Chapter 2

The nature of services marketing

So far, much of what has been said could be equally applicable to either a product or a service. So, is there anything special about services marketing?

At one level, the theory of marketing has universal application – the same underlying concerns and principles apply whatever the nature of the business. However, the nature of a particular service business may dictate a need to place much greater emphasis on certain marketing elements, which in turn could lead to different marketing approaches.

It is frequently argued that services have unique characteristics that differentiate them from goods or manufactured products. The four most commonly ascribed to services are:

Intangibility – services are to a large extent abstract and intangible.

Heterogeneity – services are non-standard and highly variable.

Inseparability – services are typically produced and consumed at the same time, with customer participation in the process.

Perishability – it is not possible to store services in inventory.

From the 1980s these characteristics, known as ‘IHIP’ (intangibility, heterogeneity, inseparability and perishability) were widely discussed in the academic literature and textbooks in services marketing. However, the huge diversity of types of service businesses suggests that it is difficult to fit services into a neat definition. The universality of these characteristics has been increasingly challenged over recent years.1–3 As we comment on shortly, ...

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