Heterogeneity of Services

Subject: Business
Type: Exploratory Essay
Pages: 8
Word count: 2064
Topics: Work Ethic, Communication, Job, Management, Marketing

The Main Challenges for Marketing Managers Presented By the Heterogeneity of Services

Service refers to the performance or acts offered to one party by another. It is intangible and does not lead to ownership of the production factors. It is an economic activity that creates value and provides benefits to the customers at particular times and places (Baron, Warnaby & Hunter‐Jones, 2014). Its outcome is the desired change in the recipient. The primary goal of any service provider is to address the needs and wants of its customers. In meeting the goal, the service firm should be organized in a way that it will also meet its objectives (Hoffman & Bateson, 2010). The marketing staff should develop and maintain a closer relationship with the rest of the service organization than in those producing goods. There should be a good relationship between the operations department responsible for the production of the product, the human resource and the marketing department for the service firm to excel (Hoffman & Bateson, 2010). For this paper, I explore the significant challenges for marketing managers presented by the heterogeneity of services. 

The difference between the marketing of goods and services is the distinguishing features of services of inseparability, intangibility, perishability, and heterogeneity. As a unique characteristic of services, heterogeneity refers to the variability inherent in the delivery process of services (Hoffman & Bateson, 2010). The attribute requires the firms to have systems and procedures that will ensure provision of consistent services. It is a challenging feature to maintain because making each service experience identical is another problem (Baron, Warnaby & Hunter‐Jones, 2014). For example, it is impossible to guarantee air passengers similar experiences from two identical journeys because of the circumstances beyond the airline’s control among them being the other passengers on the plane or weather conditions. 

Goods are produced in mass and remain homogeneous, a thing not possible in services. The generation, rendering, and consumption of services occur at the same time, a characteristic that makes them unique. Repetition of a service in an exact way as the other in the same point in time, location configurations, circumstances or resource is impossible even when the same consumer places a request for the same service. There is a tendency of heterogeneous services to get modified for each consumer or situation (Baron, Warnaby & Hunter‐Jones, 2014). For example, a person can hire a taxi from home to go to an entertainment show and back to the house and have varying experience. The variance in experience arises because each trip takes place at a different point in time, using different directions or routes and even the car or driver involved. 

While the services are heterogeneous, it is essential that all the customers get excellent service from the providers. Heterogeneity implies that it is not possible to deliver two or more services identically but customers can still get excellent service (Blut et al. 2014). The quality is critical in competition. It is puts competing firms with similar services apart. The role of the market manager in such a case is to leverage the offered service to differentiate themselves from the competition to attract more customers. When differentiation of service becomes difficult, the alternative strategy the marketing manager can undertake is to start customizing the services according to the customer’s requirements. Customization allows the actual customer to encounter their preferred significance of the service.  Excessive customization can also harm the business. It has the potential of compromising the standards of services and thus hurting the quality (Ding et al. 2016). It is, therefore, essential to be careful when designing the service offering. 

Many of the service providing firms are labor intensive. While the quality and relevance of service vary across the producers, the customers and days, frequent changes in the employees who make contacts with the customers cause a widened variability in the performance of services. Having different employees get into contact with an individual customer interferes with the consistency in quality of service offered to that customer (Blut et al. 2014). Such variance is increased from the fact that service performance of a person differs from one day to another. Such consistency fluctuations are uncertain and thus impossible to communicate to the customer. 

The people, physical evidence, and processes are the challenging variables when it comes to the variability of services and their marketing. Booms and Bitner (1981) noted the variables as marketing mix and suggested for an extension of 4Ps framework for service marketing to include them. Neither of the service’ characteristics is independent, but they depend on each other for validity. The three variables pose a more significant challenge to the service marketers. 

The people variable consists of all the individuals involved in the consumption of service either directly or indirectly (Awara & Anyadighibe, 2014). They include the employees and the consumers. The service providers rely on the contact staff to provide the service because of their inseparability in production and consumption. Contact employees are essential in providing quality service through creating a favorable image to the firm and offering service better than the competitors (Awara & Anyadighibe, 2014). For example, the nurses or hair stylists take part in the real-time production of the service and the quality of service depends on what they produce. One major challenge faced by the marketing managers is the inability to manage the contact employees so that their attitudes and behaviors remain conducive when delivering the services. Employees can vary their performance especially when there are constant changes in contact employees. Such performance variances affect the heterogeneity of services (Awara & Anyadighibe, 2014). For example, changes in contact employees affect the homogeneity of services. The delivery of services occurs during the interaction between the customers and the contact staff, and thus the behaviors and attitudes of the service providers can affect what the customers perceive about the service. 

The management of staff, their interests and needs rest on the human resource department. If a good coordination and relationship lack with the marketing department, it becomes difficult for the marketing manager to manage the contact employees. A good relationship is necessary to ensure there are no regular changes of contact employees and when they are about to happen, new employees get groomed to take over from those leaving. Also, they should not leave at the same time as this will have a significant impact on the variability of the services rendered because the incoming will come with new behaviors and attitudes. Failure to address these elements affects the customer’s perception of the service quality and satisfaction and in turn their purchase intentions (Awara & Anyadighibe, 2014).  

In service marketing mix, people are the dominant and thus the predominant cause of the heterogeneity. People are different, and hence the varying perceptions of customers add to the heterogeneity problem. While the marketing manager can institute strategy to control the internal staff, and other factors contributing to heterogeneity, it is difficult to manage the different perceptions of the customers on the services they receive and thus complicating everything altogether. In spite of that, interaction with a service remains an essential thing to maintain the service levels. Marketing managers have to control heterogeneity to give customers unvarying experience. 

The physical evidence variable is another factor affecting heterogeneity of services. It is the setting in which creation of the service occurs and one where the interaction between the customer and provider together with the tangible aspects which enhance the service delivery occur (Abbasi & Dahiya, 2013). It consists of the visible symbols of a service such as brochures, reports just to mention a few. It is vital in enhancing service experience to the customers. For instance, in a hotel industry, the layout, decorations as well as the attitudes and appearance of its employees have a more considerable influence on what the customers perceive on the quality of services as well as their experiences. Marketing managers lack the accurate tangible representations within the area of service delivery to promote a positive perception of the customers on the service rendered according to the variability of the factors that influence the heterogeneity of services. The customers, therefore end up missing the appropriate tangible prompts to assist in learning the service experience (Abbasi & Dahiya, 2013). Increased intangible services heightens the variability. However, introducing physical signals minimizes the gap. For example, banking services are highly intangible. The attitude and behaviors of the cashiers affect the choice of the customers to either continue using their services or seek similar in another bank. They can widen the variability by just the way they talk to the customers seeking banking services. The introduction of the credit card which is tangible minimizes the gap since each customer can use them at their convenience. Lack of resources heighten this challenge to the marketing managers as they cannot implement some of the measures they deem as appropriate physical evidence. Lack of proper relationship with other departments such as research and development and finance leaves the manager with no chance to implement physical evidence which is essential in management service variability. The marketing managers lack a visual metaphor to illustrates what the firm advocate for and one which enhances the actions of staff to meet the requirements of the clients (Abbasi & Dahiya, 2013). 

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The process as a variable of service marketing mix involves the procedures, mechanism, and sequencing of activities which enhance the delivery of service (Awara & Anyadighibe, 2014). It entails the service delivery and the operating systems. Series of steps and activities happen before the performance of the actions by the contact employees to the customer. All these activities are performed by another department which is independent of the marketing manager. In particular, they are under the operation department. When there is a change in either a procedure or a mechanism involved in the production of service, it has the potential of affecting the quality of offered to the customer even when the attitude and behavior of a contact employee remain unchanged (Awara & Anyadighibe, 2014). For instance, in a restaurant, the waiter serves the food prepared following a series of procedures using multiple ingredients. Each waiter may be assigned to a particular customer, but the service they offer may vary because they are not in control of the preparation of the food. The food preparers may overcook the food, miss to add some ingredients, or add them in excess. Due to lack of the marketing manager’s control over the work of the operation department, it becomes challenging to manage the difference arising from the services offered to the customers. Creating and maintaining efficient service processes remains a challenge to the marketing team due to other characteristic factors of services such as perishability (Awara & Anyadighibe, 2014). Introducing customized services which meet the needs of the customers can assist in managing the issue. As noted earlier, more of customization can be harmful by compromising the service standards and hence the quality (Ding et al. 2016). 

The fundamental marketing problem associated with heterogeneity is difficult in achieving standardization and quality control. The primary ways through which those exposed to the issue respond is by instituting an intensive training to the existing employees on the importance of maintaining consistent behaviors and attitudes when offering services (Hoffman & Bateson, 2010). There are those who replace the human labor with machines as it is with the Automatic Teller Machines (ATM) and online customer service where the employee-customer interaction get minimized. Others begin customizing the services according to the specific needs of the customers (Ding et al. 2016). However, none of the strategies is superior to the other because they are all dependent on the delivery speed price, and performance consistency. 

In conclusion, heterogeneity is a unique service characteristic which poses a more significant challenge to the marketing managers. It requires them to have systems and procedures that will ensure the firm provide consistent service.  Because activities in a company are done under supervisions from different people, it becomes difficult to align the systems and procedures in a manner that will eliminate heterogeneity. Employees are managed by the human resource department while the production of the products is under the operation department. Where a coordination lacks between the two marketing department and the two others, it becomes impossible to control heterogeneity. The marketing managers can, however, ease the problem by instituting an intensive training for the employees, replacing human labor with machines and customizing the services.  

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  1. Awara, N., & Anyadighibe, J. (2014). An Appraisal of Strategies and Challenges of Services Marketing in a Globalized Business Environment. International Journal of Managerial Studies and Research2(9), 32-38.
  2. Abbasi, H, & Dahiya, M. (2013). Services marketing: Challenges and Strategies. International Journal on recent and innovation trends in computing and communication. Volume 4(5). Pp. 345-349. 
  3. Baron, S., Warnaby, G., & Hunter‐Jones, P. (2014). Service (s) marketing research: developments and directions. International Journal of Management Reviews16(2), 150- 171.
  4. Blut, M., Beatty, S. E., Evanschitzky, H., & Brock, C. (2014). The impact of service characteristics on the switching costs–customer loyalty link. Journal of Retailing90(2), 275-290.
  5. Booms, B.H & Bitner, M.J (1981). Marketing strategies and organization structures for service firms, in Marketing of Services, J Donnelly and W.R. George (eds). American Marketing Association
  6. Ding, Y., Ding, Y., Keh, H. T., & Keh, H. T. (2016). A re-examination of service standardization versus customization from the consumer’s perspective. Journal of Services Marketing30(1), 16-28.
  7. Hoffman, K. D., & Bateson, J. E. (2010). Services marketing: concepts, strategies, & cases. Cengage learning.
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