Consumers and Services

Craig Shoemaker (Associate Professor, St Ambrose University, Davenport, Iowa, USA)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Article publication date: 1 February 2000




Shoemaker, C. (2000), "Consumers and Services", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 17 No. 1, pp. 73-87.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

The most marked change in the structure of developed economies in the twentieth century has been the transformation from an emphasis on the manufacture of physical goods to the production of intangible services. Economies of the world are now dominated by services: the percent of GDP and the labor force in the USA represent 72.33 percent, France 64.3 percent, UK 62.9 percent, and Japan 56.8 percent. In 1995, for the first time, the Fortune 500 included service firms. Of the top ten companies on the list, four offered services, and over half of the entire list were service‐providing companies.

This book should be considered a services marketing “primer” as it integrates the psychological aspects of consumer behavior and the marketing of services. The foundation of the text is the recognition that services represent significant challenges to marketers that must be identified and addressed. The authors clearly point out that services marketing is very different from goods marketing in several significant ways.

The early chapters deal with the nature of services and how they are dimensionally different from tangible products. Routine problems encountered in product‐producing businesses – balancing production and inventory levels to demand, distributing products to satisify consumer needs, etc. – are not faced in service businesses. While the authors constantly provide comparisons between services and products, they screen these differences through the lens of the consumer’s purchase behavior.

The authors define exactly what a service is and why it is important for marketers to give services special treatment. While the distinction between goods and services is somewhat artificial in nature, the success of even product‐producing firms is highly dependent upon the services they provide. The four universally recognized characteristics of services that differentiate them from manufactured goods – intangibility, inseparability, variability and perishability – are discussed in detail.

The 1990s have brought significant attention to the issues of customer satisfaction and service quality. The national movement toward quality excellence, exemplified by the Malcolm Baldrige award, has created awareness among for‐profit and not‐for‐profit organizations that it is critical to satisify customers and how important it is to measure and monitor this satisfaction. The authors do an excellent job in bringing the concepts of customer satisfaction and service to the forefront.

From the customer’s perspective, the most vivid impression of service occurs in the “service encounter” – a time when there is an interpersonal interaction between the employees of the service firm and the customer. The authors identify five dimensions applicable to all service encounters – time, physical proximity, participation, degree of involvement, and customization. The social and behavioral aspects of the service encounter mediate these dimensions. It is this dimension that distinguishes this work from the various textbooks that deal with the subject of service marketing.

The authors articulate service evaluation methodologies by comparing and contrasting similarities in evaluation processes between products and services. The issues of quality, customer satisfaction, and affect (mood) are investigated as they integrate into mediating customer purchase and repurchase behavior. It is once again this dimension that distinguishes this work from others who write in the area of service quality and its measurement.

The last four chapters deal with the application of the above principles in selected service‐providing industries – tourism, professional services, financial services, health care and charity. The authors report that the task of their book was not to provide a complete and exhaustive summary of consumer behavior literature, nor to rework services marketing literature with a consumer flavor, but to raise issues and questions both at a general level and across specific contexts. The authors summarize by stating … “If consumption is socially constructed, based on ritual and interpretation of belief, then services provide the context in which to consider the experience of consumers, without the complication of objects, and to bridge the gap between what commodity actually is and how it is perceived”.

This book would support a services marketing class at the undergraduate, graduate and executive levels. A secondary target audience might be organizations or individuals employed in service‐providing industries.

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