Service provision is often an economic activity where the buyer does not generally, except by exclusive contract, obtain exclusive ownership of the thing purchased. The benefits of such a service, if priced, are held to be self-evident in the buyer's willingness to pay for it. Public services are those society (nation state, fiscal union, regional) as a whole pays for through taxes and other means.
By composing and orchestrating the appropriate level of resources, skill, ingenuity, and experience for effecting specific benefits for service consumers, service providers participate in an economy without the restrictions of carrying inventory (stock) or the need to concern themselves with bulky raw materials. On the other hand, their investment in expertise does require consistent service marketing and upgrading in the face of competition.
Service characteristics 
Services can be paraphrased in terms of their generic key characteristics.
Services are intangible and insubstantial: they cannot be touched, gripped, handled, looked at, smelled, tasted. Thus, there is neither potential nor need for transport, storage or stocking of services. Furthermore, a service can be (re)sold or owned by somebody,but it cannot be turned over from the service provider to the service consumer. Solely, the service delivery can be commissioned to a service provider who must generate and render the service at the distinct request of an authorized service consumer.
Services are perishable in two regards
- The service relevant resources, processes and systems are assigned for service delivery during a definite period in time. If the designated or scheduled service consumer does not request and consume the service during this period, the service cannot be performed for him. From the perspective of the service provider, this is a lost business opportunity as he cannot charge any service delivery; potentially, he can assign the resources, processes and systems to another service consumer who requests a service. Examples: The hair dresser serves another client when the scheduled starting time or time slot is over. An empty seat on a plane never can be utilized and charged after departure.
- When the service has been completely rendered to the requesting service consumer, this particular service irreversibly vanishes as it has been consumed by the service consumer. Example: the passenger has been transported to the destination and cannot be transported again to this location at this point in time.
The service provider is indispensable for service delivery as he must promptly generate and render the service to the requesting service consumer. In many cases the service delivery is executed automatically but the service provider must preparatorily assign resources and systems and actively keep up appropriate service delivery readiness and capabilities. Additionally, the service consumer is inseparable from service delivery because he is involved in it from requesting it up to consuming the rendered benefits. Examples: The service consumer must sit in the hair dresser's shop & chair or in the plane & seat; correspondingly, the hair dresser or the pilot must be in the same shop or plane, respectively, for delivering the service.
Services are some kind of horse and consumed during the same period of time. As soon as the service consumer has requested the service (delivery), the particular service must be generated from scratch without any delay and friction and the service consumer instantaneously consumes the rendered benefits for executing his upcoming activity or task.
Each service is unique. It is one-time generated, rendered and consumed and can never be exactly repeated as the point in time, location, circumstances, conditions, current configurations and/or assigned resources are different for the next delivery, even if the same service consumer requests the same service. Many services are regarded as heterogeneous or lacking homogeneity and are typically modified for each service consumer or each new situation (consumerised). Example: The taxi service which transports the service consumer from his home to the opera is different from the taxi service which transports the same service consumer from the opera to his home – another point in time, the other direction, maybe another route, probably another taxi driver and cab.
Each of these characteristics is retractable per se and their inevitable coincidence complicates the consistent service conception and make service delivery a challenge in each and every case. Proper service marketing requires creative visualization to effectively evoke a concrete image in the service consumer's mind. From the service consumer's point of view, these characteristics make it difficult, or even impossible, to evaluate or compare services prior to experiencing the service delivery.
Mass generation and delivery of services is very difficult. This can be seen as a problem of inconsistent service quality. Both inputs and outputs to the processes involved providing services are highly variable, as are the relationships between these processes, making it difficult to maintain consistent service quality. For many services there is labor intensity as services usually involve considerable human activity, rather than a precisely determined process; exceptions include utilities. Human resource management is important. The human factor is often the key success factor in service economies. It is difficult to achieve economies of scale or gain dominant market share. There are demand fluctuations and it can be difficult to forecast demand. Demand can vary by season, time of day, business cycle, etc. There is consumer involvement as most service provision requires a high degree of interaction between service consumer and service provider. There is a customer-based relationship based on creating long-term business relationships. Accountants, attorneys, and financial advisers maintain long-term relationships with their clientes for decades. These repeat consumers refer friends and family, helping to create a client-based relationship.
Service definition 
The generic clear-cut and complete, concise and consistent definition of the service term reads as follows:
A service is a set of one time consumable and perishable benefits
- delivered from the accountable service provider, mostly in close coaction with his internal and external service suppliers,
- effectuated by distinct functions of technical systems and by distinct activities of individuals, respectively,
- commissioned according to the needs of his service consumers by the service customer from the accountable service provider,
- rendered individually to an authorized service consumer at his/her dedicated trigger,
- and, finally, consumed and utilized by the triggering service consumer for executing his/her upcoming business activity or private activity.
Service specification 
Any service can be clearly and completely, consistently and concisely specified by means of the following 12 standard attributes which conform to the MECE principle (Mutually Exclusive, Collectively Exhaustive)
- Service consumer benefits – describe the (set of) benefits which are triggerable, consumable and effectively utilizable for any authorized service consumer and which are rendered to him as soon as he triggers one service. The description of these benefits must be phrased in the terms and wording of the intended service consumers.
- Service-specific functional parameters – specify the functional parameters which are essential and unique to the respective service and which describe the most important dimension(s) of the servicescape, the service output or the service outcome, e.g. maximum e-mailbox capacity per registered and authorized e-mailing service consumer.
- Service delivery point – describes the physical location and/or logical interface where the benefits of the service are triggered from and rendered to the authorized service consumer. At this point and/or interface, the preparedness for service delivery readiness can be assessed as well as the effective delivery of each triggered service can be monitored and controlled.
- Service consumer count – specifies the number of intended, clearly identified, explicitly named, definitely registered and authorized service consumers which shall be and/or are allowed and enabled to trigger and consume the commissioned service for executing and/or supporting their business tasks or private activities.
- Service delivering readiness times – specify the distinct agreed times of every day of the week when
- the described service consumer benefits are
- triggerable for the authorized service consumers at the defined service delivery point
- consumable and utilizable for the authorized service consumers at the respective agreed service level
- all the required service contributions are aggregated to the triggered service
- the specified service benefits are competely and terminally rendered to any authorized triggering service consumer without any delay or friction. The time data are specified in 24 h format per local working day and local time UTC, referring to the location of the intended and/or triggering service consumers.
- the described service consumer benefits are
- Service consumer support times – specify the determined and agreed times of every day of the week when the triggering and consumption of commissioned services is supported by the service desk team for all identified, registered and authorized service consumers within the service customer's organizational unit or area. The service desk is/shall be the so-called the Single Point of Contact (SPoC) for any authorized service consumer inquiry regarding the commissioned, triggered and/or rendered services, particularly in the event of service denial, i.e. an incident. During the defined service consumer support times, the service desk can be reached by phone, e-mail, web-based entries, and fax, respectively. The time data are specified in 24 h format per local working day and local time UTC, referring to the location of the intended service consumers.
- Service consumer support language – specifies the national languages which are spoken by the service desk team(s) to the service consumers calling them.
- Service fulfillment target – specifies the service provider's promise of effectively and seamlessly deliver the specified benefits to any authorized service consumer triggering a service within the specified service delivery readiness times. It is expressed as the promised minimum ratio of the count of successful individual service deliveries related to the count of triggered service deliveries. The effective service fulfillment ratio can be measured and calculated per single service consumer or per service consumer group and may be referred to different time periods (workhour, workday, calenderweek, workmonth, etc.)
- Service impairment duration per incident – specifies the maximum allowable elapsing time [hh:mm] between
- the first occurrence of a service impairment, i.e. service quality degradation, service delivery disruption or service denial, whilst the service consumer consumes and utilizes the requested service,
- the full resumption and complete execution of the service delivery to the content of the affected service consumer.
- Service delivering duration – specifies the promised and agreed maximum allowable period of time for effectively rendering all specified service consumer benefits to the triggering service consumer at his currently chosen service delivery point.
- Service delivery unit – specifies the basic portion for rendering the defined service consumer benefits to the triggering service consumer. The service delivery unit is the reference and mapping object for the Service Delivering Price, for all service costs as well as for charging and billing the consumed service amounts to the service customer who has commissioned the service delivery.
- Service delivering price – specifies the amount of money the commissioning service customer has to pay for a distinct service delivery unit or for a distinct amount of service delivery units. Normally, the service delivering price comprises two portions
- a fixed basic price portion for basic efforts and resources which provide accessibility and usability of the service delivery functions, i.e. service access price
- a price portion covering the service consumption based on
- fixed flat rate price per authorized service consumer and reference period for an unlimited amount of consumed services,
- staged prices per authorized service consumer and reference period for staged amounts of consumed services,
- fixed price per single consumed service delivering unit.
Service delivery 
The delivery of a service typically involves six factors:
- The accountable service provider and his service suppliers (e.g. the people)
- Equipment used to provide the service (e.g. vehicles, cash registers, technical systems, computer systems)
- The physical facilities (e.g. buildings, parking, waiting rooms)
- The requesting service consumer
- Other customers at the service delivery location
- Customer contact
The service encounter is defined as all activities involved in the service delivery process. Some service managers use the term "moment of truth" to indicate that defining point in a specific service encounter where interactions are most intense.
Many business theorists view service provision as a performance or act (sometimes humorously referred to as dramalurgy, perhaps in reference to dramaturgy). The location of the service delivery is referred to as the stage and the objects that facilitate the service process are called props. A script is a sequence of behaviors followed by all those involved, including the client(s). Some service dramas are tightly scripted, others are more ad lib. Role congruence occurs when each actor follows a script that harmonizes with the roles played by the other actors.
In some service industries, especially health care, dispute resolution, and social services, a popular concept is the idea of the caseload, which refers to the total number of patients, clients, litigants, or claimants that a given employee is presently responsible for. On a daily basis, in all those fields, employees must balance the needs of any individual case against the needs of all other current cases as well as their own personal needs.
Service-goods continuum 
The dichotomy between physical goods and intangible services should not be given too much credence. These are not discrete categories. Most business theorists see a continuum with pure service on one terminal point and pure commodity good on the other terminal point. Most products fall between these two extremes. For example, a restaurant provides a physical good (the food), but also provides services in the form of ambience, the setting and clearing of the table, etc. And although some utilities actually deliver physical goods — like water utilities which actually deliver water — utilities are usually treated as services.
In a narrower sense, service refers to quality of customer service: the measured appropriateness of assistance and support provided to a customer. This particular usage occurs frequently in retailing.
List of economic services 
The following is a complete list of service industries, grouped into sectors. Parenthetical notations indicate how specific occupations and organizations can be regarded as service industries to the extent they provide an intangible service, as opposed to a tangible good.
- business functions (that apply to all organizations in general)
- cleaning, repair and maintenance services
- death care
- dispute resolution and prevention services
- courts of law (who perform the service of dispute resolution backed by the power of the state)
- incarceration (provides the service of keeping criminals out of society)
- law enforcement (provides the service of identifying and apprehending criminals)
- lawyers (who perform the services of advocacy and decisionmaking in many dispute resolution and prevention processes)
- military (performs the service of protecting states in disputes with other states)
- negotiation (not really a service unless someone is negotiating on behalf of another)
- education (institutions offering the services of teaching and access to information)
- entertainment (when provided live or within a highly specialized facility)
- fabric care
- financial services
- foodservice industry
- personal grooming
- health care (all health care professions provide services)
- hospitality industry
- information services
- risk management
- social services
- Public utility
List of countries by tertiary output 
Below is a list of countries by service output in 2013.
Countries by tertiary output in 2013 (billions in USD)
|(01) United States||
|(06) United Kingdom||
|(15) South Korea||
|Rest of the World||
The twenty largest countries by tertiary output in 2013, according to the IMF and CIA.
See also 
- Application service provider
- Borderless selling
- Customer service
- Ecosystem services
- IT service management
- Outline of business
- Outline of economics
- Public services
- Services marketing
- Service economy
- Service system
- Service design
- Software as a service
- Strategic Service Management
- tertiary sector of the economy
- The Experience Economy
- Utility computing
||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (May 2012)|
- Anders Gustofsson and Michael D. Johnson, Competing in a Service Economy (SanFrancisco: Josey-Bass, 2003), p.7.
Regarding service characteristics 
- Athens University of Economics and Business: An Introduction to Services Marketing - s. http://www.aueb.gr/users/esaopa/courses/part2.pdf
- Valerie Zeithaml, A. Parasumaran, Leonhard Berry (1990): Delivering Service Quality, ISBN 0-02-935701-2, The Free Press
- Valerie Zeithaml, A. Parasumaran, Leonhard Berry (1990): SERVQUAL - s. http://www.12manage.com/methods_zeithaml_servqual.html
- Sharon Dobson: Product and Services Strategy - s. http://busfac32.cob.calpoly.edu/presentations/Sharon_Dobson/Ch08.ppt
- John Swearingen: Operations Management - Characteristics of services - s. http://online.uis.edu/spring2002/bus322/lectures/chap01/sld040.htm
- James A. Fitzsimmons, Mona J. Fitzsimmons: Service Management - Operations, Strategy, Information Technology - s.
- Russell Wolak, Stavros Kalafatis, Patricia Harris: An Investigation Into Four Characteristics of Services - s. http://members.byronsharp.com/empgens/emp1.pdf
- Sheelagh Matear, Brendan Gray, Tony Garrett, Ken Deans: Moderating Effects of Service Characteristics on the Sources of Competitive Advantage - Positional Advantage Relationship - s. http://smib.vuw.ac.nz:8081/www/ANZMAC2000/CDsite/papers/m/Matear1.PDF
- Robert Johnston, Graham Clark: Service Operations Management – Improving Service Delivery, ISBN 1-4058-4732-8 - s. http://www.amazon.com/Service-Operations-Management-Financial-Times/dp/1405847328/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1223813905&sr=1-1
- Pascal Petit (1987). "services," The New Palgrave: A Dictionary of Economics, v. 4, pp. 314–15.
- Alan Pilkington, Kah Hin Chai, “Research Themes, Concepts and Relationships: A study of International Journal of Service Industry Management (1990 to 2005),” International Journal of Service Industry Management, (2008) Vol. 19, No. 1, pp. 83–110.
- Steve Downton, Hilbrand Rustema, Jan van Veen, Service Economics - Profitable Growth with a Brand Driven Service Strategy- s. http://www.amazon.com/Service-Economics-Profitable-service-strategy/dp/9963983804/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1310661349&sr=8-1
- “5 Major Characteristics of Services”