I can’t switch, I’m attached

September 23rd, 2007

The point is that people, probably because of their biological wiring, more easily form emotional attachments to things than to intangible services. —Dan Saffer, Designing For Interaction

Emotional attachments to services. Can we make this possible? Would this make us less likely to switch services even if the competitor offers a better experience? What would constitute emotional attachment to a service… brand, people, tangible artifacts? Can you even form an emotional attachment to something that’s not physical in nature?

… I will be filing this as Future Thesis Paper Idea #14253.

***edit / In light of the recent comments on this post:

Now this makes me wonder if there’s a difference between attachment and emotional attachment. I’m attached to Google too, but I would call it more of a functional attachment rather than an emotional attachment.

In his book, Dan talks about a Zippo lighter that belonged to his grandfather. There’s emotional attachment there; he won’t trade the lighter in even though there are better ones out there.

So that’s what I was wondering in my post: can the same type of attachment exist with services? Sure, we all have some sort of attachment to some of the services we love, but if better services come along, how easy would it be just to give our old ones up?

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6 Responses to “I can’t switch, I’m attached”

  1. Imran Says:

    I think so. People might form attachments to individual elements of a service, like the people, but also the behaviors that it allows them to engage in. I think it might even be easier to talk about emotion with services because they enable things that are much or dynamic and active. With pizza delivery you may not have an emotional attachment to the people or to the brand, but the fact that you can get pizza to your door when you are hungry might be enough for you to love it. But also there is the potential to have more negative emotion if things go wrong. Yeah, I see a bunch of thesis ideas in there too ;P

  2. Daniel Says:

    I’m attached to Google, and that’s more of a service than a product, no?

  3. Simon King Says:

    I’m personally interested in the idea of attachment as it relates to sustainability, which means I focus more on product longevity than staying with a service instead of using a competitor. However, you may find interesting viewpoints in a book I can recommend called “Eternally Yours”, by Ed van Hinte. You can find it in the CMU library (HF5415.155 .H56 1997, STACKS-2) or I have a PDF copy somewhere if you’re interested. You might also want to check out “Emotionally Durable Design”, by Jonathan Chapman.

  4. cc Says:

    Definitely… I think in the end, attachment is useful to a service with sustainability as an end goal. I think that’s what any company would want for their services.

    Thanks for the recommendations, I’d be interested in getting a hold of that PDF!

  5. alison prendiville Says:

    Should the discussion embrace ritual. Habits form around services, for example always buying coffee from the same vendor which in turn develops into a ritual. Familiarity and comfort are all part of this that then lends itself to an emotional attachment to that service.

  6. cc Says:

    That’s a great point. Familiarity and comfort are probably key factors in any sort of attachment, whether it be for a product or service.

    As a designer, I then wonder what sorts of things we can do to help a customer get to the point of familiarity and comfort. “Customer retention”, if we want to get all business-y. But customer retention with an actual hook behind it, beyond simply using your service because they have to, or because it works best. How can we make services that people hold on to emotionally? I guess there’s lots to it…

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