One of the uniqueness that services have is that they are intangible by nature. It is because of this uniqueness that customers and clients are always skeptical about the service that they are going to purchase because they cannot see it or experience it before purchasing. So service providing organizations from time to time aims at producing physical evidences that would make it easier for the customers to imagine the experiences they will gather and perceptions they will develop while purchasing the services.
Consider the case of a Chinese restaurant. Once we enter a Chinese restaurant we do not know how the food will be until we actually order and have it. But we can always develop some idea about the quality of the food that will be served to us from the internal decor, health and hygiene conditions being maintained inside the restaurant, the aroma of the food, the faces of the other customers having food there etc.
A discussion on how such physical evidences can be grown is as follows:
1. Environment: Environment plays a key role in influencing the customer experiences and perceptions. Chinese restaurants are decorated with Chinese fans and fengshui artifacts like the laughing Buddha and dragons to bring about a sense of China within the restaurant. For the same purpose, Indian restaurants in London are decorated with Indian handicrafts. This helps in the creation of physical evidences. The moment you enter one such place you know what to expect. Environment plays a vital role in all service sector units, particularly in the hotel and education industry.
2. Documentation: Service providing organizations aim at documentation of the standard of their services in the form of leaflets, brochures etc. This is particularly common in the case of educational institutions. Here we can cite the example of the Indian IT training industry. The leading Indian IT training organizations like Computer Maintenance Corporation, NIIT, BRAINWARE do this to create a physical evidence of the standard of IT training that would be given to the students. For this, these organizations have a separate branding and creativity department whose duty is the designing of such leaflets; brochures etc. so that they can highlight the physical evidences and contribute in fetching business.
3. Training to Staffs: Well trained staffs are an asset of any organization. At times they help in providing physical evidence to the customers about the standard of the services being provided to clients. For example the Christian Keralite nurses are very competent in handling patients with humanity. These nurses are a source of physical evidence to the patients in the Apollo Hospitals in Chennai and in other parts of southern India. With training, their nursing skills get enhanced. Apollo Hospitals have recruited such nurses and trained them to advertise the physical evidence.
4. Interaction by the Staffs: Friendly interactions by the staffs at times act as a physical evidence in building the customer perceptions and experiences. This is particularly true for the retail industry. In a shopping mall customers interact with the staffs on a more regular basis than in any other industry. In Pantaloons, staffs are given special training on ways of interaction with customers. They are given training on communication and personality development so that they can greet customers warmly.
5. Highlighting of Experiences: The great experiences of the previous customers are at times highlighted to influence the perceptions and expected experiences. This is particularly common in the travel and tourism industry. The website of Kundu Special, a leading Kolkata (West Bengal, India) based tourism company, has a section where the views and positive experiences of regular customers are depicted. With the same objective, in all the study centres of the Sikkim Manipal University the experiences of the students who have already passed out are advertised along with their photographs.
6. Advertisements: Advertisements, propaganda schemes and PR activities can also at times act as sources of physical evidence that puts a profound impression on customer experiences and perceptions. It is always great to pose a happy picture of the organization. Take the example of the advertisements of Oreo biscuits. Ranvir Kapoor is seen making fun with his screen sister … a happy picture which motivates people to buy more of this biscuit. Cadbury’s Celebrations are another great example. Customers are made to think that a celebration would be incomplete without Cadbury.
7. Other Associations: Government recognition, ISO certification etc are other associations that can influence the customer minds. Also at times social recognition plays a role in this regard.
8. CSR: Adoption of a proper policy for corporate social responsibility (CSR) also helps to influence customer experiences and perceptions. For example people’s perceptions about TATA Steel are formed to a huge extent by the CSR activities of this company.
In conclusion it can be pointed out that building physical evidence is a challenge for any service enterprise. While making a plan for building physical evidence it has to be remembered that physical evidences are like pillars to the marketing strategy of a service selling organization. However, just building of such physical evidence will not serve any purpose if efforts are not given to maintain them. Maintenance of physical evidences is an even more difficult challenge for the marketing strategists.
About the author:
The author is a graduate of commerce from St. Xavier’s College (Kolkata), a holder of a diploma in financial accounting from CMC, a holder of a post graduate diploma in finance from HSIS India and undergone a management program in marketing called GPBL (eq. to MBA) from TASMAC B – School in association with the University of Wales (U.K.).
Professionally, he was involved with CMC Ltd, HARDSOFT Information Systems, The George Telegraph Training Institute and many others. With more than ten years of experience in the service industry, the author is an avid reader and a writer of many articles.