Achieving Differentiation – Services

Service marketers too have to take to differentiation if they have to escape price competition and achieve big growth just as product marketers. Service marketers can develop differentiation by following anyone or the other preferably all of the routes mentioned below.

* Differentiate the offer
* Differentiate the actual performance of the service on basis of:

(i) People providing the service.
(ii) The physical evidence involved in the service
(iii) The process involved in the service.

* Differentiate the image:

Differentiating the offer:

Service marketers can distinguish their offer from their competitor’s offers by including some special features. Many service marketers incorporate two components in their service offer, a primary package and a secondary package. In the primary package, they offer what customers normally expect as the baseline in the service; in the secondary package, they offer certain bonus features. Many airlines, for example, offer a secondary package, features such as extra comfortable seating, merchandise for sale on board and discount coupons for the mileage flown.

Differentiating the offer on the basis of speed:
It is obvious that speed is a vital element in a service offer. It is and integral part of service level/quality/standard. Both response time and actual service time are important. One can always improve a service by improving response time and actual service time. Service marketers can distinguish their service offer from competitor’s offers using the time dimension. First, the norms in this regard should be quantified and committed to the customers as a part of the service level/quality/standard. They can be worked out based on the nature/category of the service, number of customers in the given geographical area, types of breakdown that normally occur etc. The firm should ensure the required infrastructure and manpower form meeting the standard it has committed to the customers.

Example of Hotel Windsor manor:
Hotel Windsor Manor, Bangalore, India, for example, has committed half-an-hour as the execution time for room service orders and has created the wherewithal to stick to the committed standard. It has, in fact projected this service commitment prominently by informing the customers that they will not be required to pay the bills at all if their room service order is not executed within the stipulated interval.

Example of the Taj West End: The Taj West End, Bangalore, too differentiates its service using the time dimension.

Differentiation the Actual Performance of the service:

Service marketers can also achieve differentiation with the actual, service performance. They can do this by harnessing the three special elements of service marketing viz., (i) People, (ii) Physical evidence, and (iii) Process.

Differentiating on the basis of people:

Service marketers can differentiate on the basis of people. They can achieve it through steps such as:

(i) Improving the employees’ understanding of the needs of the customers.
(ii) Improving their credibility /trustworthiness and thereby providing the needed assurance to the customers.
(iii) Improving their responsiveness and willingness to help customers with promptness, caring, and individualized attention.
(iv) Improving their courtesy and communication.

Differentiating through the physical evidence of the service:

Service performance can also be differentiated through the physical evidence of the service. As we have seen, physical evidence will comprise the physical facilities involved in the service and the physical environment / atmospherics in which the service is provided. The physical facilities being more tangible, may serve the purpose better. The equipment used by a cardiologist is an example of such physical facilities. World-class equipment will impress the customers. As for the physical environment / atmospherics, features like décor, cleanliness, air conditioned comfort and friendly reception can be cited as example. All of them can serve as differentiators. The physical environment sends a silent and strong signal of the service quality.

Differentiating through the process:

The process involved in the production and delivery of a service, too, can be used as a differentiator. In a bank, the system used for customer’s movement in the pursuit and completion of his transactions, the way the bank staff accomplishes the tasks and the manner in which the papers flow will be parts of the process of service delivery. And, the process can serve as an effective differentiator.

In both the cases mentioned above, the attempt is basically to use the tangibles to differentiate the intangible.