Guidelines for Physical Evidence Strategy in Services Marketing
Since services are intangibles, management of physical evidence is highly difficult. The following are some general guidelines for an effective physical evidence strategy:
1. Recognize the strategic impact of physical evidence:
Physical evidence affects service quality expectations and perceptions. So, every service organization should first understand the importance of physical evidence. An effective planning is needed for physical evidence. The planning strategy should be linked to organization’s overall goals and vision. The planner must carefully design the strategy that can support the accomplishment of organizational goals.
The service management should go about the planning methodically. It should define the basic service concept, identify the target markets and know the firm’s vision. Since physical setting is a permanent component of the service environment servicescape, decisions should be implemented carefully.
2. Map the physical evidence of service:
The second step in establishing servicescape is to map the service. Everyone associated with the service delivery should be able to see the service process. A service blueprint (or map) accurately portrays the service system. Different people involved in providing the service understand their roles. A service map virtually displays the service by simultaneously depicting the process of service delivery, the points of customer contact, the roles of customers and the visible elements of the service.
People, process and physical evidence can be seen in the service map. The map clearly shows the action involved in service delivery, the complexity of the process, the points of human interaction, etc.
3. Clarify the roles of servicescape:
Servicescape plays the roles of package, facilitator, socialiser and differentiator. The physical setting of a service plays the role of package. It is a visual element which influences customers. The physical surroundings enable the organization to build a particular image.
The servicescape can also facilitate the performances of persons in the environment. Service setting should enhance the efficient flow of activities. The servicescape performs the role of socialiser by helping both employees and customers to convey clear messages.
A good servicescape fosters a smooth relationship between the employees and customers. The design of the physical facility can differentiate a firm from its competitors. Colours, decor, layout, music, Aroma, signage etc., can be used in consonance with the market segment.
4. Assess and identify physical evidence opportunities:
Having understood the current forms of evidence and roles, then opportunities for improvement can be identified. The elements of physical evidence should communicate about the service offerings. Suppose the high price charged by a restaurant does not match with the facilities made available to the customers, then either the pricing or facility design needs to be changed. Each individual comes to a particular service organization with a purpose.
The physical setting should aid the fulfillment of customer needs. Easy parking, cleanliness, quick service etc., are some physical evidences that can satisfy the customers.
5. Be prepared to update and modernize the evidence:
Physical evidences once created cannot be expected to remain constant forever. With the passage of time, they may require periodic updating and modernizing, even if the goals and objectives of the organization do not change. Fashion, colour, design and style reflect changing times. Unless the evidences are updated, physical evidences will fail in their attempt to attract customers.
During the service experience of a customer, physical evidence should be a part of an effective delivery strategy.
6. Work cross functionally:
The service management has to make a number of decisions with regard to servicescape. A multi-function team approach is required for the decision-making process. For example, the human resources area is concerned with decisions regarding employee training and process design decisions are made by operations manager. Further, marketing department takes pricing decisions. Thus, decisions are made over time and by the various functions within the organizations.