Any student of marketing will have come across the "four Ps" that make up the marketing mix — product, price, promotion and place (distribution channel). When marketing services, you can add three more: people, process and physical evidence.
I’ve got the perfect example of how the three extra Ps of services marketing work to reinforce the rest of the marketing mix to build customer loyalty (which is, after all, what all marketing should be about).
At first glance it’s an unlikely example: car hire, the home of ratty old Corsas and sneaky fees for mileage or petrol. The lucky company? Enterprise. I’ve just got back from a short break away in one of their cars. I’m a regular customer — this is probably the seventh time I’ve hired with them. I’m so loyal now that I don’t even bother to check their prices against competitors. That’s a great position for any company to get into. And it’s the three services Ps that earned my loyalty.
People: every time I visit Enterprise I get a warm welcome and a named business card. I don’t get the hard sell. The staff are well turned out and personable. They answer the phone quickly. I’ve chatted to a few of them, and it’s clear they’re committed to doing a good job for the company.
Process: I book my car online, which is as easy as you’d hope. I’ve never had a hassle with the check-in or checkout of the vehicle, and they’ve now made the process even easier — they’ve started a promotion where they’ll charge you lower-than-forecourt rates for any shortfall in petrol left at the end of your rental. I found it one less thing to worry about in the checkout process.
Physical evidence: the local Enterprise office is in a dingy industrial estate, and the building is hardly swish. But there are two bits of physical evidence for the service that reinforce the value proposition:
- Modern, spotlessly clean, well-maintained cars. Always. It shows care and attention by the people working behind the scenes.
- The “we’ll pick you up” service. Enterprise has productised an element of outstanding service that, as far as I know, no other car hire company does. It’ll pick you up from (and drop you back to) your house before and after your rental. For free. That’s a clever move, because it gives Enterprise something it can grab hold of and promote.
Today only the most commoditised goods are pure products. When we buy a new car, TV or computer we expect a level of service. It’s the responsiveness of telephone helpline and the usability of the website. It’s crucial to creating the brand experience. So even if you’re in product marketing, you should pay attention to these three services Ps and what they say about the brand. Car hire is a pretty commoditised service, so it’s no surprise that providers have stepped up the service quality to compete. Enterprise just happens to be the best I’ve found. But what company, whatever it sells, can afford to have its expensive marcomms and its great product undermined by lacklustre sales or support experiences? Focusing on service may mean paying more attention to your own delivery capabilities — or it may mean taking a closer look at your indirect channels. Either way, it’s a critical component of building customer loyalty.