Service Marketing: 5 Major Characteristics of Services

In our last post, we discussed “How you can Successfully Market your Services“. Today, we are going to examine the 5 major unique characteristics of services or classification of services in service marketing which are;

  • Perishability,  
  • Intangibility,  
  • Variability,  
  • Inseparably and
  • Non-ownership

Characteristics of Services


Perhaps of all the suggested special characteristics of service products or classification of services, this is one of the most difficult to appreciate. Why? Services are highly perishable compared to physical products. But how could, for example, the services of say, an airline be considered to be more perishable than, say, fresh food and vegetable products?

The reason is that unlike most physical products, many services cannot be stored. For example, if an airline does not sell all the seats on a particular flight, then those seats or rather the sales revenue of filling of them would have carried, has immediately and irreversibly gone.


Physical products in the store are widely displayed for customers to see, feel, touch, weigh or sniff at before deciding whether or not to buy.

Comparing this with the choice of the service of say, an insurance policy. You cannot touch, see or smell the products before choosing, although clearly you can make some assessment based on past experience, word of mouth, or even the location and decor of the insurance office. The intangible nature of most services gives rise to special problems both for suppliers and consumers.


In the production and marketing of physical products, companies have increasingly paid special attention to ensuring consistency in quality, feature, packaging, and so on. More often than not all customers can be sure that every bottle of Coke he/she buys, even in a life-time of purchases, will not vary. The provision of services, however, invariably includes a large measure of the “human element”

Indeed, with many services, we are purchasing nothing else but the skills of the suppliers. Because of this, it is often very difficult for both supplier and consumer to ensure a consistent “product” or quality of service.


A key distinguishing feature of service marketing is that the service provision and provider are inseparable from the service consumption and consumer. For example, we cannot take a hotel room home for consumption; we must “consume” this service at the point of provision. Similarly, the hairdresser needs to be physically present for this service to be consumed.

This has implications both for channels of distribution and scale of operations.


The final distinguishing feature of a service is that, unlike a physical product, the consumer does not secure ownership of the service. Rather the customer pays only to secure access to or use of the service. Again the hotel room is a good example. Similarly, with banking services, although the customer may be given a Cheque book, credit cards, etc, they serve only to allow the customer to make use of what he or she is actually buying, namely, bank services.

  1. June 28, 2011
    • May 20, 2013
  2. July 4, 2012
  3. July 6, 2012
  4. October 25, 2012
  5. April 11, 2013
  6. June 18, 2013
  7. October 18, 2014
  8. December 18, 2014
  9. March 21, 2015
  10. May 22, 2015
  11. July 17, 2015
  12. October 15, 2015
    • October 22, 2015
  13. February 4, 2016
  14. February 9, 2016
  15. November 13, 2016
    • November 13, 2016

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