Often we see debates on whether Product Marketing and Services Marketing is same of entirely different. While they share many thoughts, I believe services marketing is essentially heavily dependent on how the services is managed — how you manage your services is how you market or build the brand for your service.
The Gap Model
This is perhaps THE framework when it comes to services management. Proposed by Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry in 1980’s, this model continues to derive its relevance even today. The beauty of this framework is that it opens our eyes of how various organizational functions play their role. For example, the gap between expected services and perceived services (customer gap) is all about how we manage the expectations. Marketing communications play a very important role in this. The role a market research department can play in the overall service design is enormous. It is also interesting to understand how other organizational functions like front line executives, project management executives play a role in how close a firm delivers the services when compared to the expected services. One more common-sensical derivation out of this model is the importance of communications – both internal and external.
Employees as the brand ambassadors
The concept of ‘all-in-the-organization-should-embrace-service-quality’ is keen in a highly successful services business. If you have attended any training on corporate values, you would have come across an exercise to define your role as
At XYZ, my job is to…’
For an employer, this helps to set the vision and mission imbibed in its employees’ mind. Also, this helps in making the employees part of the team and co-own the quality of services it provides to the customer. It not only opens our mind-set, but also shows the shortcomings and changes need to be in place. The importance of ‘point of view’ is the key factor here. Some of the aspects discussed during classes like, job rotation, including service delivery quality and customer satisfaction in every one’s key performance indicators are practical ideas to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of service design and delivery. Commitment from top management as in the case of other functional strategies is equally important in the case of service delivery too. The role of internal marketing and buy-in from all stakeholders is ever more important in running a successful service business. Here is a great example of how this is achieved in Cold Stone Creamery
The role of support organization
I believe combining services and products is still the practical way to achieving customer delight. The importance given to services and support holds more importance and can drive the business. However it should not be taken to an extend that it is taken as a negative factor – for example I have seen some software product based companies providing products at a cheaper rate and milking the customer in the name of after sales support and services. Customers will take this direction in the right sense as long as the services provided are genuine and value for money. We often see mockery of customer satisfaction surveys done in companies.
Another challenge is the result of average ratings. It’s a human nature to give an average rating in surveys instead of moving towards extremes. To manage this, options like open questions need to be utilized. For example, – ‘What improvement or addition in our service will encourage you to provide a higher rating than provided?’ The next key step to build an amazing services organization is to share the feedback results across the organization. Responsibilities for the lower ratings need to be shared and co-owned across teams; often what we see if the survey results don’t pass down the line. Technology enables us to also collect feedback from multiple channels; an organization should judiciously make use of this as well.
Though we talk about 7Ps in Services Marketing, there is an eight P that we need to be careful about — People and Promise; tools like moments of truth aid in this. Finally, designing the service effectively is the core to success. Tools like service blue printing provides interesting and insightful thoughts on designing a service. For example, have a look at the blueprint created for a clinic using the Service Design tools.
What do you think are the three key ingredients to have a successful services business?