A discussion regarding the intangibility aspect of services
What is intangibility of services?
The ‘intangibility of services’ is a concept which makes a crucial distinction separating services from objects, wares or products. The latter have a clear physical presence: they can be touched, and indeed may appeal to any of the senses, as well as being subjected to applicable measures, e.g. of weight, volume and quantity. This makes it relatively easy for a price value to be assigned to them – in that larger weights or quantities of a particular item will obviously be sold for more money, and any sensory appeal it possesses – e.g. how comfortable a bed is to lie in – can be judged with some degree of objectivity according to physical factors and popular sentiment, allowing it to attract higher prices based on quality too.
Services, by contrast, are intangible or untouchable. They are designed for a particular person – e.g. a retail customer, an airline passenger or a hospital patient – and they flow around and through this person by means of a plethora of actions, provisions and communications. They too generate value, but not always a separate specific price, and indeed the value can be much harder to judge due to their intangibility. The example of a shop customer is useful in further illustrating the distinction, in that they will go to a pay a particular amount for a particular tangible item; however, throughout their time in the store they will be experiencing services in terms of the cleanliness and aesthetic appeal of the interior, the informativeness and helpfulness of any staff called upon, and the organisation of wares in the place – all these can significantly influence satisfaction and chances of returning again.
Certain professions, like social care, may deal entirely in services, as opposed to products, and so it is essential that these are subject to carefully considered criteria to ensure that the desired results are being achieved with service users.