Service Marketing mix – 7 P’s

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Service marketing - ToolsHero

This article explains the theory of service marketing mix, also known as the 7P’s in a practical way. After reading you will understand the basics of this powerful marketing tool.

Background of the service marketing mix

More and more organizations are competing one another strategically to distinguish themselves in the area of service and quality within a market. Successful organizations strongly focus on the service paradigm with investment in people, technology, personnel policy and remuneration systems for their employees.

This is very important as the behaviour of the employees can have a direct influence on the quality of the service. Employees represent the face and the voice of their organization to the customers. They translate the services provision into services for the customer across all sectors.

In 1981, using the above mentioned information, Bernard H. Booms and Mary J. Bitner further developed the traditional marketing mix developed by the American Professor of Marketing Jerome McCarthy into the extended marketing mix or services marketing mix.

This services marketing mix is also called the 7P model or the 7 Ps of Booms and Bitner. This service marketing mix strategy extends the original marketing mix model from four to seven elements. While Jerome McCarthy has only defined four verifiable marketing elements, the 7Ps are an extension as a result of which this services marketing mix can also be applied in service companies and knowledge intensive environments.

The traditional marketingmix (4 P’s)

The four basic elements from the concept marketing mix that have been devised by the American marketing professor Jerome McCarthy are:

– Product

This element is an object or service an organization produces on a large scale in a specific volume of units. An example of a material product is the disposable razor.

– Price

This is the price the customer pays for a service or product. The price is the most important factor for marketing. The price of a product or service is determined by all factors that an organization invests during the preparation of the product. For instance material costs, market share, product identity etc. The price of a product may go up or go down depending on time and the price of a certain product may vary because of market developments.

– Place

This element represents the location where the product is available for the customers. It is possible that the product is not available in all locations but only in a certain selection of locations.

– Promotion

This element comprises all the efforts the company or organization makes to stimulate the popularity of their product in the market, for instance by advertising, promotional programmes, etc.

Jerome McCarthy’s 4Ps marketing model is the world’s most famous product marketing model. It gives a picture of a product/price mix of an organization, in combination with a promotion plan so it can approach and serve customers on the basis of well-considered distribution and customer contact channels. Jerome McCarthy’s 4Ps marketing model offer marketing managers focus areas with respect to objectives and the resources to achieve those objectives.

Service Marketing mix: 7 P’s model by Booms and Bitner

The 7 Ps model, also known as the services marketing mix, goes beyond the four basic marketing principles for product marketing. Services have unique characteristics, for example intangibility, heterogeneity, inseparability and perish-ability. Bernard H. Booms and Mary J. Bitner’s insight in relation to physical products and services led to an extension of the traditional marketing mix. In addition to the four traditional factors, THREE important factors have been added: People, Process and Physical Evidence, that make the services marketing mix.

Service Marketing mix - 7P's - ToolsHero

In 1981 this service marketing mix approach was seen as very valuable and it provided new insights as a result of which the extension gained widespread acceptance in the science of services marketing. These added elements within the service marketing mix represent a service and provide intangibility by physical evidence, the result. Below the new elements are briefly explained one by one.

– People

In Booms and Bitner’s service marketing mix, ‘people’ include people who are directly or indirectly involved in the trade of the product or service. These are mainly customer contact employees (contact centre employees, representatives, account managers, etc.), customers, personnel and management. It is mainly the customer contact employees who are the face of the organization and they translate the quality into a service. They are the ‘service’ providers on account of their occupation or entrepreneurship. They include for instance stylists, hair dressers, coaches, trainers, gardeners, lawyers, contact centre employees, etc. They deliver a physical service with a visible result.

Service companies are thoroughly aware that they must effectively manage the customer contact employees in order to monitor the quality of the service with respect to attitudes and behaviour. This is very important in service companies because there might be a large variable in the performance of the customer contact employees in relation to the results of the services delivered. The quality of a service between service companies and customers (hospital intake, having a meal in a restaurant or accountancy or management consultancy services) can vary very strongly in addition to other important factors. The lack of homogeneity in services creates difficulties for service companies. Delivery of services often occurs during an interaction between a customer and contact employees. Attitude and behaviour of an employee create a perception of the service as experienced by the customer (customer perception). This perception may be either positive or negative. It is even more important because it can influence customer satisfaction and in turn the customer’s purchase intentions.

– Physical Evidence

The physical evidence within the service marketing mix refers to an environment in which a service comes about from an interaction between an employee and a customer which is combined with a tangible commodity. The physical evidence includes a representation of a service for instance brochures, company stationery, business cards, reports, company website, etc. A good example is a hotel. The design, furnishing, lighting and decoration of a hotel as well as the appearance and the attitudes of the employees have a certain influence on the quality of the service and customer experience.

For example for a theme park, restaurant, or school, its ‘service scape’ or the environment in which the service takes places (service setting) is of crucial importance when it concerns communicating about the service and the positive influencing of customer experience. This service scape includes three physical environment dimensions that represent the relation between services and environment, namely:

  1. Environmental conditions such as temperature, sound, smell, etc.
  2. Space and functions such as map, equipment, decoration, etc.
  3. Signs, symbols and artefacts such as signature, decoration style, personal touch, etc.

As services are intangible, customers are continuously looking for concrete clues to help them understand the nature of the service company. The more intangible the service the more important it is to make the service around it tangible. Credit cards are a good example of tangible proof compared to the provision of (intangible) credit facilities by credit card companies and banks. In conclusion, the physical evidence serves as a visual metaphor of what the company represents, what services it facilitates and the relations between customers and employees.  Another important point for consideration: satisfied customers. Satisfied customers are the best publicity for the services or products to be delivered. The marketing strategy must be effective, in which satisfaction of existing customers can be communicated to potential customers. Social marketing is a useful tool in this respect. It is not tangible but it supplies physical evidence with the aid of for instance a written recommendation by a customer or user.

– Process

The element ‘Process’ of the service marketing mix represents the activities, procedures, protocols and more by which the service in question is eventually delivered to the customer. As services are results of actions for or with customers, a process involves a sequence of steps and activities to get there. The element ‘process’ of the service marketing mix is an essential element within the entire service marketing mix strategy. This element comprises all activities and services in which the people involved play an important role.

As a service is made up of a chain of activities, it is important to take the possible waiting period between the activities into consideration. That is why it is important that marketeers take care of the communication about possible delivery times and by doing so the management of customer expectations. Creating and managing effective service processes are for the existence of service companies. Managing the process factor is mainly due to the perish-ability of services which means that the services cannot be inventoried, stored for reuse or returned. For instance, airline seats that are not booked cannot be reclaimed. It is therefore important that the service companies manage demand as well as they possibly can.

Another distinguishing characteristic of a process in relation to a service is the evidence to be provided to the customer and this is often a standardized or customized approach based on the customer’s needs and expectations. Feedback from the customer will see to the required tightening in the process with the aim to meet the customers’ needs. The delivery system and the flexibility of the employees are two other key factors in the successful delivery of a service. As services are dynamic and experiential, service companies also use a blue print method called ‘Service Blue Printing’. This process-based method provides a better management of the service in the area of internal and external interaction, makes this transparent and ultimately this is implemented in practice.

Key notes on the service marketing mix

In short, the unique 3 Ps that are part of the service marketing mix: People, Physical Evidence and Process determine the success and the existence of a service company. They influence the buying needs, customer satisfaction and customer experience.

Within the service companies quality and feedback are always at the top of the list so that they can serve their customers well, retain them and improve the necessary service processes and service scape.

More information

  1. Fisk, R., Brown, S. W., Bitner, M. J. (1993). Tracking the evolution of the services marketing literature. Journal of Retailing. Spring 1993; 69, 1; ABI/INFORM Globalpg. 61.
  2. Booms, B. & Bitner, M. J. (1981). Marketing Strategies and Organizational Structures for Service Firms. Marketing of Services, James H. Donnelly and William R. George, eds. Chicago: American Marketing Association, 47-51.
  3. Wilson, A., Zeithaml, V. A., Bitner, M. J., & Gremler, D. D. (2012). Services marketing: Integrating customer focus across the firm. McGraw Hill.

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