Service Marketing Encounters

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I have evaluated six encounters with a variety of industries; they are all from the service sector. A service sector business is one in which the perceived value of the offering to the buyer is determined more by the service rendered than the product offered.

The services I encountered have various levels of intangibility. For example, my service encounter at Odeon cinemas included physical aspects such as the theatre, popcorn, and tickets. However, with the telephone banking service encounter there is almost no tangible aspect. The services I encountered also varied in the separability of the buyer and provider. For services such as going to the hairdressers, it is essential for the buyer and seller to be at the same place at the same time. However, when using self-service technologies such as ‘Amazon' there is no interpersonal aspect. For self-service technologies, customers play a role in creating quality service for themselves through their own behaviour during the interaction (Mary Jo Bitner, 2003). Services are characterised by the lack of inventory. For example, hairdressers' cannot store appointment slots from one day to the next. Services are very sensitive to time because they cannot be back ordered. For example, fast-food restaurants such as KFC cannot tell customers to come back tomorrow when the food is ready. The intangibility of services leads to difficulty in measuring and controlling quality. For example, with a telephone-banking encounter, a new call staff member will offer a different level of service than a long-term staff member who feels comfortable in their job. However, self-service technologies such as ATM's operate uniformly and are therefore easier to control quality. The difficulty in measuring quality means that services are risky. It is difficult to trial a service. For example, it is impossible to trial a film at the cinema. Services can often be customised to the individual needs of consumers. For example, a hairdresser must customise the service offering to suit each customer's desires. However, the introduction of self-service technologies has reduced the personalisation of service encounters. ATM's allow customers to print a balance without any interpersonal interactions. Understanding the needs of customers are essential to service providers. A good service provide should adapt and customise their offerings. However, ATM's offer a standard service that is the same for every customer.

The service marketing mix involves three new elements – people, process, and physical evidence. The services I encountered had different approaches to these features. People refers to the human actors who play a part in service delivery and influence customers perspectives. For example, people at the Odeon cinema include staff as well as the other customers present. Noisy customers in the cinema theatre will affect the service and will likely produce dissatisfaction. When ordering a book off Amazon, there are no human actors involved as it is a self-service technology. Process refers to the procedures and flow of activities by which the service is delivered, from production to consumption. When visiting KFC, customers interact with frontstage processes such as the provision of food, but there are also backstage processes such as the cooking of food. Physical evidence is the environment in which the service is delivered and where the firm and customers interact. With ‘Amazon' the customer can receive the service from anywhere (with internet access) at anytime with no interpersonal interaction, but with KFC there are physical aspects to the service though it is still very standardised. Alternatively, there are many tangible aspects when visiting the hairdressers (e.g. waiting area), and the service is personalised to customers' individual needs.

From the service encounters I experienced, my most satisfactory encounter...
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