There is a major difference between goods and services based on both tangible as well as intangible factors. Goods are basically objects or products which have to be manufactured, stored, transported, marketed and sold. Lays chips, BMW, Adidas are some companies manufacturing goods.
Services on the other hand are output of individuals and they can be a collective or individualistic action or performance by an individual. For example a barber or a chartered accountant are giving individual services. Airlines on the other hand have airplanes which is a product but travelling by airplanes is a service (airlines are one of the most competitive service sectors today).
Thus the difference between goods and services is based on tangibility. Where goods are tangible in nature, services are mostly intangible. The classic rules which defined services were intangibility, heterogeneity, perishability and variability. However, although the old rules are applicable even today, several new rules have been added to define the difference between goods and services.
The below mentioned 8 points help you in noticing how goods and services differ.
Ownership is not transferred – When buying a service, the service ownership is not transferred to the end customer. If you buy a car then the car is yours. But if you buy a ticket for an airline, then the airline is definitely not yours.
Intangibility – How do you measure service? In a restaurant, the dish can be measured, but the efforts gone in making the same dish by two different chefs cannot be measured from the customer end. Same goes for large service corporates like Accenture and Infosys. The time and effort gone for giving service to the customer is intangible. Both ownership and intangibility are old school differences between goods and services.
Involvement of customer – When comparing the difference between goods and services we have to look at the involvement of customer as well. In services involvement of customers is much more than in products. For example – ATM’s are services wherein customer has to use the machine. The same goes for vending machines as well as for self service restaurants. Today ice cream chains like Hokey pokey and food chain like Subway have more than 50% involvement of customer where the customer gets to decide the ingredients they want in their ice cream / Sub.
Quality – In case of products, mass manufacturing is common. And mass manufacturing means uniformity. However, services involve a lot of manual labour due to which the quality may vary each time. Uniformity in services is a factor which each service owner tries for. For example – The major challenge of food chains like Subway, Pizza hut and dominos is to give the same quality over and over again, whereas in local restaurants the quality of food may vary time to time from the same restaurant.
Evaluation of services is tougher – As quality varies from time to time and the involvement of customer is maximum, evaluation of different services becomes tougher. For example – HDFC has more number of ATM than SBI. Thus we can evaluate that HDFC service is better because they have more reach to the end customer. But how do we evaluate how a barber cuts your hair.
Inventories are absent – Production and consumption of services happens at the same time. This does not mean that the raw material is not present to provide the service. For example in a restaurant, a dish is made only after you order it. The raw material and the chef might be present. But the production does not begin unless and until there is a customer to consume the service.
Time is very important in services – Because inventories are absent in services, and because production and consumption is at the same time, time is a very important difference between goods and services. The keyword here is “delay”. There should be no delay in providing the service. Thus the cab should arrive on time, the food should be prepared by time and the trains should run on time. Because time is important.
Thus the difference between goods and services is based on many different factors. These factors are become more and more acute as the services sector rises in demand.