Characteristics of services

Services have mainly five unique characteristics compared to goods. In the marketing point of view these characteristics are very important, because these characteristics create several unique marketing problems.

1. Intangibility
2. Inseparability
3. Heterogeneity
4. Perish-ability
5. Ownership

1. Intangibility

Intangibility is the primary characteristics that distinguish services from goods, ie the quality of not being able to touch, taste, see, smell or hear. Services such as education, insurance, medical etc cannot be physically possessed like tangible goods. 

Intangible services are more difficult for consumers to evaluate than tangible goods. When you buy bath soap, you can see it, feel it, touch it, smell it and use it to check its effectiveness in cleaning your body. But if you pay fee for a course in an education institution, you are paying for the benefit of deriving knowledge and education which is delivered to you by teacher community. In contrast to the bath soap, where you can immediately check its benefits, there is no way in the case of teachers. Because teaching is an intangible service. 

So a service cannot be touched.

· Precise standardization is not possible
· There is no ownership
· A service cannot be patented
· There is no inventories of service

2. Inseparability

Another characteristic of services is the inseparability, or indivisible nature of production and consumption. In most cases, a service cannot be separated from a person or a firm providing it. A service is provided by a person who possesses a particular skill (singer), by using a equipment to handle a tangible product (dry cleaning) or by allowing to access t or use of physical infrastructure (hotel). A plumber has to be physically present to provide the service. Goods can be produced in the factory, stocked and sold when order is placed. But since service is inseparable, both production and consumption occurs simultaneously.

3. Heterogeneity

Most of the services are rendered by people, and people are not always consistent in their performance. This inconsistency or variation in performance is referred to as the heterogeneity of services. Performance may vary from one individual to another individual or from one organization to another organization or even performance of a person in day time may not be same in night time In short the human element is very much involve in providing and rendering services and this makes standardization a very difficult task.

4. Perishability

Services cannot be stored and are perishable. Due to any reason, a few seats remain empty on a train, or a theatre cancels a particular live show of a drama, that particular service opportunity is lost forever. Restaurants are now charging for reservations which are not utilized. Charges may be made for missed appointments with consultants doctors and some education institutions levy the fee as students discontinue the course because of lapsing the seat.

5. Ownership

When you buy a product, you will become the owner of that product- be it a car, bus, bike, pen, computer or shirt. But in the case of service, you may pay for its use, not its ownership.


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