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Marketing-Based Tangibilisation For Services

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Marketing-Based Tangibilisation for Services


This study attempts to explore how to decrease the intangibility of

services by marketing-based activities, rather than the conventional perspective

based on operational activities. Based on the literature, this

study builds a four-element model to circumscribe and define the managerial

problems caused by the intangibility of services. Moreover, this study

proposes four strategies to raise consumers’ sense of tangibility toward

services, namely Quantitation/Ranking, Factualisation/Substantialisation,

Word-of-Mouth Effect, and Information Frequency. Following this,

three services, i.e., cafeteria, extension education, and ophthalmology

services, are selected as scenarios to conduct the experiments. The

results indicate that the four strategies can improve the tangibility of

services sufficiently, especially Quantitation/Ranking. This study also

builds a three-construct, nine-item Services Tangibility Scale to

measure consumers’ perceptions of tangibility toward a particular

service. Statistical evidence confirms the reliability, and discriminate

and convergent validity of the scale.


Tangibilising Services: Operational Issue or Marketing Issue?

Intangibility is the major distinction between services and tangible goods. Most, if not

all, textbooks on services mention this characteristic. Researchers conclude that

intangibility is the most cited and discussed topic [Berry, 1980; Orsini and Karagozoglu,

1988], the most critical feature [Bateson, 1979; Zeithhaml et al., 1985], and even the

only feature [Klein and Lewis 1985] of services in the literature. Edgett and Parkinson

[1993] review 106 related articles from 1963 to 1990 and discover 91 of them remark

upon intangibility, much better than other features. This evidence represents the critical

role that in/tangibility plays in services management.

The recent in/tangibility-related issues seem to concentrate on their shortcomings

toward services providers. Some studies propose that intangibility makes consumers

feel risky, decreases trust to providers, and forces each consumer to form his/her own

psychological condition on performance, providers and consumption decisions

David D. C. Tarn, Associate Professor and Chairperson of Business Administration, I-Shou University,

Taiwan. Email:;

The Service Industries Journal, Vol.25, No.6, September 2005, pp.747вЂ"772

ISSN 0264-2069 print=1743-9507 online

DOI: 10.1080=02642060500103290 # 2005 Taylor & Francis Group Ltd.

[Bateson, 1977; Guseman, 1981], thus producing unmet consumer satisfaction

[Bebco, 2001]. Other articles, such as SERVQUAL of Parasuraman et al. [1988],

emphasise the value of tangibility [Shostack, 1977, 1984; Murdick et al., 1990].

Even further, INTERSERVQUAL (for internal marketing) still involves tangibility

as the essential element [Frost and Kumar, 2000]. Thus, tangibilisation plays an

essential role in services-related fields.

Probably because consumers pay less attention to in/tangibility [Zeithaml et al.,

1988; Reeves and Bednar, 1995], most studies in the literature still focus on operationbased

tangibilisation (OBT) while neglecting to treat it with a marketing-based

tangibilisation (MBT). For instance, Parasuraman et al. [1985] and Fitzsimmons

and Fitzsimmons [1994] define tangibility by examining the extent to which hotels

are well decorated and whether employees are dressed in uniforms. This operationbased

tangibilisation of services surely works, but it may have two limitations.

First, OBT fails to give �predetermined advantages’ to providers. OBT can only

satisfy existing consumers while neglecting to attract the potential ones. Consider

the previous example, when a traveller enters a hotel and enjoys the well-decorated

equipment: s/he has been already a consumer of the hotel. Still, how to guide

those potential consumers who are walking around outside and feeling the hotel

and make them become a client might be much more beneficial than satisfying the

existing ones [Mullins, 1993; Tinkham and Kleiner, 1993].

Second, because intangibility leads to divergent expectation, decision analysis

and evaluation models (abbreviated as EDEM) among the consumers [Bateson,

1977; Guseman, 1981; Zinkhan et al., 1992], tangibilisation could assist to unify,

or at least to lower, the EDEM difference level. However, OBT, at most, helps

existing consumers to evaluate the services, while failing to converge EDEM

among consumers. For a walking-around consumer searching for a hotel service,




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