Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 23rd 2013 Contents BG14 VERBATIM
BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt MAY 2013 • WEEK FOUR
Service is one of the most used
terms in business organisation,
yet it is the least understood.
Too often services are offered
as merely icing on the cake,
the thanks for shopping or the
gifts redeemed at year end.
How often have you had your customers
standing in long lines waiting from minutes
to hours to be serviced, only to realise that at
the end their problem was never solved or
that staff could not care less for their problems?
Service is great when there are little or no
customer complaints. However, when com-
plaints are on the rise and repeat shoppers are
declining, how do you find the "real or true"
cause of the problem?
Why is this problem reflected in many
industries and businesses? Is it lack of interest
to provide a better experience for our cus-
tomers, frustration with staff or something
The starting point to addressing this problem
is that more businesses need to understand
the nature of the product they bundle with
the goods they sell. Service is more than "lip-
service" and must be treated as such.
Unlike tangible products that can be seen
and if at fault, a solution found, service is very
different. When a product fails, we try to
analyse why it failed, breaking it down into
its core components and characteristics and
attempt to refine each element until its better.
This is the reason why products are improved
and new and better versions appear on the
market. Would it not be nice if the same could
be done for firms services? Guess what? It
can be done and it starts with knowing the
service characteristics, that is, its basic ele-
Service possesses very unique characteristics
and if businesses want to improve the level
of services that they deliver to their target
market, they need to be very much aware of
Characteristics of services:
a) Non-ownership: many services are used,
consumed and, in many instances, cannot be
owned. For example, the service provided by
the sales clerk cannot be owned, only the
b) Inseparability: the act of the service cannot
be separated from the provider of the service.
The sales clerk cannot detach his or her service
and give it to the customer.
c) Perishability: services produced cannot
be stored and saved for another day. The sales
clerk can only provide the service when it is
needed. They cannot produce it ahead of time
or store it for consumption later by the cus-
d) Variability: since the main providers of
services are people the level of consistency
varies in relation to the individual and cir-
cumstances in which that individual provided
The quality of service provided by the sales
clerk varies depending on that person s skills
and aptitude for dealing with people. The level
of service can also change depending on how
that person s day started.
e) Intangibility: the service has no physical
manifestation other than the object attached
to the service itself. You cannot see the service
being produced but can experience the benefit
or discomforts of the service as it is con-
How service affects marketing
What, therefore, are the implications of this
for a business? The characteristics of the serv-
ices directly affect the marketing of the service.
To market a service and make the experience
more enjoyable for the consumer consider the
1. Make tangible the experience so that
consumers can see a physical manifes-
tation of your service, for example, company
uniforms, facilities, ambiance, etc.
Making the service tangible allows it to
become the responsibility of the staff, for
which they can be held accountable. This is
similar to staff being responsible for physical
stock and conducting a stock audit. If it s
invisible and intangible often, it becomes
nobody s responsibility; a key reason for poor-
2. Manage the perishability of the service,
that is, the demand and supply. For
example, If customers frustrations are caused
by delays and long lines which lead to anger
at the service, encourage them to use alternative
services you might offer. Firms always offer
a range of services that deliver similar con-
veniences. Often consumers continue to use
the one they are familiar with. Staff must edu-
cate customers and encourage the trial of alter-
natives. This will decrease the perishability
and frustration with the service and customers
gain the benefit without the anguish.
3. Selection, training, delivery and support
are essential to making service excellent.
If you want to ensure the consistent delivery
of the service that your firm offers you need
to select and hire the right people. They must
do what they love and love what they do.
However, this is only the starting point. Con-
tinuous training, learning and development
must compliment this process if quality is to
The process does not end there. The delivery
of service is the result of efficient processes
and systems existing to support the staffs that
are responsible for the delivery of your com-
pany s service.
This means that all employees within the
organisation must be supporting those who
are at the front line delivering your company s
product. If there are individual and departments
not aligned to this, ultimately, service delivery
will fail. This is the value network within the
business, another often misunderstood con-
cept.4. In delivering the service remember
that the firms management does not
hold all the answers. The best solutions come
from your customers and staff. Customers are
aware of the problem and do have some idea
of the solution they are looking for. Your staff
is more aware of the customers problems
than many management reports indicate. Often
they can also provide solutions. If you don t
ask, often people won t tell. The solution comes
from the triangle: customers, staff and man-
It is incumbent that these core concepts
exist in any organisation in order to provide
just basic service. To rise to the zenith of
service excellence, however, this needs to be
part of the company s vision, mission, goals
and, ultimately, organisational culture. Service
can and often does become a firm strategic
and competitive advantage.
When done right, it is often difficult to imi-
tate. This forms the foundation and core for
all major brands.
So the next time you want to call yourself
a service business or wave the banner of service
excellence, remember you must first get to
know your service before you can get your
customers to know it.
Adash Boodansingh is a marketing
lecturer at SAM Caribbean Ltd.
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