What are the characteristics of services?

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Summary of my research

Four characteristics have been regularly applied to services: intangibility, heterogeneity, inseparability, perishability (IHIP). More and more exceptions occur which have resulted in substantial criticism. This paper aims to show that each characteristic is valid and useful when related to an individual aspect of services instead of being assigned to services as a single entity.

Based on customer integration, a framework (FTU framework) and a resource typology are developed. These approaches are the theoretical foundation of the analysis. The FTU framework and a resource typology reveal different aspects of services and allow the assignment of the IHIP characteristics to them. Intangibility is assigned to the service offering, heterogeneity and inseparability to customer resources, and perishability to the facilities of the provider. Assigning the IHIP characteristics more clearly to certain aspects of services reveals their origin and makes them more tractable. For example knowing that heterogeneity of services is due to customers resources makes it more predictable and manageable. Although the IHIP characteristics are both widely cited and criticized, existing research has only tried to find and establish new characteristic(s). The approach of this paper is original because it takes a more trenchant look at them in order to develop a framework identifying aspects of services for which they apply.

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