Consumer-Enterprise Identification → Trust/Commitment → Loyalty Behavior
by Steve Pieroway, Founder, Benevolent Marketing —
In last week’s article we examined the power of identification. Specifically, how identity similarity, distinctiveness, and prestige help form strong relationship bonds.
But lasting relationships (be it with a company, a brand, or a person) need other elements to last. Namely trust and commitment.
Research has shown that trust and commitment are precursors to meaningful, healthy relationships. It is trust in our exchange partner (trust) and intention to maintain the relationship in the future (commitment) that drive loyalty behaviors such as repeat customer care and referrals.
And in an industry like insurance (low trust and easy switching providers) these become incredibly important.
But what are trust and commitment? Let’s disassemble them.
Trust, it seems, is the 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 where is the brand Report.
A consumer study conducted in New Zealand found that only 13% of policyholders felt they could rely on good advice from their insurer.
Trust is valuable. It is the currency of long-lasting relationships.
No wonder, then, that Intact is promoting its reputation as the “Most Trusted Home Car 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 trusted partner. Building trust and thus trust is a question of demonstrating performance, reliability and goodwill. Together, these three factors form the basis of what we call trust.
Do you have the knowledge, training, experience and expertise to perform the task properly? Ability means having the expertise required to perform the task satisfactorily.
Labels are a way of demonstrating (outwardly) that a standardized, orderly accumulation of knowledge has taken place. Make an insurance. Brokers display their CAIB, CIP and CRM designations to show their clients that they are qualified.
Reliability is the consistent, repeated application of this expertise. As consumers, we want to know that a task is getting done consistently every time we work with a vendor.
Inconsistent delivery lowers our confidence. Consistent delivery increases it. That’s why you see reviews (of 5 stars) and testimonials. Social Proof demonstrates this repeated performance at a high level.
When we’re in a vulnerable position, like buying insurance or getting legal advice, it’s easy to become suspicious. “Am I being taken advantage of?” comes to mind. Goodwill plays an important role here.
Benevolence acts primarily in the best interest of the other. It behaves with a worthy intention.
We don’t fully relax or surrender to a relationship until we believe our partner is acting with a worthy intention. If this is present, we accept referrals. Without them we question everything.
All of this is important for building a strong sense of trust, especially over the long term. But trust is only part of the relationship equation. The other part?
Commitment is a promise to do some future action. Seems simple enough, but it’s also a multi-faceted concept.
That’s because we engage in three different ways, depending on the context:
- Affective attachment: I WANT to.
- Normative obligation: I MUST to.
- Permanent obligation: I TO HAVE to.
1. Affective attachment
If you aim for an engaged relationship with your customers, aim for high affective attachment. Affective commitment is characterized by feelings of “I want”. It’s positive.
When we make a positive commitment to a business relationship, we say, “I will continue to do business with you because I want to.”
2. Normative obligation
Normative commitment is characterized by feelings of “I should”. It’s rooted in the perception that people want you to behave a certain way. Maybe it’s friends or family who believe you should continue to patronize a particular business. Or maybe you befriended the service provider and would feel guilty not giving them your business.
you know the feeling It’s like being trapped. Maybe it’s your bank. You would love to switch, but the thought of having to repeat all your automatic withdrawals makes the pain of switching greater than the pain of staying.
So you stay. But not because you “want” to, but because you “have to”. you are stuck
This feeling of being stuck or trapped is known as a continuity obligation. Unlike affective or even normative attachment, this is a negatively charged psychological state. Why? Because although we’ve made a “commitment” to the provider—meaning we intend to stay in the relationship—it’s not because we want to. We must.
BRING EVERYTHING TOGETHER
Returning 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
The study revealed the following WestJet customers who identified strongly with the company and brand:
- tend to have a higher level of trust and commitment and
- rather keep flying with WestJet and tell others about it.
Building strong brand relationships in a service industry can be difficult. Especially those that are commercialized. But it’s not impossible. Align with values. Build up trust. And cultivate feelings of affective engagement.
Or as Bob Burg says, “Know, like and trust.”
About the author
Let’s face it: marketing and sales are hard enough. Marketing and selling a service like insurance? Even harder.
It’s not easy to stand out from the crowd when you’re selling the same product and have the same credentials as everyone else. But it is necessary. With a unique relationship marketing framework he developed, Steve helps brokers do just that: stand out from the crowd.
Prior to starting Benevolent Marketing, Steve was at Policy Works where he led the Marketing, Sales and Customer Service teams (though not all at the same time). Luckily he was never allowed to program, although it was his only secret wish.
While at Policy Works, he led an effort 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, alongside performance and reliability, it is one of the three pillars of trust. And with credible services, trust is king.