Designing Servicescapes

There’s a lot you can do to design an optimal service experience within your facility. All of the things your customer sees, hears, smells and touches will affect their evaluation of your service quality.

Here is what you can manipulate:

  • Sight
  • Sound
  • Smell
  • Touch
  • Taste

Sight

This includes size, shapes, colours, harmony, contrast and clash.

Let’s start with colours.

Along the colour spectrum there are warm colours and cool colours. Warm colours are below on the left and include red, orange, yellow. Cool colours to the right include blue, green and violet.

Red Orange Yellow Blue Green Violet
Love Friendliness Sunlight Calmness Restful Shyness
Romance Openness Brightness Loyalty Peaceful Spirituality
Sex Glory Caution Aloofness Freshness Dignity
Passion Sun Cheerfulness Assurance Softness Wealth
Courage Cowardice Sadness Richness
Excitement
Vigour

Warm colours enhance quick decisions and are often used for low-involvement services such as fast food. Warm colours are appealing to customers.

Cool colours are seen as formal, aloof, even icy. These work best for high-involvement decisions where a customer needs to take their time.

Using both warm and cool colours in the proper combination can achieve a good balance between relaxation and stimulation.

Sound

A study examining the effects of slow music compared to fast music in restaurants found that slow music provided the business a higher gross margin. The slow music outlets led to better results in length of stay, bar purchases, and food expenditure.

Again, this depends on the target customer. Classical music in a doctors surgery might be relaxing and calming, but blaring through a loudspeaker on a train platform in the night can effectively curb violence and vandalism. The raucous hip-hop of a clothing store might attract young people but repel mothers with small children and seniors.

However, this doesn’t mean every business should go slow. Gymnasiums, for example, use high energy music to increase excitement and stimulate exercisers. Teenage retail outlets might use loud and fast music and create sensations of thrill and abandon resulting in more spending.

Scent

Nike once did a test on consumer responses to identical pairs of gym shoes. One test was conducted in a room that was completely odour-free. The other was artificially imbued with a floral scent.

The floral scent increased the desirability of the shoes by 84 per cent of respondents. Scents influence! Pleasant aromas might encourage your customers to make more purchases of your service or tempt them into add-ons. Smart hair salons make excellent use of this strategy. The use of scented candles of soy wax melts (not incense sticks, which produce smoke) contribute to the customer’s sense of luxury and being pampered. This may result in the purchase of additional treatments for hair, face and post-service merchandise. On the other hand, the salon which smells like hairspray and chemicals will have customers itching to get out!

Another caveat, however. A servicescape should smell the way it is expected to. For example, a hospital should smell clean and the scent of disinfectants will not be obnoxious in this context (unless to an extreme degree). A museum would be expected to smell old and musty. An accountancy may not be expected to smell like sandalwood incense, so maybe best that it doesn’t.

Touch

Services can benefit from creating opportunities for people to have a face-to-face encounter, such as an open house for a school, or a networking meeting for a business professional. A handshake and business card will reduce risk and add tangibility to your offering.

Taste

Okay, you can’t taste a service. You can sample it, though. That’s what we mean. Gyms offer free trial memberships. This is a great idea because the customer is much more likely to join with a service if they have had experience with it.

Similarly, a dry-cleaner may off a number of free vouchers.

Which of these does your business use successfully? How do your customers respond?

Sources: Hoffman, Bateson, Elliot, Birch (2010) Services Marketing: Concepts, Strategies and Cases, Cengage Learning.