Recently I came across several articles by researchers and experts that laid out definitions and characteristics of services. ITIL provides us with a definition that can help drive the creation of value-laden services:
A means of delivering value to customers by facilitating outcomes customers want to achieve without the ownership of specific costs and risks.An area that ITIL is not so clear is in terms of service characteristics. Several researchers and experts put forth that services have four basic characteristics (IHIP):
· Intangibility—Services are the results of actions not things. They have no physical presence and represent a logical set of elements. One way to think of service is “work done for others.”
· Heterogeneity—Also known as “variability”; services are unique items because of the mechanisms used to deliver services-that is people. Because the people element adds variability, the service is variable. This holds true especially for the value proposition—not everyone perceives the same value from the same service.
· Inseparability—Because of the intangible and variable nature of services, it is hard to pull them apart into discrete and unique elements; also the production of a service cannot be separated from its consumption—as soon as the service is delivered it is consumed.
· Perishability—Services do not have a shelf life because of their intangibility; services are highly subject to supply and demand; the value proposition of services diminishes quickly. Because of their ethereal nature, we must work much harder to ensure the value makes it to the customer or business.When defining and designing your services keep these characteristics in mind. You should not let only these aspects drive your decisions as to how you create services for your customers. Rather consider them constraints and boundaries in which you need to define and design.