Services make up a big part of our lives. Most of us rarely consider when we are using a service.  But we use them every day to accomplish significant and insignificant tasks.  Services, according to how economists categorize them, fall into warehousing and transportation services; information services; securities and other investment services; professional services; waste management; health care and social assistance; and arts, entertainment, and recreation.

A service is defined as a means of delivering value to users, based on their needs, wants and desires.  Services are sold as complete end-to-end experiences, they support other services (or products), and can be sold as multiple add-ons. Services, meanwhile, are not products.

Services materialize as they are used in real-time.  Services are experienced upon opening or accessing. They cannot be seen, felt, or tested before purchase, yet they deliver an intrinsic value to the user.

With a service, no two user experiences are identical.  Take Amazon, for example. Two separate, identical purchases would most likely involve different entry and journey decision paths. Or, take a look at eBay, as another example No two users will end up with the same auctioned product.  Consider Apple iTunes. Much of the mechanics may be similar but the device used, the environment, and the time and day will all combine to be different.

Some services are perishable and time-sensitive, and once the timing has expired the service cannot be re-sold. An unsold hotel bed or an empty airline seat, for instance, is forever lost revenue.

Services can be monitored, mostly using technology but through observation and metrics.  This task is made easier by those services that rely on the internet and computer technology.  Service providers who monitor services in real-time have a greater opportunity to recover a service experience.

Real-time or not services can be reshaped to better meet user needs, quite unlike a product.  Ergo, a service can be shaped to meet an individual’s preferences or need, while also satisfying groups of users.

Some services, additionally, can be used repeatedly, at multiple times, in different locations.  Apple iTunes is a service that be used successively around the globe.  “In real-time, millions of users globally can have immediate access to experiences, each with the same objective, and every one of them realizing a different satisfying experience, simultaneously,” Dutch-based consumer behavior researcher Geke van Dijk, said.

And lastly, a user’s service experience can last long after as a memory. Cruise lines are a great example of converting experiences into memories by creating unforgettable moments and capturing them on camera.  They also send frequent emails as a reminder to create more memorable experiences.  This is one of the benefits of being a captive audience on a cruise.

Courtesy of ISDI, Inc., Training Service Designers