There are several information sources about consumer buyer behaviour when it comes to the purchase of a physical product, but the unique characteristics of service products require a different strategy from marketers.
The most important characteristic of a service product is its intangibility. Where physical (tangible) products are promoted, customers can be enticed to buying the product by giving out samples, or they can look at and try out the product - all of these play a role in the decision making process. However, with a service product, these options are not available. In certain cases, clients can be shown a picture to make the service more tangible, for instance when trying out a new hair cut, or they can form an impression of the service by looking at an architect's sketches when building a new house.
The intangibility of a service product makes is more prone to subjectivity when consumers have to decide on a specific service provider, over another, and word-of-mouth plays an important role in the decision making process. Marketers of a service product need to make consumers aware of the availability of the service, and its provider. The range of features, advantages, and benefits that users will derive, and the convenience of the service are all types of information that a consumer would want to know before making the buying decision. As affluence increases, services become more affordable and leisure time becomes more valuable, and this causes consumers to purchase a service rather that performing a task themselves - washing your car at a car-wash is a good example of this.
The perceived professionalism and competence of the firm are also important considerations for deciding which service product to use, because it is often difficult for a consumer to distinguish one service provider from another. Therefore, the image of a particular service firm might be the only factor that makes it preferable over another in the consumer's mind. Good service reputation and transparency are two powerful methods for service providers to differentiate themselves.
Many consumers may perceive the risk of buying a service to be higher than for consumers purchasing physical goods. Because of the intangibility and subjectivity involved in making the buying decision, consumers cannot rely as heavily on gathering information than is the case for physical products. Consumers might also perceive the risk of buying a service greater, because services are not standardised and the outcome can be different every time the service is used (for example a haircut). Also, if you have purchased a service, and are not happy with the outcome, you can't simply return it as with physical products. The consequences of a badly performed service can be severe (for example if you had your car repaired and are unhappy with the outcome.)
Price is an important type of information that service marketers can supply to consumers in the buying process. But it is important to keep in mind that price affects a prospective buyer's expectations of the service. Some consumers might be willing to pay more for a service because they probably associate higher prices with higher quality, and thus they think they can reduce the risk involved in buying a service product.
It has been found that companies which provide general service information provide price information and provides a service guarantee, significantly lowers the perceived risk in buying their products.
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