understanding customer expectations. The panel helps the marketer to gather views of sample customers on key aspects of the service in a face-to-face talk. Properly handled, it can actually serve as the eyes and ears of the marketer. For a firm that newly enters a business, the panel will consist of potential customers and actual customers will be added subsequently. Consumer forums and bodies that register complaints can also be used for understanding/measuring customer expectations.