Stated simply, Services Marketing refers to the marketing of services as against tangible products.
As already discussed, services are inherently intangible, are consumed simultaneously at the time of their production, cannot be stored, saved or resold once they have been used and service offerings are unique and cannot be exactly repeated even by the same service provider.
Marketing of services is a relatively new phenomenon in the domain of marketing, having gained in importance as a discipline only towards the end of the 20th century.
Services marketing first came to the fore in the 1980â€™s when the debate started on whether marketing of services was significantly different from that of products so as to be classified as a separate discipline. Prior to this, services were considered just an aid to the production and marketing of goods and hence were not deemed as having separate relevance of their own.
The 1980â€™s however saw a shift in this thinking. As the service sector started to grow in importance and emerged as a significant employer and contributor to the GDP, academics and marketing practitioners began to look at the marketing of services in a new light. Empirical research was conducted which brought to light the specific distinguishing characteristics of services.
By the mid 1990â€™s, Services Marketing was firmly entrenched as a significant sub discipline of marketing with its own empirical research and data and growing significance in the increasingly service sector dominated economies of the new millennium. New areas of study opened up in the field and were the subject of extensive empirical research giving rise to concepts such as â€“ the product-service spectrum, relationship marketing, franchising of services, customer retention etc.
Importance of Marketing of Services
Given the intangibility of services, marketing them becomes a particularly challenging and yet extremely important task.
A key differentiator: Due to the increasing homogeneity in product offerings, the attendant services provided are emerging as a key differentiator in the mind of the consumers. Eg: In case of two fast food chains serving a similar product (Pizza Hut and Dominoâ€™s), more than the product it is the service quality that distinguishes the two brands from each other. Hence, marketers can leverage on the service offering to differentiate themselves from the competition and attract consumers.
Importance of relationships: Relationships are a key factor when it comes to the marketing of services. Since the product is intangible, a large part of the customersâ€™ buying decision will depend on the degree to which he trusts the seller. Hence, the need to listen to the needs of the customer and fulfill them through the appropriate service offering and build a long lasting relationship which would lead to repeat sales and positive word of mouth.
Customer Retention: Given todayâ€™s highly competitive scenario where multiple providers are vying for a limited pool of customers, retaining customers is even more important than attracting new ones. Since services are usually generated and consumed at the same time, they actually involve the customer in service delivery process by taking into consideration his requirements and feedback. Thus they offer greater scope for customization according to customer requirements thus offering increased satisfaction leading to higher customer retention.