Services marketing covers the marketing of both goods and services and typically refers to the marketing of both business to consumer (B2C) and business to business (B2B) services. This article will give you an overview of services marketing with seven simple keywords: quality, organization, knowledge, planning, pricing, communication and relationship.
7 Must Know Keywords in Services Marketing
In services marketing, quality is not only about the product, but also related to the service delivered. In a highly competitive industry such as professional services, good product is just an entrance ticket. What’s more important is the customer satisfaction level of your daily services.
In fact, the products customers like most are those which don’t even need any support or service. If this cannot be met, customers then want professional services which can get issues solved to their satisfaction really fast. Customers will review the whole service process. So it’s imperative for professional service providers to look at the service delivery process and result from customers’ eyes.
When defining service quality, we should take the following two aspects into consideration. Firstly, the service quality of a professional service provider should go beyond customers’ expectations. Secondly, service quality is determined by how customers feel. Therefore, service providers should pay close attention to the elements that affect customer expectations, which include commitment to customers, customers’ past experience, public reputation of the company, etc.
Here’s an example on how customers’ expectations are neglected. A friend of mine brought a new air conditioner. Three days later, my friend found that the cooling system of the air conditioner stopped working. So he called the service center and was told that they had recorded the case and would send someone in the maintenance team to his home at 2 o’clock that afternoon to get the issue fixed. My friend waited for several hours that afternoon, but neither anyone showed up nor anyone from the company called in to offer an explanation. My friend called the service center again. The answer was that the maintenance team was too busy that day. So they rescheduled the home service time to next morning. Still, no one showed up that morning. Helplessly, my friend called the service center again, and again, they said they were too busy and finally, they moved the home service time to next afternoon. Someone did show up that afternoon. However, after confirming the issue was a quality issue instead of an installation one, he said that it was out of his responsibilities so he couldn’t help. What followed was even crazier. The service center called in later saying that a key component of the air conditioner was broken and need to be replaced. My friend didn’t agree and requested a change or refund. The service center said they need to submit the request for approval, but then there was no response at all… What a nightmare! With such a terrible experience, who dare to buy from the company anymore? Delivering quality services sounds obvious. But there are still many companies making simple mistakes.
Delivering quality services is an organization-level activity. Everyone in the organization is involved. Once I went to a bank, which was doing quite well in both physical image and banking services. One thing not so perfect was that the security guard, who ran into your eyes immediately after you stepped into the bank, stood there casually leaning on the door in not so tidy dressing. As a suggestion, I told the bank that the code of conduct of their security guards can be improved. The bank responded that the security guards were assigned to the bank by another company. They weren’t direct employees of the bank. Sounds reasonable. But customers won’t know that and even if they know, they won’t care. They want a perfect service experience and we are responsible for delivering it to them, no matter how.
We should commit ourselves to deeply understanding customers’ needs and wants, so as to provide services that can not only satisfy customers but also exceed their expectations. This requires us to build a customer oriented organization with the employment of services marketing principles.
A rigorous marketing plan is usually based on information or data, where industry knowledge is essential. We can make comprehensive and systematic market researches to define the customer base to be served as well as the marketing questions generated around them and then use the data to guide marketing activities. For instance, who are our clients? What really matters to our clients? How do our clients review and choose their service providers? In which ways should we reach out to them? Or what is the motivation or goal of our service?
No one is willing to make a random choice at the cost of possible waste of time and money or even risking the company’s future. Strategic planning functions like a gear which can be used to match our goal and capability with the ever-changing environment. And to make a good plan, we need to take a lot of elements into consideration, such as internal environment, market environment, public environment, competitive environment and so on.
When offering paid services, we need not only develop services that attract customers, but also price them appropriately. Pricing of services is slightly different from that of physical goods. Customers may also have non-financial costs so they tend to be more cautious when purchasing a service. There is an interesting story. When a coat is priced at $30, for a month, no one buys it. However, when the price of the same coat is increased to $100, it’s sold out in a week. Sometimes, higher price may become an advantage. This is especially true in service-based businesses, where customers can not see or touch the final delivery. For many customers, pricing indicates the quality of the service in a large degree. Low price may cause customers to doubt about the professionalism.
Professional service is often about delivering information to customers. The challenge, therefore, is to make sure the information delivered is correct, accurate and effective. Multiple tools can be utilized for customer communication, such as advertising, field sales, promotion, publication, direct marketing and so forth. We must ensure that every member in our team has the same answer to questions regarding the communication, such as what to be communicated, to whom, how, the expected results, etc. In-person sales may be the most important sales tool for most professional services agencies, as personal communication is very helpful both in converting potential customers and in retaining existing customers.
Most people enjoy working with others and yearn to build solid relationships, which is especially obvious in the professional services area. Having a strong connection benefits both parties in the relationship and simplifies the job, as it saves clients from continue seeking, evaluating, selecting and developing new providers.
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