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23,6 The four Cs of customer loyalty
Jennifer Rowley
School for Business and Regional Development, University of Wales,
Bangor, Gwynedd, UK
Received January 2004 Abstract
Accepted June 2005 Purpose – To propose a categorisation of customer loyalty types to further increase our
understanding of the nature of loyalty.
Design/methodology/approach – By segmenting customers who are both loyal in attitude and
behaviour to a brand, a model is proposed that differentiates between customers whose loyalty is
inertial, and those whose loyalty is positive.
Findings – Four categories of loyal customer are proposed: captive, convenience-seekers, contented
and committed. The behaviours and attitudes that can be expected of customers in these different
categories are discussed. It is also suggested that customers in different categories will respond in
different ways to triggers to switching. Further research that investigates customers’ reasons for
loyalty behaviour in relation to a portfolio of brands is recommended to validate the model and to
enhance understanding and predictability of customer loyalty propensities.
Originality/value – There is agreement that loyals are important for the future of the business, and
that this category is deserving of special attention. Since loyalty is key in customer development and
profitability, it is important to understand the loyalty condition in more detail, and to use this
understanding to develop further the relationship with customers in the loyal category. The model
proposed here subdivides loyals in Dick and Basu’s categorisation based on behaviour and attitudes.
Four categories of loyalty are proposed: captive, contented, convenience-seeker and committed. Each is
described and discussed, and their management implications and research agendas identified. It is
noted that any one individual is likely to exhibit the characteristics of each of these categories in
relation to different products, services, outlets, and their associated brands. This is a speculative model
at this stage of development, which is intended to provoke further thought about the nature of loyalty.
Keywords Customer loyalty, Brand loyalty
Paper type Conceptual paper

Relationship marketing shifts the focus of the marketing exchange from transactions
to relationships (Foss and Stone, 2001; Peck et al., 1999; Christopher et al., 1991; Buttle,
1996). Relationship marketing acknowledges that a stable customer base is a core
business asset. The essence and nature of relationships and their business value
is encapsulated in the concept of customer loyalty, and its associated literature.
The benefits of customer loyalty to a provider of either services or products include:
lower customer price sensitivity;
reduced expenditure on attracting new customers; and
improved organisational profitability.
Marketing Intelligence & Planning Customers may demonstrate their loyalty in any one of a number of ways; they may
Vol. 23 No. 6, 2005
pp. 574-581 choose to stay with a provider, whether this continuance is defined as a relationship or
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited
not, or they may increase the number of purchases or the frequency of their purchases
DOI 10.1108/02634500510624138 or even both. They may also become advocates of the organisation concerned by
playing a powerful role in the decision-making of others (Hallowell, 1996; Birgelen et al., The four Cs of
1997; Reichheld et al., 2000; Zeithaml, 2000). customer loyalty
A number of authors have recognised that segmenting loyals can assist in
developing an understanding of the nature of loyalty orientation and can inform
appropriate marketing actions. An oft-quoted model of loyalty segmentation is that
proposed by Dick and Basu (1994). Dick and Basu (1994) argue that loyalty is
determined by the strength of the relationship between relative attitude and repeat 575
patronage, and that it has both attitudinal and behavioural elements. They propose
four conditions related to loyalty: loyalty, latent loyalty, spurious loyalty and no
loyalty. These are summarised in Table I:
(1) Loyalty signifies a favourable correspondence between relative attitude and
repeat patronage.
(2) Latent loyalty is associated with high relative attitude, but low repeat patronage.
(3) Spurious loyalty represents a low relative attitude, with high repeat patronage.
(4) No loyalty is associated with a low relative attitude, combined with low repeat

Businesses will want to understand which of their customers fit into the loyal category,
and exhibit a high relative attitude and a high repeat behaviour in respect of their brands.
The model proposed in this paper segments this group further, by differentiating between
those customers that are inertial in attitude and behaviour, and those that have a positive
orientation. Four categories of loyals are proposed: committed, contented,
convenience-seeker, and captive. The profiles of each of these categories are described.

Proposed model of categories of loyal customers

The proposed model seeks to further subdivide the category defined as loyals in Dick
and Basu’s categorisation. There is agreement that loyals are important for the future
of the business, and that this category is deserving of special attention. Organisations
have the opportunity to develop life-long relationships with customers in this group,
and may thereby benefit from the lifetime business associated with that customer.
These customers are those who have a high relative attitude and a high relative
behaviour. In the diamond of loyalty (Knox, 1998), this category, described again as
loyals, exhibits high customer involvement, and the brand is responsible for a high
relative share of their purchasing. It is proposed that since this category is key in
customer development and profitability, it is important to understand the loyalty
condition for this category in more detail, and to use this understanding to develop
further the relationship with customers in the loyal category.
Increasing attitude strength is seen to be more predictive of behaviour (Krosnick
and Petty, 1995) in the sense that it describes the attitude’s durability and
impactfulness. The model in Table II, therefore, differentiates between positive loyalty,

Repeat patronage
Relative attitude High Low Table I.
Dick and Basu’s (1994)
High Loyalty Latent loyalty definition of categories of
Low Spurious loyalty No loyalty loyalty
MIP and inertial loyalty. Inertial loyalty on either dimension is associated with loyals who
23,6 are neutral about their loyalty; they are consistent in behaviour, but the fact that they
do not switch does not signal any affinity for the business or brand. Table II identifies
four categories of loyalty orientation: captive, contented, convenience-seekers, and
committed. These all apply to customers who are loyal in both attitude and behaviour
to the brand, but the introduction of inertial and positive as ends of a scale in relation to
576 both attitude and behaviour, yield some categories which assist in thinking about the
nature of loyalty. This is a speculative model at this stage of development, which is
intended to provoke further thought about the nature of loyalty. By proposing a simple
model that is amenable to further discussion and debate, we draw issues of
convenience and customer choice into the debate. The discussion that follows explains
how the categories in the model might be further conceptualised, and thereby seeks to
illustrate how such a model might be useful to both practitioners and academics.
The model proposes that loyals can be segmented into four categories. Any one
individual is likely to exhibit the characteristics of each of these categories in relation
to different products, services, outlets, and their associated brands. Below is a brief
description of each of the categories. Tables III-V summarise the typical behaviours
and attitudes associated with each category.

Inertial Positive

Table II. Behaviour Inertial Captive Contented

Segmenting loyals Positive Convenience-seeker Committed

Loyalty category Typical behaviour

Captive Continue to purchase or use a product or service because they have no choice
Convenience-seeker Often associated with routine, low involvement purchases. Engages in regular
repeat purchase transactions associated with the brand
Contented Evaluates products on their merits, but previous and existing engagement
with the brand is an opportunity for the brand owner to build the relationship
with the customer
Table III. Committed Barely considers other brands. Is prepared to “add value” to the brand,
Behaviours perhaps through participating in supportive customer-to-customer interaction

Loyalty category Typical attitude

Captive Neutral to the brand, with experience of the brand which does not cause them
to perceive the brand in a negative light
Convenience-seeker No particular attitude to the brand, except that some brands may be
associated with convenience
Contented A positive attitude in relation to the brand, which may be shared with
acquaintances, if their advice is requested
Table IV. Committed Engages in positive and delighted word-of-mouth exchanges with other
Attitudes customers or potential customers
The four Cs of
Loyalty category Triggers to switching
customer loyalty
Captive Alternative offerings at times of major decisions
Marketisation of public sector services
New entrants to the market
Changes in personal financial and other circumstances that cause them to become
less captive 577
Convenience-seeker Susceptible to promotions from other brands, such as 2 for 1 offers
Changes in circumstances that redefine the “convenience” offering, such as the
opening of a new store, or a change in personal circumstances, such as a move
Crisis points need to be managed
Contented Better value (deal) elsewhere
Service delivery or product failure
Product development lagging behind competitors
Committed Repeated or significant service delivery or product failure
Inadequate service or product recovery arrangements
A completely new product from a competitor that offers clearly identifiable added Table V.
value Triggers to switching

All store and service outlets have a proportion of customers this category. Captive
customers continue to patronise a brand, service, or service outlet because they have no
real choice. These customers have few opportunities for switching, or alternatively
they experience what they perceive as a high switching cost (in terms of either
convenience, or finance). Traditionally, all customers in the public sector were in this
category. Marketisation of the public sector has moved some customers out of this
category, since they may now have a range of options in relation to service provider.
For example, regulatory arrangements in the UK have been changed to encourage
competition in the transport industry, utilities industry and telecommunication
industry. Customers are invited to relinquish their previous status as captive loyals
and to evaluate the offerings from alternative suppliers. Some customers will do this,
but others may continue to act as if they are captive and remain inertial in attitude and
behaviour, because they perceive the decision-making associated with switching to be
something in which they do not wish to engage.
Customers may also be tied to a brand that is associated with products or services
where buying decisions are infrequent. For example, once a customer has purchased
a car, such as a Daewoo Matiz, the customer is captive to that brand, in the sense that
they will have limited experience of any other brand, for a few years. In this context,
experience with other brands may arise in hire car, and courtesy car contexts. During
the ownership period of the car, the customer’s relationship with the brand can be
influenced by service and other relationships with the car dealer. Customers are
particularly likely to associate this with the brand if, as with Daewoo, service
arrangements are part of the original product bundle. Similarly, with financial
services, whilst customers may subscribe to a range of financial products from
different providers, they will only have one mortgage account. Since until recently
there have been high switching costs associated with a mortgage account, customers
have been captive, and there has been a disincentive to them to discontinue the
MIP Captive customers remain customers, and are satisfied by the brand. They have an
23,6 experience of the brand that does not cause them to view the brand in either a negative
or a positive light. Businesses could make the mistake of viewing these customers as
unlikely to switch. However, captive customers can be poached by competitors with
alternative offerings, especially if those competitors manage the situation so that the
switching cost is reduced, by, for example, paying telecommunications reconnection
578 charges, paying mortgage redemption fees, or, facilitating the switching process by
eliminating complex forms. In addition, captive customers may be lost at times of
change. Such changes include changes in customer’s personal circumstances, and also
changes in market structures.
Although captive loyals may be more common in some business sectors than in
others, it is important to remember that this is a descriptor of a loyalty orientation, not
of business or environmental constraints. Such customers have neither positive
behaviour nor a positive attitude; although they are customers, they may have low
involvement with the brand, and no significant relationship with the brand. Even
organisations that tend to benefit from relatively large proportions of captive
customers need to design strategies for strengthening the relationship with the brand
along one or both dimensions.

Convenience-seekers’ loyalty is driven by a range of convenience factors. Such
customers exhibit a behaviour that includes possibly frequent re-purchases or visits to
a store location, but are inert in attitude. In other words, the customer does not really
hold an attitude about the brand, because this is irrelevant, because convenience
dominates the choice. Convenience of access is largely dominated by location, but can
also be influenced by other factors, such as opening hours. Convenience driven loyalty
may extend to both store and outlet brands (e.g. bank teller machines, supermarket
brands) and product brands (e.g. Heinz). Convenience for product brands may derive
from factors such as pack size, or reputation (when customers are buying for someone
else), but is often associated with availability. In this context, distribution network and,
in turn, locations through which the brand can be acquired, may be crucial.
Supermarkets that are increasingly unable to differentiate themselves on other
dimensions such as price, quality and product range, compete for convenience of store
location. Convenience today means the out of town store, with plenty of parking, and
preferably within ten to fifteen minutes drive. Other convenience outlets, where loyalty
is assured are the local pub, an on-campus canteen, a corner shop, the local library,
24-hour petrol filling stations or local health centres. Repeat patronage may be high, but
loyalty is to store or service outlet, rather than to brand. On the other hand, the brand
may enter the subconscious, and when at a new location or travelling, the customer may
use the brand because they trust the service or are familiar with the service that they
associated with that brand. Convenience-seekers may be lost to other outlets that offer
greater convenience. For example, the 24-hour store at the petrol filling station that may
reduce the frequency of visit to a newsagent, or even a specialist music store. Where
convenience is a significant factor in switching, customers may switch even when they
are satisfied with their current service provider. For most customers there is a range of
frequently purchased products for which convenience is of prime concern, and thereby
determines their buying habits and loyalty.
Convenience is likely to be particularly important in the context of low involvement, The four Cs of
routine purchases. Convenience-seekers are most susceptible to changes in market customer loyalty
structure or their personal circumstances that affect their perception of what is
convenient. Thus, some years ago, before the days of more universal car ownership, the
corner shop met convenience needs. Now, convenience is defined in terms of times for
car travel, and access to car parking facilities. In a future in which e-retailing is a
significant option, convenience for some services will be defined in terms of direct 579
access from the home or office. Ultimately, convenience loyalty is highly dependent
upon lifestyle, and delivery options, and switching should be expected as these evolve.

Contented loyals have a positive attitude to the brand, but are inertial in their
behaviour. This means that they continue as a customer, but do not extend their
involvement with the brand by subscribing to additional services or expanding
their expenditure on products or services associated with the brand. This absence of
expansion of behavioural commitment to the brand may arise because other products
that are associated with the brand are not perceived to be relevant to the customer’s
requirements, or because contented customers make each purchase decision
separately. For these customers, each purchase is evaluated on its merits, and
brands are not significant in their purchase decisions; they are not amenable to any
attempts of brand extension. For example, they may hold a mortgage with a building
society, and may continue with that relationship over many years, but this may not
influence their choice of other financial services products. On the other hand, contented
loyals may share their positive attitude towards the brand with other potential
customers, when their opinion is sought.
Contented customers are likely to stay with the brand, and to support the brand
through positive word-of-mouth exchanges. However, they may not be particularly
profitable customers, because they may hold a wide brand portfolio, and their relative
commitment to the brand might not be at a level to generate significant revenues.
Given their positive attitude, sellers would be well advised to seek to try to provoke
more positive behaviour from these customers. These customers already have a
positive relationship with the brand, but additional purchases would strengthen their
engagement (and possibly weaken customer’s relationships with competing brands).
Contented customers may be particularly vulnerable to service or product failure, and
strong recovery strategies may be key in sustaining loyalty of this group, since
recovery strategies are an opportunity for the business to demonstrate it’s loyalty to
the customer.

Committed customers are positive in both attitude and behaviour. Many might be
described as delighted or besotted with the brand. They can be depended upon to make
continuing purchases and to engage in positive and delighted word-of-mouth
exchanges with other potential customers (and in the public sector, other stakeholders).
In a number of service settings, they may also make a positive contribution to the
ambience of the service experience for other customers; this contribution is particularly
important in service settings in which customer-to-customer interaction is an
important element of the service experience, as in many leisure and travel contexts.
MIP In this sense, they add value to the brand. Committed customers are resistant to
23,6 competitors’ attempts to entice them. More specifically, they barely consider other
brands. Information search and the decision-making associated with switching is
regarded as too labour intensive, and switching, in general, is regarded as too risky.
Such loyals are very susceptible to marketing communications from brands to which
they are loyal, and may even communicate the messages embedded in those marketing
580 communications to other actual or potential customers.
Clearly, every business would wish to convert as large a proportion as possible of
their customers into committed loyals. They are the true loyals. They “add value” to
the brand, and are almost as enthusiastic to continue the relationship with the seller, as
the seller might be to continue the relationship with them. Both sides recognise the
mutual benefits of the relationship, in minimising risk. Committed loyals are likely to
be willing to extend their business with the brand, and to evolve their relationship with
the brand over a period of time. Committed loyals are the customers whom
organisations would wish to retain, and for whom some investment in retention, in the
advent of a service delivery failure, or onslaught from a competitor, may be worth
significant investment and counter-persuasion. Indeed, a committed loyal may expect
such evidence of the value of their relationship from the supplier, and might be
offended if they were not offered special deals, when these were offered to new
customers. They may react very negatively to poor recovery if there has been a
significant failure in service delivery. They are entitled to expect reciprocal loyalty
from the seller or provider.

Management implications, and research agendas

This paper has introduced and discussed a model that segments the category of loyal
customers. Management implications for each category have already been alluded to
above. Such segmentation is important in understanding the basis of customer
relationships, but it is important to recognise that the categories of loyals discussed do
not have a fixed membership, and within each category there are degrees of loyalty.
(1) Members of all categories interact with each other.
(2) All customers engage in all of these different types of loyalty relationships, with
respect to different brands, products or service outlets.
(3) Customers in at least two of these categories would be defined as loyal, but in
fact have no real commitment to the brand. Businesses with large proportions of
customers in these categories are very vulnerable.

One way to validate the model is to investigate its value in practice in enhancing
understanding of the customer base of specific businesses. The model encourages
managers to consider customer relationships with a portfolio of brands, and not just
their own. Managers might benefit from seeking to identify the percentage of loyals in
each of the above categories; this would offer an assessment of the vulnerability of
their customer base. Further segmentation of customers based on their loyalty
orientation may help managers to understand the appropriateness and likely
effectiveness of different communication strategies and marketing messages with
various customer segments.
Further academic research on the reasons for consumer loyalty orientation in The four Cs of
relation to a portfolio of brands, would enhance understanding of the loyalty construct.
Such research would need to embrace both qualitative and quantitative approaches, in
customer loyalty
order to both develop understanding, and develop models. Such a programme of
research might include:
Phase 1 – a qualitative phase with the central objective of further populating and
affirming Tables III-V, on typical behaviour, attitudes, and triggers to switching, 581
respectively, for each of the loyalty categories proposed in the model in this
Phase 2 – a quantitative phase, with the key objective of assessing typical
distributions of loyals across categories for specific industry sectors.
Phase 3 – a theoretical and qualitative phase, designed to propose a model of the
antecedents that direct consumers to adopt specific loyalty orientations.
Phase 4 – a quantitative phase, with the objective of testing, refining and
validating the model proposed in phase 3.
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