The above question served as the title of an article by Nick Johns published in the European Journal of Marketing1 in 1999. Whilst he noted that ‘the word “service” has a great richness and diversity of meaning’, there is also, it could be argued, an implicit recognition of the distinctiveness of service. It is equally a fitting introductory question for a text on services marketing management. Through the development of concepts and a body of knowledge services marketing and services management has become an area worthy of study in its own right. In arriving at this point, much of the detail has centred around the differences between service and manufacturing, giving rise to comment that ‘it seems reasonable to expect that there are differences between managing an organization that produces something that can be seen, touched and held and managing an organization that produces something that is perceived, sensed, and
Most organizations provide a service of some sort or another. For organizations such as airlines, trains, universities, car rental, health or government agencies service represents a major part of what they have to offer. They are known as service organizations. Others whose business is the manufacture of products, e.g. computers, mobile phones, washing machines, service is of lesser, albeit significant importance. There are particular problems and challenges in managing services, namely intangibility, inseparability, variability and perishability. In particular, services have to contend with uncertainties over customer involvement and what they expect. To address these and other problems service organizations have adopted an approach called ‘McDonaldization’, with increasing attention being given to efficiency and technology. Given the difficulties of providing a service, it is not surprising there is ongoing debate over the variability of its quality.