Service can be defined as a satisfaction-producing act rendered by one person to another in exchange for payment.

It is any task performed by a person to a customer in exchange for monetary compensation or its equivalent.

Service is any intangible product which is produced and consumed concurrently.

Philip Kotler and Paul N. Bloom provide a useful definition of service. According to them, "Service is any activity or benefit that one party can offer to another, which is intangible and does not result in the ownership of anything."

One major characteristic of service is that it does not necessarily result in the transfer of ownership of the performance or act

For instance, if you visit a hospital because you are ill, the doctor will treat you, and you won't claim ownership of the medical service.

Another important characteristic of service is that it is produced and consumed immediately. 

As an illustration, when a lecturer teaches you, he produces knowledge while you immediately absorb it (consumption).

Another important to note about service is that the customer typically feels the impact of the service. For instance, when you use a barber's services, your haircut changes.

As another example, you gain more knowledge in a particular field when you employ the service of a teacher.

The quality of service offered by a service provider may be questioned if the customer does not see any discernible difference between when the service is provided and when it is not.

For instance, if you don't notice any improvement in your child's knowledge, you can opt to switch his school since you no longer trust the quality of teaching service his present school is offering.

So, if services are provided, there is always physical proof to show that the services are provided.

Characteristics of Service

There are six major characteristics of service, namely; intangibility, inseparability, heterogeneity, perishability, non-returnable, non-transferable ownership

1. Intangibility: This is the most distinctive feature of service.

Services are generally intangible because they cannot be seen, touched, or felt.

Services are intangible because they are acts rather than physical objects.

Unlike products, which can be tested or inspected before purchase, service cannot be inspected before purchase.

A consumer only pays for a service based on his trust and perception of the service provider.

Please note that although service is intangible, its impact must be felt.

For example, the service a barber provides when he cuts your hair is intangible However, the resultant effect of cutting your hair is tangible since the way your head looks changes.

2. Inseparability: We can not differentiate the production and consumption of service.

Creating and consuming services happen simultaneously.

This is why buyer and seller are usually present when service is delivered.

The inseparability of service can also be used to describe how difficult it is to separate the service provider from the service rendered.

That is, the presence of the service provider is necessary for service delivery. For instance, you cannot receive medical care unless the doctor is present.

3. Heterogeneity/variability: Service is produced by humans.

Different consumers receive services with varying levels of customization from a service provider.

This is because there is always a human component to providing services. 

For example, a happy banker will treat a customer better than an unhappy banker.

A teacher might teach a course very effectively to one group of pupils, but teach it horribly to another group of pupils

Heterogeneity of service can also mean that different service providers offer services of varying quality..

For example, some teachers are very great at teaching while others are not. You'll agree with me that even if all teachers offer teaching services, the quality of one teacher's service varies from another teacher's service.

4. Perishability: Because it is a byproduct of labor, service is very perishable.

Labour is perishable, and so is service. Service is a result of labour because people working in an organization are only providing their services to the organization

Service cannot be stored or saved for later use by the consumer. Once the service provider offers his services, the service is immediately destroyed.

5. Non-returnable: Once a service has been rendered, it cannot be returned. The most the consumer can do is to discontinue using the service of the service provider.

For example, a student dissatisfied with the services of his teacher cannot return the teaching service to the teacher.

He can only end his association with the teacher and seek the service of another teacher.

6. Ownership is non-transferable: Unlike goods, the ownership of service is not transferable.

Before, during, and after service delivery, the service provider retains ownership of the service.

The effect of service is only felt but the transfer of ownership of service is not possible.

For example, You may employ the service of a doctor or teacher. However, the ownership of the service remains with the service provider after the service delivery.


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