The Big Picture…
The Service Marketing Mix is an attempt to address concerns that the original Marketing Mix doesn’t fit well for service.
That original Marketing Mix, commonly known as the 4Ps, is the set of activities/tools used by enterprises to get you to buy their product. And was introduced by McCarthy in the 1960s becoming a marketing classic.
To address this criticism, Boom & Bitner introduced 3 additional Ps to derive the Service Marketing Mix. These new Ps are People, Physical Evidence and Process. This comes from taking a view that service and goods are fundamentally different.
Further, Kotler proposed an additional 8th P: Performance. Although this 8th P is sometimes used for Partnership instead.
These 7/8Ps have worked well since their introduction. Yet they come from the goods are good, service causes a problem view. And take a goods-dominant view of value. That is to say it still takes a seller’s only view.
What if we take a service-dominant view – where we start with a service-first view and see where goods fit? Then we arrive at the Synthesis Marketing Mix.
There is general criticism that the marketing mix does not work for services. Constantinides, in “The Marketing Mix Revisited: Towards the 21st Century Marketing“, identifies 11 papers citing such issues. And proposing a variety of Cs, Ps, Ss and Ws as fixes.
Most notably, Booms & Bitner propose 3 more P’s are needed. (see “Marketing Strategies and Organizational Structures for Service Firms“). These are Process, People, and Physical Evidence. While several authors have alternative solutions, Booms & Bitner’s extension is the one we commonly see referenced in the literature.
And Kotler has proposed an 8th P of performance. Whilst Chaffey & Smith have proposed that 8th P is for partnership. Leaving us with a complete service marketing mix along the lines of Figure 1.
Let’s dig into these three extra Ps, beginning with Booms & Bitner’s contribution.
Booms & Bitner’s 7Ps
Let’s take a look at each of the 3 P additions Booms & Bitner proposed. These I show in Figure 2.
We know that services are interactions between a provider and consumer (end customer). As such, consumers will most likely be interacting with your (the provider) people. And I’m sure we all have personal experience of how bad and excellent customer service affects our experience and willingness to be a repeat customer. Therefore we already know how important people are to a service.People are vital in the services marketing mix, most visibly in the consumer interactions. However, in today's world, consumers might be interacting with a computer interface (including bots and artificial intelligence) and never with a human.… Click To Tweet
Back in the 80s, when this extension was proposed, people were people. Nowadays, however, you might never interact with a human during the service delivery (or parts of). Instead, it could be a bot, or some artificial intelligence agent, or simply just a computer interface.
When you order an Uber, for example, you do not interact with any human. And, looking further ahead in time, even the second part of the Uber experience – transportation – is likely to be free of humans.
So it is better that we consider people as the set of competencies the provider brings to the service. In this particular case the customer-facing competences. But don’t forget people refers to all the people involved in the service. And that fits nicely into our model of what a service is.
With that said, let’s move on to the next extended P – the process.
Closely related to people is process. And we define process as the series of activities, and the order they are carried out, in order to fulfil the job of the service.Process, in the services marketing mix, aims to minimise inconsistency in service delivery (or put more positively: maximise customers experience). Click To Tweet
The simplest way to think of process is how a fast food restaurant works. It has a highly defined process for cooking and serving a burger. That process can be replicated anywhere. And can be used by people with a wide range of skills. The aim is to minimise differences in the characteristics of service. Services, by definition, are inconsistent. Having individuals in an organisation always follow a determined process reduces this inconsistency.
Technically we distinguish between skills/competences owned by individuals and processes. Actually, processes come from repeated use, socialising, and subsequently capturing (codifying, to use the literature’s term) skills beneficial to the survival of the service.
In addition to our simple burger example, we can add many more. The tools that a top tier management consultancy bring to an assignment. IT consultancies ways of developing software. And so on.
Process can be a competitive advantage. And hopefully, the combination of process and people gives a more significant return than the two parts on their own. But we also need to allow for process improvement without it being burdensome. And encourage and support process innovation.
Finally, in our 7 Ps service marketing mix, we have physical evidence.
Booms & Bitner describe the physical evidence aspect of the services marketing mix as “The environment in which the service is delivered and where the firm and customer interact, and any tangible components that facilitate performance or communication of the service“.
We can see, for example, those 3 aspects of physical evidence in Figure 2.
First the physical premises the service provider may use. Such as the bank office, the shop, or the hospital buildings. It also could mean the Uber vehicle or standard taxi. And in our modern world, we include the website or mobile app used to interact and deliver the service.
Additionally, there are tangible components that facilitate the performance such as the in-flight food/drinks of an airline. Or the clean trucks of a food delivery service.
And, there are the tangible components that communicate the service. Such as the insurance policy document, the airline ticket or uniforms worn by doctors, surgeons and nurses.
Relationship with innovation
All 3 of these also relate to innovation adoption. Observability is one of the factors affecting the speed of adoption. And we know that we need to switch our marketing to one showing social proof after 16% of adopters have adopted. Without physical evidence, it is hard to have this observability or social proof.
Servicescapes bring up the memory of the experience economy.
We’re mostly done, if not for Kotler who proposes adding an eigth P.
The 8th P of the Service Marketing Mix
In alternative Service Marketing Mixes, there is an 8th P added. Two of the more common are Kotler’s, where this P is for performance; and another where the P is for partnership.
In Marketing Management Kotler adds an 8th P – Performance. Bringing our marketing mix to that shown in Figure 3.
His performance refers to how well the company’s service competes in the marketplace. And how to measure the company’s financial goals and if they are being achieved.
An alternate 8th P of Partnership has been proposed. Though I’ve lost the reference to who proposed it (but it could well be Chaffey & Smith (2013) “eMarketing Excellence, 4ed“, where they wrote “Perhaps there is a new P in the mix, ‘partnerships’ or marketing marriages or alliances”)
The Service Marketing Mix is a step forwards from the original mix of McCarthy. It addresses one of the main criticisms that service requires more than just the 4 Ps of product, price, place and promotion. Adding in people, process and physical evidence is helpful.
Similarly, the 8th P is a useful addition. Though whether that should be performance or partnership is up for discussion.
However, we are still looking at things from a goods-dominant perspective. Where goods are goo and service are seen as problematic. What if we were to take a service first perspective? Well, then I would like to introduce the Synthesis Marketing Mix.