This report has been able to identify evidence to distinguish between goods and services. There is general but not unanimous agreement that the distinction exists.
Most products are combinations of goods and services that can be placed on a continuum of pure good and pure service.
The marketing management literature supported by operations management literature identified the characteristics that distinguished goods from services as: Intangibility, Heterogeneity, Inseparability and Perishability.
Zeithaml (1985) highlighted the marketing problems and solutions of these four characteristics. A wider search was able to identify consumer problems associated with these characteristics and revealed that solutions to them were often dependent on other disciplines particularly operations and human resource management.
A review of the operations and human resource management literature revealed that operations management could contribute much to the management of services particularly in the design and in gaining control of processes.
Human resource management identified the need for the establishment of culture and climate and in the motivation of staff with the onus falling on organisations to encourage true leaders who can build a service oriented culture.
Quality was highlighted by the marketing and operations literature as a way to differentiate and gain sustainable competitiveness.
A review of the quality literature identified it as a complex multi-dimensional concept. In service industries the concept is compounded by the service characteristics mentioned above. These create problems in defining, measuring and implementing service quality.
Using a focus group method Parasuraman (1984) identified ten dimensions of service quality which were supported by this author's literature search. Parasuraman using a survey method collapsed these ten dimensions to seven and following further analysis only five dimensions remained.
Parasuraman suggested these dimensions were consistently identified and ranked across four USA firms. Two replications of the study in Australia failed to substantiate his claim. In the first study (CITEC) seven dimensions were identified and the second study (ELITE) four dimensions were identified.
The author suggests the failure to replicate the SERVQUAL findings may be due to international limitations, industry limitations or instrument limitations and urges further research in the area of defining, measuring and implementing service quality.
In conclusion the report suggests that the traditional boundaries between disciplines are challenged in a service context. Services offer the opportunity for a truly integrated business approach. While the problem is clear, solutions are less so. At a tactical level the differences between disciplines has been reinforced by the historic dominance of the manufacturing sector.
This has given rise to well vested interests in maintaining traditional organisational structures. These structures are reinforced in the workplace, learning institutions and academic literature.
A solution may lie in the need to focus on service quality. In service firms a focus on quality demands that these disciplines work together and integrate their combined skills at both a strategic and tactical level.
The growth in service industries and the need to focus on quality, will require service industry managers to focus on staff, customers and processes at the manufacturing, marketing and consumption interface. A change in the context of management may well result.