Consumer-Company Identification → Trust/Commitment → Loyalty Behaviours
by Steve Pieroway, Founder, Benevolent Marketing —
In last week’s article, we investigated the power of identification. Specifically, how identity similarity, distinctiveness and prestige help to form strong relational bonds.
But enduring relationships (be it with a company, brand or person) need other elements to endure. Namely trust and commitment.
Research has shown that trust and commitment are antecedents to meaningful, healthy relationships. It’s the confidence in our exchange partner (trust) and the intent to maintain the relationship into the future (commitment) that drive loyalty behaviours like repeat patronage and referrals.
And in an industry like insurance (low trust and easy to switch providers) these become incredibly important.
But what are trust and commitment? Let’s break them down.
Trust, it appears, is key to selling insurance. A common phrase on broker websites is ‘trusted advisor’. In fact, 50% of broker websites analyzed use the word ‘trust’ in some context on their website according to Where’s the Brand? report.
A consumer study conducted in New Zealand found that only 13% of insureds strongly agreed they could trust their insurer to give them good advice.
Trust is valuable. It is the currency of long-lasting relationships.
So it’s no wonder that Intact promotes their standing as ‘the most trusted home auto insurance provider’ according to the 2022 BrandSpark survey.
But what exactly is trust? In the marketing literature, trust is defined as a willingness to rely on a partner in whom one has confidence. Establishing confidence, and thus trust, is a matter of proving capability, reliability, and benevolence. These three factors work together to form the basis of what we call trust.
Do you have the knowledge, training, experience and know-how to properly perform the task? Capability is having the requisite expertise to satisfactorily perform the job.
Designations are a way to demonstrate (to an outsider) that a standardized, regulated accumulation of knowledge has occurred. Take insurance. Brokers display their CAIB, CIP and CRM designations to show, to their clients, that they’re qualified.
Reliability is the consistent, repeated application of this expertise. As consumers, we want to know that a task will be completed consistently every time we engage with a provider.
Inconsistent delivery lowers our trust. Consistent delivery raises it. That’s why you see ratings (out of 5 stars) and testimonials. Social proof shows that repeated performance at a high level.
When we are in positions of vulnerability, like when buying insurance or getting legal advice, we can get mildly suspicious. “Am I being taken advantage of?” comes to mind. This is where benevolence plays an important role.
Benevolence is acting with the best interests of the other first and foremost. It’s behaving with a worthy intent.
We don’t fully relax or submit to a relationship until we believe that our partner is acting with a worthy intent. With this in place, we accept recommendations. Without it, we question everything.
Each of these is important to building strong feelings of trust, especially over the long term. But trust is only part of the relational equation. The other part?
Commitment is a pledge to do a future act. Seems simple enough, but it too is a multi-faceted concept.
That’s because we commit to things in three different ways, depending on the context.:
- Affective commitment: I WANT to.
- Normative commitment: I OUGHT to.
- Continuance commitment: I HAVE to.
1. Affective Commitment
If you’re going to strive for a committed relationship with your customers, aim for one high in affective commitment. Affective commitment is characterized by feelings of “I want to”. It’s positive.
When we positively commit to a business relationship, we are saying, “I will continue to do business with you because I want to.”
2. Normative commitment
Normative commitment is characterized by feelings of “I ought to”. It’s rooted in perceptions that people want you to behave a certain way. Perhaps it’s friends or family that believe you should continue patronizing a certain business. Or maybe you’ve become friends with the service provider, and would feel guilty not giving them your business.
You know the feeling. It’s like being trapped. Perhaps it’s with your bank. You’d like to switch, but the thought of re-doing all of your automatic withdrawals makes the pain of switching higher than the pain of staying.
So you stay. But not because you ‘want’ to, because you “have to”. You’re stuck.
This feeling of being stuck or trapped is called continuance commitment. Unlike affective or even normative commitment, this is a negatively charged psychological state. Why? Because although we’re ‘committed’ to the provider – meaning we have an intent to stay in the relationship – it’s not because we want to. We have to.
BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER
Back to the original hypothesis: would alignment of values and beliefs, coupled with feelings of trust and commitment, lead to loyalty, referrals and positive word of mouth?
You better believe it.
The study showed those WestJet customers who strongly identified with the company and brand were:
- more likely to have higher levels of trust and commitment, and
- much more likely to continue flying with WestJet and telling others about it.
Building strong brand relationships in a service industry can be hard. Especially ones that are commoditized. But it’s not impossible. Align on values. Build trust. And cultivate feelings of affective commitment.
Or as Bob Burg says, “Know, like and trust.”
About The Author
Let’s face it: marketing and sales is hard enough. Marketing and selling a service like insurance? Even harder.
Standing out from the crowd when you sell the same product, and have the same credentials, as everyone else isn’t easy. But, it’s necessary. Using a unique relationship marketing framework he developed, Steve helps brokerages do just that: stand out from the crowd.
Prior to starting Benevolent Marketing, Steve was with Policy Works where he led the Marketing, Sales and Client Services teams (not all at once, though). Thankfully, he was never allowed to code, though it was his one secret desire.
While at Policy Works, he led the drive to double monthly recurring revenue, created the Commercial Management System (CMS) category, the Policy Works Ninja campaign and the Broker Appreciation Week t-shirt giveaway.
Now, he’s bringing his talents to the brokerage community (IYKYK, right basketball fans?). And he couldn’t be happier.
About Benevolent Marketing
Benevolent Marketing is brand positioning and strategy for insurance brokers. Why benevolent? Because it’s one of the three pillars of trust, along with capability and reliability. And in credence-based services, trust is king.
We help insurance brokers build a unique brand, so that when an insured is ready to change providers, they’re attracted to you. For more information, please visit www.benevolentmarketing.com.
SOURCE: Benevolent Marketing
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