This article examines the received wisdom of services marketing and challenges the validity and continued usefulness of its core paradigm, namely, the assertion that four specific characteristics—intangibility, heterogeneity, inseparability, and perishability—make services uniquely different from goods. An alternative paradigm is proposed, based on the premise that marketing exchanges that do not result in a transfer of ownership from seller to buyer are fundamentally different from those that do. It posits that services offer benefits through access or temporary possession, instead of ownership, with payments taking the form of rentals or access fees. This rental/access perspective offers a different lens through which to view services. Important implications include opportunities to market goods in a service format; the need for more research into how time is perceived, valued, and consumed; and the notion of services as a means of sharing resources.
- Cet article examine la sagesse reçue du marketing des services et conteste la validité et l’utilité continue de son paradigme de base, à savoir l’affirmation selon laquelle quatre caractéristiques spécifiques — intangibilité, hétérogénéité, inséparabilité et caractère périssable — rendent les services différents des marchandises. Un paradigme alternatif est proposé, basé sur la prémisse que les échanges commerciaux qui n’entraînent pas un transfert de propriété du vendeur à l’acheteur sont fondamentalement différents de ceux qui le font. Il postule que les services offrent des avantages par l’accès ou la possession temporaire, au lieu de la propriété, avec des paiements prenant la forme de loyers ou de frais d’accès. Cette perspective de location/accès offre une optique différente pour visualiser les services. Les implications importantes comprennent les possibilités de commercialiser des marchandises dans un format de service ; la nécessité de plus de recherches sur la façon dont le temps est perçu, valorisé et consommé ; et la notion de services comme moyen de partage des ressources.
Mots clefs :
economic theory, intangibility, marketing theory, rental services, resource sharing, services marketing, time consumption, time-based pricing, textbook theory
Some scholars have expressed concern that existing service concepts are not readily applicable to Internet services. Brown (2000) argued that “the ability to obtain and consume services without interacting with a human provider challenges much of our existing knowledge” (p.62). Reinforcing this viewpoint, D.E Bowen (2000) concluded, “It now seems that the most of what we know about services marketing and management has been derived from the study of face-to-face services encounters or at least over the telephone” (p.46).
On remarque que le concept de service est difficilement dissociable de l’humain. Ainsi, dès lors que l’on veut introduire un service par internet uniquement, le côté humain devient plus “fragile” et le service en est impacté.
As argued by Schneider (2000), the underlying paradigm in services marketing since the 1980s has been that services are different from goods, a claim supported by an in-depth literature review by Fisk, Brown, and Bitner (1993), who concluded that “[four] features – intangibility, inseparability, heterogenicity, and perishability [IHIP]– provided the underpinnings for the case that services marketing is a field distinct from goods marketing” (p68).
Pride and Ferrell claim two more: client-based relationships and customer contact.
Intangibility is not only the most widely cited difference between goods and services but has also been described by Bateson (1979) as the critical distinction between physical intangibility, that which is impalpable or cannot be touched, and mental intangibility, that cannot be grasped mentally, and concluded. “The crucial point about services is that they are doubly intangible” (p.139).
Later, McDougall and Snetsinger (1990) sought to operationalize mental intangibility as “the degree to which a product can be visualized and provide a clear and concrete image before purchase.”
Laroche, Bergeron and Goutaland (2001) argued that intangibility includes third dimension, generality (which encompasses the notions of accessibility versus inaccessibility to the senses, abstractness versus concreteness, and generality versus specificity) and develop a scale for measuring all three dimensions.
Kerin et al. (2003) stated that services „can’t be held, touched, or seen before the purchase decision” and are thus more difficult to evaluate (p.323).
Yet many services involving delivery of tangible elements can be evaluated before use. For instance, the core product in a hotel or motel is the room. Travelers can check out hotel or motel rooms before registering and may even decide to try another facility if they do not like the look of the facilities, the appearance and attitude of the staff, or even the feel of the bed.
On peut également citer dans le secteur de l’hôtellerie, et cela pendant la prestation de service, plusieurs éléments tangibles qui peuvent l’influencer positivement. Par exemple, à l’arrivée des clients, ceux-ci peuvent recevoir des cadeaux de bienvenue (chocolats, petits accessoires …). Ainsi, les éléments tangibles peuvent accompagner le service.
An important concept relating to service tangibility is the servicescape, which recognizes that service experiences are surrounded and shaped by a built environment incorporating ambience, function, and design in addition to a social environment comprising service providers and other customers (Bitner 1992, 2000).
Eiglier and Langeard (1975, 1977) noted the difficulty of controlling service quality when customers are actively involved in the production process.
Separable services. Despite the inseparability claim for services, there is a large group of separable services that do not involve the customer directly, with the result that production and consumption need to be simultaneous. Simple observation will show that numerous widely used business and consumer services delivered to customers physical possessions – such as transporting freight, laundering clothes, and undertaking routine cleaning and maintenance on a wide array of equipment and facilities – are most commonly performed in the customer’s absence.
On remarque ici que le terme d’inséparabilité n’est pas tout à fait juste car dans le secteur de l’hôtellerie par exemple, bien souvent et même toujours, le service de nettoyage de chambre des clients est effectué lorsque le client est sorti et ne se trouve plus dans la chambre. Cela lui permet de se promener et de retrouver une chambre propre à son retour. Dans ce cas, la production et la consommation du service ne se sont pas effectuées au même moment et pourtant nous sommes bien dans un service pur.
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