Ever since companion affection became companion influence, I haven't concerned myself too much with getting my companions to like me. Pre-4.0, I was motivated to get them to the max in order to unlock their stories and various legacy perks, though to be honest once I'd achieved all of that, I stopped caring about companion affection on alts too.
Since 4.0 you're supposed to be motivated by the power increase companions benefit from as they go up in ranks, but that honestly hasn't mattered that much to me. While levelling, your companions tend to feel ridiculously powerful even at low ranks anyway, and I don't craft enough to really need the extra efficiency. At endgame I tend to spend most of my time doing activities where companions don't feature: operations, PvP, flashpoints.
The only times I've actively felt the need to invest in companion levels have been when I first tried the Eternal Championship and when I was struggling with certain veteran mode story chapters. But even then my efforts were pretty half-hearted, in the sense that I didn't really try to get anyone to max level, I just gave them a couple of gifts and then made another attempt at the content to see if it had helped any.
For this reason, I've only had a single companion at rank 50 until recently, and that happened kind of by accident more than anything else, because even after his initial Alliance recruitment mission, you keep gaining influence with M1-4X for every PvP match you play. Since I've been doing a lot of random warzones, hitting maximum influence with him just kind of happened.
Doing the Iokath dailies since the patch, I've found myself in the position of actually finding a powerful companion useful for the first time in a while, and since I recently bought an Akk Dog, I decided that it was time to make him love me. As he's not a story companion, the only way to gain influence with him was to feed him gifts.
"See you in half an hour," my pet tank joked when I sat down to start gifting, but sadly his joking prediction turned out to be pretty accurate. In fact, even with the legacy perk to speed up gifting time, it took me more than half an hour to go through the hundreds of companion gifts required to get my new friend to influence rank 50.
And I couldn't help thinking how stupid that was. Not the gifting system by itself, but that sitting there for half an hour, pressing the same button over and over, is the only way to max out your influence on certain companions. Seriously, where is the fun in that?
It seems to me that we desperately need a way to raise companion influence more organically beyond conversation approval or disapproval, since that's so limited. And as soon as I thought about it, it seemed really easy to do too: Just give +1 influence for every mob you kill with that companion out.
This wouldn't make companion gifts useless, because even if you spent all day farming mobs, you wouldn't earn the 250,000 influence points to max out a single companion in a day, not to mention that we have a lot of different companions to work on now. Gifts would still be the fast track. But if you took your companion to do dailies with you every day for example, it would slowly but surely start to make a difference too.
We've long abandoned the pretense that companion influence stands for true affection - that's why they renamed it to influence after all. It's more a measurement of slow bonding as you hang out with each other a lot (or buy their loyalty). Slowly increasing it as you spend time actually playing with your companion would therefore only make sense.
Seriously, why wasn't this implemented yesterday? I can see that people already suggested it on the forums over two years ago...