“Service Product”

Intangibility of Service: In order to understand as to what difference this increasing orientation to service is going to make in the production/operation decisions, one ought to understand as to what the ‘services’ are all about . One distinguishing feature about any service is that it is not tangible like the physical goods. This implies that a service is mostly ‘felt’ i.e. it is mostly a characteristic connected with the mind or psychology of the persons.

This characteristic regarding service has tremendous implications regarding the ‘quality’ aspects of a service. In other words, the service quality cannot be measured wholly by physical specifications alone. In the control of quality of the physical goods, it was assumed that a complete hold over the product specifications was all that was required in order to offer consistent quality to the customer. But now, consumer’s/customer’s mind comes into the evaluation of the quality of a product, as much as the product’s physical characteristics.

Thus, the ‘service product’ consists of:

1. Physical items or facilitating goods.
2. Sensual benefits or explicit services, and
3. Psychological benefits or implicit services.

For a passenger airline, the physical items consist of the aircraft itself – including its capability to transport the person quickly to the desired destination. Thus, the experienced pilots and engineers also form a part of the physical component of this ‘service product’.

The sensual benefits consist of good food, good taste of wine, beautiful polite, friendly and always cheerful air-hostesses. The cushy seats combined with the beautiful sights of pretty/handsome people, melodious music of your choice right at your seat, a good movie if you care to watch (not being disturbed by the sound, in the case a passenger desires to sleep), all add up to the sensual benefits.

The psychological benefits consist of a feeling status (e.g. traveling by Concord – an exclusive experience), a feeling of being looked after and cared for, a feeling of safety and dependability, and a feeling of being acknowledged as an important person (through the behavior of the air-hostesses, stewards and the captain – who greets a passenger even during the middle of the journey and offers information on the mountain range below, the city that passed, the height and speed at which the aircraft is flying etc. This gives a feeling to the passenger as though he is an overlord of these natural as well as man-made creations.

All the three components are important. In most airlines the type of aircraft, the frequency and the destination covered will be comparable and therefore, the latter two components may make the difference between the service products of one airline from that of another. That is the reason why various airlines keep advertising the sensual and psychological benefits they offer. Singapore Airlines have concretized these benefits into a symbol viz. the ‘Singapore Girl’ – an embodiment of gentle, courteous service by a gracious, charming, helpful hostess. “Singapore Girl” became their unique selling proposition. In 1979-80, Singapore Airlines’ advertisement presented the Singapore Girl as a mysterious world traveler.

Thus, traveling by Singapore Airlines became a poetic, mysterious, ethereal and romantic venture.

Customer’s View:

Of course, while designing the package of the service product, one must first try to fathom as to what the customers really expect. For example, for Boston-New York shuttle flights all that the customers expect is that there should be frequent flights to ferry them quickly from Boston to New York or vice versa. Thus, frequency, quickness, timeliness, ‘no waiting in the line’ and reliability to ferry are the important attributes. There is not much point in offering ethereal experiences when the needs and expectations are very or mundane.