Characteristics of Services

Only available on StudyMode
  • Download(s) : 191
  • Published : October 25, 2010
Open Document
Text Preview
An Investigation Into Four Characteristics of Services
Russell Wolak, Stavros Kalafatis and Patricia Harris*
Kingston Business School Kingston Hill Kingston upon Thames Surrey KT2 7LB Phone 0181 547 2000 Fax 0181 547 7026 E-mail p.harris@kingston.ac.uk ABSTRACT This study replicates US-based research by Hartman and Lindgren on the extent to which consumers differentiate between products and services. In addition, Hartman and Lindgren investigated the importance of four characteristics of services to consumers; intangibility, inseparability, heterogeneity and perishability. Hartman and Lindgren did not find that these four service characteristics were used by consumers when distinguishing between goods and services. We find that 1) consumers in the UK classify services and products in a consistent way to that found by Hartman and Lindgren; and 2) UK consumers employ a similar set of underlying factors to the four characteristics proposed in the services marketing literature. Our results challenge those of Hartman and Lindgren and our findings support the continued use of intangibility, inseparability, heterogeneity and perishability as frameworks for the study of services buyer behaviour and for the development of services marketing strategies.

Journal of Empirical Generalisations in Marketing Science, Volume Three 1998

Page 22

INTRODUCTION
The services literature highlights differences in the nature of services versus products which are believed to create special challenges for services marketers and for consumers buying services. To help understand these differences a number of characteristics that describe the unique nature of services have been proposed. These characteristics were first discussed in the early services marketing literature and are generally summarised as intangibility, inseparability, heterogeneity and perishability (Regan, 1963; Rathmell, 1966; Shostack, 1977; and Zeithaml et al 1985).

Although there has been debate on the effectiveness of the four characteristics in distinguishing between products and services (e.g. Regan, 1963; Shostack, 1977; Onkvisit and Shaw, 1991) these are nevertheless widely accepted by scholars and marketers (e.g. Zeithaml, 1981, 1985; Levitt, 1981) and used both as the basis for examining services buyer behaviour and developing services marketing strategies. It is, therefore, important to establish the extent to which these characteristics reflect the perspective of the consumer. A US-based study by Hartman and Lindgren (1993) found that consumers did not use the four characteristics in distinguishing between products and services. However, the narrow geographic focus and coverage of Hartman and Lindgren’s study (one midWestern town) is believed to limit scope for generalisation and to provide justification for a replication conducted in a European context.

Structure of the paper
The literature on the characteristics of services is reviewed briefly to examine the extent to which the conceptual characteristics have been used by services marketing scholars to differentiate between products and services. The methodology for the research is then described, and compared to that followed by Hartman and Lindgren. This is followed by findings and discussion of the main results. Finally, we make suggestions for the direction of future research. Page 23

Journal of Empirical Generalisations in Marketing Science, Volume Three 1998

CHARACTERISTICS OF SERVICES
Bitner, Fisk and Brown (1993) suggest that the major output from the services marketing literature up to 1980 was the delineation of four services characteristics: intangibility, inseparability, heterogeneity and perishability. These characteristics underpinned the case for services marketing and made services a field of marketing that was distinct from the marketing of products.

Figure 1 - Positioning of Literature on Service Characteristics Empi rical Work

Bowen (1990) Murray Schlacter and (1990)...
tracking img