“A different kind of company, a different kind of car.” That was Saturn‘s tagline when it first started up from within GM. It was different – plastic side panels that wouldn’t dent, American-made parts, a no-haggling purchase experience. I bought one in 1992 and drove it for 6 years until we had to sell it when we moved overseas to England for 3 years. I used to get knowing looks from other GM Saturn owners, and I would always get great comments from non-Saturn owners. Even bringing it in for service was no-hassle, as they considered me part of the “Saturn family”. The customer experience was indeed showing Saturn to be a different kind of company from others.
Fast-forward 15 years. I was recently alerted to a major change in Saturn from Gavin Heaton’s post (and follow-up post) this week about Tim Jackson’s customer service plight. Tim (Masiguy) had been a true Saturn fan for many years. His GM Saturn Vue developed serious problems as a result of a string of mistakes from the dealer’s service department. Unfortunately, rather than truly satisfying Masiguy, Saturn (both the dealer and corporate) has been walking in their company shoes. Compensation suggested by Saturn was in the form of four oil change coupons (or $100 of future service). Well, you guessed it, Masiguy doesn’t want to step foot into a Saturn dealer again, so those coupons would be worthless. He is completely frustrated (Masiwife even secretly commandeered his blog once this week to express their feelings) as well as disappointed in Saturn. Saturn let him down.
A strong company-customer relationship can help carry a customer through quite a few issues with products or service. However, there is a customer pain threshold from which it is difficult to return once it is crossed. CustomersRock! companies track all of their customer touch points, looking for opportunities to improve the customer experience as well as customer pain points. They then make a plan to take action in order to keep customer relationships strong. One of my clients even used to track email responses for expletives to see whether a customer had crossed over the “frustration threshold”!
Customer service is one of those touch points that can make or break a customer relationship. Service is one of the top 3 considerations of customers purchasing complex products (such as autos and technology). In many organizations, customer service is also the face of the company to the customer. Bad customer service, as evidenced in this Saturn saga, will not only drive away existing customers, but through negative word-of-mouth, it will also drive away potential customers. This has never been truer than in today’s culture, where news spreads quickly across the Internet and blogosphere. Just look at this story. It has also been covered by the aforementioned Gavin at ServantofChaos, Sean at Craphammer, and Paul at Hee-HawMarketing. Who’s next?
If only the positive customer experiences got as much press! Here at CustomersRock! I strive to share positive customer stories for your reading pleasure as well as for your encouragement. Just not today.
(Photo source: blitzkrieg)