The support services component includes repair and maintenance instructions, installation warranties, deliveries and the availability of spare parts. Many otherwise successful marketing programs have ultimately failed because like attention was given to this product component. Repair and maintenance are especially difficult problems in developing countries. In the United States a consumer has the option of company service as well as a score of competitive service retailers ready to repair and maintain anything from automobiles to lawn mowers. Equally available are repair parts from company owned or licensed outlets or the local hardware store. Consumers in a developing country and in many developed countries may not have even one of the possibilities for repair and maintenance available in the United States
In some countries the concept of routine maintenance or preventive maintenance is not a part of the culture. As a result, products my have to be adjusted to require less frequent maintenance and special attention must be given to features that may be taken for granted in the United States.
Literacy rates and educational levels of a country may require a firm to change a product’s instructions. A simple term in one country may be incomprehensible in another. In rural Africa, for example consumers had trouble understanding that Vaseline Intensive Care lotion is absorbed into the skin. Absorbed was changed to soaks into, the confusion was eliminated. The Brazilians have successfully overcome the low literacy and technical skills of users of the sophisticated military tanks it sells to Third world countries. The manufacturers include videocassette players and videotapes with detailed repair instructions as part of the standard instruction package. They also minimize spare parts problems by using standardized off the shelf parts available throughout the world. And, of course other kinds of cultural preferences come into play even in service manuals. For example, Japanese consumers actually read software manuals, some even find them entertaining and the manuals often include cartoon characters and other diversions.
Although it may seem obvious to translate all instructions into the language of the market many firms overlook such a basic point. Do Not step here danger or use no oil has little meaning to an Arab unfamiliar with the English language. And marketers are now facing a new challenge of this sort. The costs of a customer service cal center in the Philippines or India can be 10 percent of those in Omaha. Companies around the world like Delta Airlines and General Electric, are flooding such English speaking countries with call center business. Despite the fluent English of these new, less expensive employees all the cross cultural problems of angry American consumers talking to service representatives halfway around the world do crop up. Investments in training will be the key if the cost savings are to make up for the quality of services provided.
Marketing Consumer Services globally
Much of advice regarding adapting products for international consumer markets also applies to adapting service. Moreover, some services are closely associated with products. Good examples are the support services just described or the customer services associated with the delivery of Big Mac to a consumer in Moscow. However, many consumer services are distinguished by four unique characteristics – intangibility, inseparability, heterogeneity and perish ability – and thus require special consideration.
Products are often classified as tangible, whereas services are intangible. Automobiles computers and furniture are examples of products that have a physical presence; they are things or objects that can be stored and possessed and their intrinsic value is embedded within their physical presence. Insurance dry cleaning, hotel accommodations and airline passenger or freight service are intangible and have intrinsic value resulting from a process, a performance or an occurrence that exists only while it is being created.
The intangibility of services results in characteristics unique to a service: It is inseparable in that its creation cannot be separated from its consumption; it is heterogeneous in that it is individually produced and is thus unique; it is perishable in that once created it cannot be stored but must be consumed simultaneously with its creation. Contrast these characteristics with a tangible product that can e produced in one location and consumed elsewhere that can be standardized whose quality assurance can be determined and maintained over time, and that can be produced and stored in anticipation of fluctuations in demand.
As is true for many tangible products, a service can be marketed both as an industrial (business to business) or a consumer service depending on the motive of, and use by, the purchaser. For example, travel agents and airlines sell industrial or business services to a businessperson and a consumer service to a tourist. Financial services, hotels, insurance, legal services and others may each be classified as either a business or consumer service.
The product Component Model can be a useful guide in examining adaptation requirements of products destined for foreign markets. A product should be carefully evaluated on each of the three components for mandatory and discretionary changes that may be needed.