Services Marketing versus Customer Service


What’s the Difference between Services Marketing and Customer Service?

When you study Services Marketing at university, essentially you are learning about firms that primarily sell a service as their core product. The whole essence of a services marketing textbook revolves around “pure” service firms.

ccustomer service example
This non-service provider (supplier of water) augments their offering with customer service
(Click to enlarge)

However, when we hear the word “service” we often think of customer service. While customer service is a critical aspect of services marketing, there is actually a distinction between the two concepts.

Let’s understand the difference by using a real-life example. Let’s take a spring water business that delivers large bottles of spring water to offices, businesses and home. They are NOT a service business, as they are selling a tangible product as part of their core offering.

However, they may decide as part of their marketing strategy to package (augment) their offering with elements of customer service, such as:

• Friendly, reliable delivery people,
• Easy, online ordering systems,
• A 24/7 call center for enquiries and problems,
• Free deliveries and so on.

These extra benefits (which can also be considered as the augmented product), are all elements of customer service. Therefore, we have a goods manufacturer who tries to compete and differentiate themselves in the marketplace by providing a high level of responsive customer service – but they are NOT a services marketer.

Most industries, however, tend to provide a mix of tangible (goods) and intangible (services) product offerings – but in the field of services marketing, we are more interested in organizations that are primarily service-oriented.

When you study services marketing you will see that there are quite a number of distinct challenges facing service firms, which means they need to operate with an extended marketing mix (the 7P’s). They will generally offer a high level of customer service as well (mainly because they are more likely to have a greater level and frequency of direct customer contact), but they also have many other marketing aspects to consider.

Can service firms have low levels of customer service?

Definitely. Service firms that are automated with self-serve technology may have no physical staff on their premises at all. Examples here include car parking facilities and automated car cleaning. And, of course, many retailers (such as basic supermarkets) may encourage consumers to use self-serve and self check-out facilities.

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