Services have five specific characteristics. If your business sells services you need to take account of each of the characteristics in all aspects of your marketing. Service characteristics need to be considered at each stage of the marketing process, from service design through to service sales and service delivery.
The diagram below captures the five essential characteristics of a service which need to be taken into account for service marketing; lack of ownership, intangibility, inseparability, perishability, and heterogeneity/variability.
Characteristics Of A Service
Services have five essential characteristics.
Lack of ownership
Heterogeneity or Variability
Service Marketing Characteristic - Lack Of Ownership
You can not own a service and you can not store a service like you can store a product. Services are used or hired for a period of time. For example when you buy an aeroplane ticket to fly to the USA, you are buying a service which will start at the beginning of the flight and finish at the end of the flight. You can not take the aeroplane flight home with you.
Service Marketing Characteristic - Intangibility
You cannot hold or touch a service unlike a product. This is because a service is something customers experience and experiences are not physical products.
Service Marketing Characteristic - Inseparability
Services cannot be separated from service providers. A product can be taken away from the producer but a service can not be taken away as it involves the service provider or its representatives doing something for the customer. For example a company selling ironing services needs the company to iron the clothes for you.
Service Marketing Characteristic - Perishability
Services last a specific time and cannot be stored like a product for later use. For example an interior designer will design a property once. If you would like to redesign the house you will need to purchase the service again.
Service Marketing Characteristic - Heterogeneity/Variability
Firms have systems and procedures to ensure that they provide a consistent service but it is very difficult to make each service experience identical. For example two identical plane journeys may feel different to the passengers due to circumstances beyond the airline's control such as weather conditions or other passengers on the plane.