People and Physical Evidence in Service Marketing

30/09/2020 1 By indiafreenotes


The interactive aspect of service creation and consumption brings customer and service creator in direct contact with each other in many cases. Consider services such as beauty treatment, surgery, education, and dine in restaurant. All these services require customer-employee contact.

In goods marketing this kind of interaction is rare; instead there is interaction between the customer and the good. The intensity and duration of this contact varies. For instance, in psychotherapy the customer- provider contract tends to be intense and long in comparison to fast food restaurants.

Customer contact brings to the fore two distinct aspects unique to services ’what’ and ‘how’ of service product. ‘What’ represents the technical outcome that is created for customer such as the time taken in delivery of a packet or the timeliness of an airline, whereas ‘how’ refers to the process aspect of service creation like how a customer is treated by hotel personnel in check in, room service, check out, restaurant, and club. ‘How’ aspect determines the perception of ‘what’ aspect or the technical aspect of service quality. A highly competent surgeon or doctor who is excellent in technical aspect of service is unlikely to be perceived so if his process of treating the patient is cold, gruff, and unsympathetic.

Management of service personnel assumes importance for their role as service marketer and creator. They are the service organization to customers.

The following issues are important:

(i) Any compromise on employee skills and attitude is likely to produce quality variations or heterogeneous service performance. The lack of consistency works counter to creating a cohesive brand image.

(ii) It is not only important to invest in development of technical service skills, but customer contact employees must also be trained in interpersonal aspects. This requires building customer orientation, interactional skills, and other soft aspects such as attitude and empathy.

Physical Evidence in Service Marketing

Physical evidence assumes significance because services are intangible. A physical object defines itself but an intangible is not able to do. The evidence that is discernible by senses associated with a service is carrier of meaning. That is, customer’s bank upon physical evidence to extract what a service is all about.

For instance, the service provided by two restaurants or hotels is not known with experience. However, the evidence that surround these services conveys meaning and suggests how they are different from each other. Physical evidence is a collection of tangible cues that signals service quality. Although physical evidence belongs to operations or production area, it becomes a domain of interest to marketing because of its ability to impact customers.

Cleanliness, wall colour, dress of staff, equipment appearance, signboards, stationery, toilet condition, as well as smells and paint on wall convey what a hospital is all about in terms of its quality standards and position in relation to competition.

There are two types of evidences essential and peripheral

(i) Essential Evidence

It represents those things associated with a service that are essential to its creation. Their core nature does not allow a service to be conceived without its presence. For instance, aircraft is essential to airline service and car is essential to a rent a car company.

These are so core to service that they are not passable to customers; however customer may enjoy temporary access to them. The importance of essential evidence stems from the fact that customers form their core opinion or image based on the core evidence. A rent a car company is likely to be perceived poorly if its cars are not maintained properly.

(ii) Peripheral Evidence

Evidence in this case is marginal or operates at the fringe of image-making process. Anything that does not get categorized as essential falls into this category. For instance, newspapers, receipts, magazines, dust on the window panes, and floor mats all form peripheral evidence in case of a rent a car operations. Customers make a perception about restaurant on the basis of table linen and decor.

Three things important to the creation of place of service delivery are ambience, spatial arrangement, and social setting. Ambience refers to stimuli that customer senses are sensitive about such as lighting, sound, scent, temperature, and touch. All these sensory elements must be coordinated in line with the overall service positioning.

The space dimension is about how spatial utilization. How things are to be arranged in restaurant or retail outlet depends upon the service concept. For instance, in CCD outlets the furniture is arranged in a way to facilitate conversation. Finally, social setting means what kind of social environment is created.

For instance, a service may create a formal setting while another service may promote informality. In this regard people, their behaviour, sound conditions, decor, and spatial arrangement play a defining role. The difference in social setting is discernible when a quick service restaurant is compared with fine formal dine in restaurant.

Role of service evidence

A distinction is made in services marketing between two kinds of physical evidence:

  • Peripheral evidence
  • Essential evidence

(i) Peripheral Evidence

Peripheral evidence is actually possessed as part of the purchase of a service. It has however little or no independent value. Thus a bank cheque book is of no value unless backed by the funds transfer and storage service it represents.

An admission ticket for a cinema equally has no independent value. It merely confirms the service. It is not a surrogate for it. Peripheral evidence ‘adds to’ the value of essential evidence only as far as the customer values these symbols of service.

The hotel rooms of many large international hotel groups contain much peripheral evidence like directories, town guides, pens, notepads, welcome gifts, drink packs, soaps and so on. These representations of service must be designed and developed with customer needs in mind. They often provide an important set of complementary items to the essential core service sought by customers.

(ii) Essential Evidence

Essential evidence, unlike peripheral evidence, cannot be possessed by the customer. Nevertheless essential evidence may be so important in its influence on service purchase it may be considered as an element in its own right. The overall appearance and layout of a hotel; the ‘feel’ of a bank branch; the type of vehicle rented by a car rental company; the type of aircraft used by a carrier are all examples of physical evidence.

Managing the Evidence

Service organizations with competing service products may use physical evidence to differentiate their service products in the marketplace and give their service products a competitive advantage. A physical product like a car or a camera can be augmented through the use of both tangible and intangible elements.

A car can be given additional tangible features like a sliding roof or stereophonic radio equipment; a camera can be given additional tangible features like control devices which enable use in a wide variety of light conditions.

A car may be sold with a long life antirust warranty or cost- free service for the first year of ownership; a camera with a long-life warranty or free lens insurance. Tangible and intangible elements may be used to augment the essential product offer. In fact organizations marketing tangible dominant products frequently use intangible, abstract elements as part of their communications strategy.

Service marketing organizations also try to use tangible clues to strengthen the meaning of their intangible products.