When the physical product cannot easily be differentiated, the key to competitive success may lie in adding valued services and improving their quality. The main service differentiators are: ordering ease, delivery, installation, customer training, customer consulting, and maintenance and repair.
Ordering ease refers to how easy it is for the customer to place an order with the company. Baxter Healthcare has eased the ordering process by supplying hospitals with computer terminals through which they send orders directly to Baxter. Many banks now provide home banking software to help customers get information and do transactions and efficiently. Consumers are now able to order and receive groceries without going to the supermarket.
Delivery refers to how well the product or service is delivered to the customer. It includes speed, accuracy, and care attending the delivery process. Todayâ€™s customers have grown to expect delivery speed: pizza delivered in one-half hour, film developed in one hour eyeglasses made in one hour, cars lubricated in 15 minutes. Levi strauss, Benetton, and The Limited have adopted computerized quick response systems (QRS) that link the information systems of their suppliers, manufacturing plants, distribution centers, and retailing outlets. Cemex, a giant cement company based in Mexico, has transformed the cement business by promising to deliver concrete faster than pizza. Cemex equips every truck with a global positioning system (GPS) so that its real-time location is known and full information is available to drivers and dispatchers. Cemex is able to promise that if your load is more than 10 minutes late, you get a 20% discount.
Installation refers to the work done to make a product operational in its planned location. Buyers of heavy equipment expect good installation service. Differentiating at this point in the consumption chain is particularly important for companies with complex products. Ease of installation becomes a true selling point, especially when the target market is technology novices. For customers wishing to connect to the Internet using a high-speed digital subscriber line (DSL) , Pacific Bell developed installation kits that included an interactive software setup program so customers could complete their DSL setup in less than an hour.
Customer training refers to training the customerâ€™s employees to use the vendorâ€™s equipment properly and efficiently. General Electric not only sells and installs expensive X-ray equipment in hospitals; it also gives extensive training to users of this equipment. McDonaldâ€™s requires its new franchisees to attend Hamburger University in Oak Brook, Illinois, for two weeks, to learn how to manage the franchise properly.
Customer consulting refers to data, information systems, and advice services that the seller offers to buyers.
Maintenance and Repair
Maintenance and repair describes the service program for helping customers keep purchased products in good working order. Hewlett – Packard offers online technical support, or â€œe-supportâ€?, for its customers. In the event of a service problem, customers can use various online tools to find a solution. Those aware of the specific problem can search an online database for fixes; those unaware can use diagnostic software that finds the problem and searches the online database for an automatic fix. Customers can also seek online help from a technician.