Services have four major characteristics that greatly affect the design of marketing programs: intangibility, inseparability, variability, and perishability.
Services are intangible. Unlike physical products, they cannot be seen, tasted, felt, heard, or smelled before they are bought. The person who is getting a face lift cannot see the exact results before the purchase, just as the patient in the psychiatrist's office cannot know the exact outcome before treatment.
To reduce uncertainty, buyers will look for signs or evidence of the service quality. They will draw inferences about quality from the place, people, equipment, communication material, symbols, and price that they see. Therefore, the service provider's task is to "manage the evidence," to "tangibilize the intangible."6 Whereas product marketers are challenged to add abstract ideas, service marketers are challenged to add physical evidence and imagery to abstract offers. This is why Allstate uses the slogan "You're in good hands with Allstate."
In general, service marketers must be able to transform intangible services into concrete benefits. Consider Dun & Bradstreet, a $2 billion firm with a database of 11 million U.S. firms that businesses can access to check the creditworthiness of their commercial customers. D&B's senior VP of marketing says, "If we're calling on a bank's credit manager, we'll research the bank's portfolio of customers, and using the information in our database, score them based on their creditworthiness and stability and say, 'You have X% of customers in the high-risk category and X% in low-risk.'"7 This translates D&B's intangible services into tangible benefits for banking customers.
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