• Services marketing, palengkera style



    BECAUSE of my hectic teaching schedule, I have become addicted to going to the many spas that pepper our metropolis. The brief respite from my harrowing, but thrilling, work life gives me the extra push I need to finish my many tasks. Another form of stressrelief is patronizing the neighborhood public market, as I also love to cook and source fresh ingredients firsthand.

    In my past life, I was a hospitality professional overseeing the operations of restaurants and cafes, which fall under the service industry. Currently, I am curious about the field of services marketing, and this article is about my perception of how the hospitality industry puts services marketing into practice.

    Services marketing

    Services marketing is a fairly young discipline, having been established only in the 1980s, as “a reaction against the prevailing wisdom that the marketing of services could simply be treated as an ‘add-on’ to the marketing of goods. Services are different from goods, and the marketing and management of service(s) should be treated seriously in its own right…” as quoted from an article by University of Liverpool professor Steve Baron published in the International Journal of Management of Reviews.

    Essentially, services marketing is ”the application of specialized competences (knowledge and skills) through deeds, processes, and performances for the benefit of another entity or the entity itself,” according to University of Hawaii at Mānoa professor Stephen L Vargo, in his article in the Journal of Marketing. This definition centers on the service-dominant logic of marketing, which “implies that marketing is a continuous series of social and economic processes that is largely focused on operant resources with which the firm is constantly striving to make better value propositions than its competitors”. Operant resources are the knowledge and skills necessary in every business which are intangible and dynamic, and are responsible for producing the effects which provide value for consumers.


    The generic denotation of a palengkera is a woman who vends raw ingredients in the wet market, by carefully choosing the best quality food to sell to her loyal sukis or new walk-in customers, within the very competitive atmosphere of this basic shopping environment. Having just moved into Poblacion, Makati, I excitedly went to market one early morning, and was happy to meet friendly and helpful women who were not only kind enough to give me discounts on my first buys, but also shared some tips on how to prepare local dishes.

    I walked home with a grin on my face, as I found it refreshing to have met such passionate and hardworking women. Truth be told, the term palengkera also brings to mind negative connotations which include crude and loud behavior, conventionally associated with a particular social stratum.

    Buzz kill

    I am now quite the expert on the various kinds of spa services in my vicinity, only because I have tested a wide spectrum, including small operations run by former OFWs, to mildly branded ones, to industry stalwarts. Each experience of course is commensurate to a specific price range, which inadvertently drives a different level of customer expectation per type of spa experience.

    Recently, I decided to splurge and get the works at a successful brand at Greenbelt. I forked out a little over P2,000 when I would normally just spend P500 to P600. The coffee body scrub was glorious, as was the deep tissue massage that came with the package. Apart from a few minor details such as some broken door handles, the only other element that broke my reverie was the heated argument that I witnessed between the locker attendant and a masseuse. They were uncontrollably going at it, oblivious to the many customers who paid top peso to experience the benefits of a supposedly relaxing oasis. What was strange as well was how they completely altered their countenance when faced with a guest, as if we were not privy to their disturbing exchange.

    Unfortunately, in this case, management has no idea that their operant resources are being corrupted by their loyal and trusted employees. I then found it interesting that the very palengkeraswhom we expect to be less civilized, produce a more superiorcustomer experience in our community markets, which is probably becausethey have taken it upon themselves to tirelessly develop a lasting andconstantly delightful relationship with their sukis.

    Services marketing has a long way to go in more formalized businesses such as spa services. There could be a number of reasons why there is a high level of service variability in this sector, but one thing is for sure, entrepreneurs who personally look after their treasured businesses will definitely be able to deliver more consistent customer service, and therefore continue to reap the many rewards of living up to their value propositions.

    The author is a faculty member of the marketing and advertising management department of the De La Salle University’s Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business. She has a master’s degree in entrepreneurship from the Asian Institute of Management, and is currently taking her doctorate in business administration. Her fields of interest are sustainable development, poverty alleviation, culture and heritage, entrepreneurship, and digital marketing. The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty, and its administrators.



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