The Four Service Marketing Myths

I’ve added a new paper to my Service Design Research collection. It’s called The Four Service Marketing Myths from 2004 by Stephen Vargo and Robert Lusch.

The authors challenge the prototypical characteristics that have been identified as distinguishing services from goods — intangibility, inseparability, heterogeneity, and perishability. The authors argue that these characteristics (a) do not distinguish services from goods, (b) only have meaning from a manufacturing perspective, and (c) imply inappropriate normative strategies

I found this interesting because these attributes are at the very heart of everything I’ve read on the topic. Services obviously aren’t tangible. The act of producing a service is inseparable from the act of consuming the service. No two service encounters are alike by virtue of the different individuals involved. Finally, services are perishable; they exist only in the moment of delivery.

To my surprise, Vargo and Lusch do a good job of tearing these arguments apart. They’ve changed the way I think about services. If you don’t have access to the Journal of Service Research you can probably find a copy on Google.

[via New Service Creation]


  1. gschirr

    Thanks for linking the article to my site. Any possibility of adding my blog to your permanent links?

    The 4 Myths is a very important article. In my research on service innovation the issue of degree of serviceness keeps coming up, but the standard measure — how tangible? — just doesn’t work.

    Vargo and Lusch’s idea that goods are merely stored services is appealing but is still undeveloped. Once again you seem to have a one-dimensional measure of service-ness. This time it is degree of standardization, instead of tangibility but ironically it is still one of the original Zeithaml differentiators (homogeneity).




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