You Won't Attain Attitudinal Customer Loyalty Without Building

Affective Commitment

By Luke Williams | 2.11.18

Imagine loving a brand of burritos so much that you pop the question to your significant other at the local restaurant. Or, being so enamored of your cell phone that you get a tattoo of its logo. Or maybe you enjoy a theme park to the point where you visit every single day for 2,000 days in a row.


Customer experience practitioners refer to this emotional tie as “affective commitment.” When affective commitment bonds exist between consumers and brands, devoted customers can go to great — even irrational — lengths to support a brand. Fans of Chipotle, Apple, and Disney, as in the above examples, are some of the most committed, zealous brand evangelists in the world.


Most every marketer aspires to create affective commitment with customers because it is the central driver to brand loyalty. Fortunately, it’s possible to nurture customer relationship and build affective commitment.


The following are 24 “do’s” and “don’ts” you can adopt to elicit a strong, positive emotional response from customers and build affective commitment to your brand:


Mastering the functional elements


DON’T make "educated guesses" about your customer demographics. Spend the time and resources to learn who your customers are and why they chose you in the first place. Then focus on delivering what those customers actually want, not what the internal team thinks they want. 


DO develop and maintain high standards of quality with every element of your business. From products, to services, to experiences, decide how to provide the very best and strive to consistently deliver.


DON’T obsess about the big picture so much that you lose track of details. Avoid a pattern of service failure by focusing on doing the small things right every time.


DO provide compelling content that allows customers to connect with your brand. Determine your brand’s personal story and share it through the many and varied tools of social media.


Managing the emotional impact


DON’T rely strictly on advertising, which nearly 70 percent of consumers report distrusting. Instead showcase positive reviews in social media and use influencers to help promote your brand and its products and services.


DO find what your customers care about and give them a reason to return. Companies with strong affective commitment, such as Patagonia and BMW, share an identity with their customers, be it adventure or affluence.


DON’T consolidate decision-making power with some chosen few. Empower team members to offer help, company resources, and complimentary items as they see fit. Restricting people's ability to help turns them into robots that say "I'm sorry" a lot, without allowing them to fix the problem.


DO focus on the same affective commitment strategies with employees, who can be your most ardent evangelists. Build strong employee appreciation programs and recognize people at every opportunity.


Having a consistent message and delivering at every touch point


DON’T look for shortcuts. Resist the urge to simplify every element of the process. Efficiency is a great thing, but not at the expense of the brand. Building affective commitment into the customer experience requires time and effort.


DO identify, share, and deliver on your brand promise. Meeting or exceeding expectations at every opportunity is one of the best ways to build strong emotional bonds with customers.


DON’T stray far from core principles. Once you develop and agree on a plan, trust it and stick with it. This includes investing in voice and design, which will help present a consistent positive experience to customers.


DO apologize when the occasion demands it. From a global PR fiasco to a personal mistake, communicate your regrets and apologies, fix the problem (“over-fix” the problem, if possible), and then share your resolution.


Closing the loop 


DON’T overdo it with customer communications. People are easily turned off by a brand that pushes too hard, sends too many emails, and provides irrelevant offers.


DO reach out to customers in their preferred channels — including text and social — and when interest is high. Build relationships by finding people who are using your hashtags on social media and highlighting them in your company channels.


DON’T treat every customer exactly the same. Firms should focus first on regulars and high-value clients that offer the greatest potential lifetime value. Acknowledge and reward loyalty whenever possible.


DO use every possible means to actively engage customers. When customers reach out through any channel, you must send a response — via online, social media, phone calls, telegrams, handwritten letters, Pony Express… whatever gets the job done.


Co-create with customers

DON'T limit co-creation to just developing new products. Identifying new opportunities and markets with customers can have profound financial benefit.

DO be as transparent as possible with customers through an entire interaction or process. Honestly explaining limitations and challenges can strengthen trust in a brand and build greater understanding.

DON'T randomly solicit input from the whole customer base. Instead find active, passionate fans who already love the company and its offerings, and then engage that group in creating new products and services.

DO pay close attention to all feedback from passionate, engaged customers, even if it doesn't match expectations. Passion for a brand is the essence of affective commitment.

Develop and build on first principles

DON'T ignore the step of defining an organization's first principles. Long-term advantage requires a company to have those undergirding foundations in place.

DO curate an ethos outside of the company; people become affectively committed to companies because of their spirit and culture, not because of products and services.

DON'T allow failures on first principles to become routine; affective commitment breaks down when companies develop a pattern of failure.

DO use tools and approaches like a Johari window to refocus your organization on first principles as often as necessary.


Making the long-term connection

Not every company executive dreams of babies being named after their brands or being tied to illuminati conspiracy theories. But, media omnipresence, customer evangelism, and eager queuing outside retail stores for a product launch look good to any leadership team.


Building affective commitment for a brand requires a level of engagement with customers that goes beyond providing goods and services for money. Mastering functional and emotional elements of the business, consistently delivering on expectations at every touchpoint, and closing the loop with all customers is not easy. But marketing leaders who focus their team and company on these activities will encourage the desired affective commitment with their customers.


And that might lead customers to tattoo your logo on their bicep.

About the Author

Luke Williams is an award-winning researcher and the Head of the CX practice at Qualtrics. Prior to joining Qualtrics, he was VP and global leader of AECOM's Client Care Program. 

Luke, a statistician and methodologist by training, is a core member of the research team that discovered and developed the Wallet Allocation Rule. He is coauthor of the best-sellers The Wallet Allocation Rule and Why Loyalty Matters