Servicescape is a business term used to define the overall representation of commercial sites where exchange services take place. They are sites strategically designed to influence cognitive and psychological mindset of people to prepare for commercial actions. According to Arnould et al., “And like places generally, they have meanings and values for persons, indeed may serve as the foci for the production of socially and personally significant meanings, intentions, and purposes,” . Due to the transcending definition of the term in the business environment, there are social-cultural dimensions that widen non-commercial perspectives of the meaning of servicescape. This paper attempts to define, give examples, and analyze the relevance of servicescape in service marketing.
Servicescape is a service marketing strategy implemented by business management even though it but involves consumer input. Modeling a servicescape requires merging substantive and communicative concepts at varying proportions to produce desired outcome. Substantive concept engages the manipulation of physical environment in order to improve the physical appearance and authenticity of a commercial or recreational site. Arnould et al., (1998) posit, “Even servicescapes that emphasize authenticity, ranging from zoological flight cages and safari parks to ‘Universal Studios’, ‘Earthquake’ or ‘Backdraft’ attractions are, after all, contrived, (p. 90).
Communicative staging in servicescape refer to a method of transcending sense into service provision to end users. Communication moves back and forth between clients and service providers until a point where both parties absorb meaning of servicescape. Communicative staging involves the when, who, where what and how, 4W1H’s model of analyzing the success of a strategy. Lastly, some aspects of substantive staging could also be critical in formulating a desirable servicescape program. The staging classifies communicative levels according to degree of need. However, “Previous research has stressed substantive staging of the servicescape over communicative staging,” (Arnould et al., 1998, p. 91).
The ‘physical’ presence of service marketing, servicescape is unique because services are intangible but there is a practical experience of utility in servicing. Environmental state of a business premise either motivates or discourages consumption of services. Environmental perception of physical location of a services is a mindset that according to Rao, (2010), “Psychologists begun to study during the early 20th century the human perception of environmental stimuli such as light, sound, weight, and pressure,” (p. 261). In addition, the author adds that studies on the interdependence of the physical environment and behavior of humankind were a boost to the establishment of environmental psychology, (Rao, 2010). Designing a servicescape requires caution as needs of a diverse cultural patterns of clientele, who would wish to use services, should be taken into consideration. Dimensions of a building are able to change moods of a service user, for instance, if space where clients interact is congested, they may develop aggressive character whereas a spacious location creates a relaxed environment. All these considerations constitute what is referred to as servicescape.
Concepts of Servicescape
As has already been mentioned, the term servicescape generally refer to the design of a physical location of business premise for service marketing. The psychological state and expectations of customers should be the guiding principles in servicescape design. Servicescape influences attitude and concepts of human interactions. The external and internal aspects of servicescape are a form of high-context or covert communication pattern. Use of non-verbal communication is a form of High-context that requires body mobility to show effect and applies in an ideal servicescape location.
There are different types of servicescape: interpersonal services, remote services, and self-service. Remote services are consumer-centric efforts aimed at improving the physical landscape, for example, “Mail order services, consultancy services, telecommunication and the like can be provided without the customer ever seeing the service facilities,” (Rao, 2010, p. 263). In such cases, service providers collude with designers to develop what service providers consider crucial. The objective of remote services is to improve delivery of services for the benefit of customers.
Interpersonal services give attention to the needs of both customers and service providers. An example is the selling of an insurance policy by an insurance firm. In this case, policy should be packaged in a manner that it attracts potential customers and sellers at the same time. In addition, interpersonal services should enhance working relationship between service providers and customers. As such, the design of a servicescape is an involving process that should inform operations of a working business entity. It is the appearance of physical location of a service center in order to give a desired outlook to the expectations of potential clients. Self-service on the other hand refers to the usefulness and appearance of clients in the physical environment of a business site, “for instance, a self-service environment like ATM, drop-off boxes, and vending machines,” (Verma, 2007, p. 112).
Servicescape play critical role in service marketing. Rao, (2010) assert that, “It has a critical role to play in forming initial impressions and setting up customer expectation and serves as a facilitator in supporting the performance of a person in the environment,” (p. 263). The appearance of a business premise is vital in the hospitality industry, theme park industry, and financial sector among other sectors. Walt Disney Walt, (WDW) was the sole industry player in the 1980s to offer theme park recreational activities. Theme park is a modified structure to suit users’ appeal as a recreational facility. It is an architectural design accustomed to give users a different experience from normal environmental conditions. Lin, (2004) also observes that, “Particularly in the hotel division of the hospitality industry, guests interact with the physical environment more than with the service agent. That is, consumers interact with the servicescape prior to experiencing the service in an exchange with a service agent,” (p. 164). This is an example that ensures both service providers and consumer of services get the most out of a business prospect. A good servicescape design should ensure that both parties derive maximum utility out of the process and act as markers in a competitive filed or industry.
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Designing a servicescape is a five-step process that commences with identifying environment and “consists of five stages that begins by recognizing the set of stimuli that are commonly utilized when developing service environment,” (Hoffman and Bateson, p. 210). The first stimulus in a wider perspective refers to ambient condition, which is the reflection of a peculiar environment with good fresh air, cool music, or thematic lighting system. Physical dimensions of a business premise that create ambience are display of machine and equipment, internal and external furnishing, and general layout. It is also in this process where symbols and direction are strategically located to guide service users.
Stage two of designing a servicescape involves forming a holistic environment after accomplishment of the first step. It involves creating perception in the mind of workers and clients from physical appearance on servicescape environment. It is an assessment of the physical condition of a firm as influenced by physical appearance. This is called perceived servicescape, which would be difficult to measure, as different personalities will have different perceptions on a given physical environment.
The third stage involves analysis of the responses received from worker’s take on servicescape. The stage is referred to as internal response moderator where the aforementioned responses are classified according to state of emotion via use of appropriate models. This is aimed at getting measurable responses to physical environment as perceived by employees. The fourth and fifth stages involve description of employees’ responses to a servicescape from cognitive, emotions and physiological and behavioral perspectives respectively.
The benefits of adopting servicescape as service marketing model are numerous and vary from economic to psychosocial parameters. In hospitality industry, first impression is paramount as it gives opportunity for client to interact with employee. “Therefore, these servicescapes are an important element that customers will use to guide their beliefs, attitude, and expectations of a service provider,” (Lin, 2004, p. 176). However, the process of designing the model requires deeper understanding and thoughtful ways of analyzing why such differences occur. If there is lack of such knowledge, the management of servicescape will wane as soon as the design process is accomplished. Lin (2004) concludes that, “Evaluation of servicescape can be idiosyncratic,”.
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The definition of servicescape is an inclusive process that begins with the simple definition but extends for a deeper understanding of the term. This is because it involves defining human perception, which requires knowledge of other professionals. As seen from the discussion, servicescape designing involves emotions, cognitive, and behavioral among other psychosocial mindset, to gauge what perceptions emanate from an environment. Definition of servicescape therefore should therefore engage all the dynamics of understanding the term in order to draw a comprehensive meaning. Servicescape is a useful business model applicable in service marketing but given the challenges of its implementation, management ought to consider the weaknesses of the model. It requires careful monitoring in order to make adjustments in case there is change of consumer tastes, preferences, and perception among other dynamics of servicescape.
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