GM Customers Provide Critical Analysis of the General Motors FastLane Blog
This is the first of a series of interviews with GM customers about the General Motors FastLane Blog.
General Motors, after Wal-Mart and Exxon Mobil Corporation, is the 3rd largest company in the United States according to the Fortune 500 list of companies. The General Motors therefore probably run the most high profile blogs in corporate America. Starting with Small Block Engine blog in October 2004, and the Fastlane Blog in January 2005, both blogs has generated a lot of interested in the blogosphere and amongst GM customers.
Bob Lutz, GM Vice Chairman, regularly contributes to the Fastlane Blog. And in a recent case study presentation by GM's agency at the business blog summit I discovered the Fastlane blog has had over 4500 comments since January. Laurie Mayers, Sr. Vice President for Hass MS&L described how her agency moderates the comments on the blog. All comments are reviewed before they are displayed on the blog. Any spam comment posts are deleted, and any customer service requests about specific customer service questions are relayed to the GM customer service department.
The majority of comments, about 90%, are posted on the blog, but as Laurie explained Bob Lutz does not have time to answer every single comment. Bob Lutz does read all of the comments, as well as the comments being read internally by many GM departments. For my own part I have noticed a number of times when Bob Lutz has singled out a number of customer comments and answered them on the Fastlane Blog with blog posts.
Customers. I was interested in determining what customers thought of the GM blog, and what their perception of the blog was after a few months. So I sent emails to several customers and asked them what they thought about the blog and GM's response to their comments.
Lisa Foltz made the following comment on the Fastlane blog.
I am one of the 8000 on the list of people who will get the 'early' production Solstice. I have seen others express frustration on this Blog but haven't seen any response from GM. I have called the dealership 5 times and they will not/cannot tell me even a ball park date. I was told end of July or August was likely and September if issues arise...now I see on this blog the first 1000 will not be out until Thanksgiving? I really need to know...I need a new car and am not sure I want to wait until Feb or March for this car....given we signed up without getting to test drive the car or see one in person....and now we cannot even get an accurate status...I think GM owes its potential customers some truthful updates. I have been a content Ford, Infiniti and Porsche owner....I got rid of my Boxster due to 'trust' issues with my Scottsdale Porsche Dealer...I was happy to give Pontiac a chance....but I sure hope the car's performance is better than Pontiac's communication about availability of these cars.
John Cass: I wondered what you thought about the blog, and if GM had followed up with you on your question?
Lisa Foltz: I thought the Blog was a good idea but thought I would get some answers...I have received ZERO follow up on my BLOG message...same response I get from any other path with GM. I am about one frustration point away from just canceling my order...doesnt seem them want mine or the other's business! I base most of my consumer 'buy' decisions on customer service....GM seems to be missing this piece of their business model.
John Cass: I was wondering if you comment on any other forums or blogs about GM?
Lisa Foltz: I have read some other Blogs...I enjoy reading a Blog in which the participants are professional and insightful. This is the first one I posted to. Mostly because GM didn't require a lot of personal information to be able to respond.
John Cass: How has the GM blog helped provide information to you as a GM customer? Here I am looking for any positive benefits from the blog. If there are none let me know as well.
Lisa Foltz: I think there are positives about the BLOG. Most impressive on the Solstice Blog was the passion people have for this new product. You can feel the excitement in most of the people. Gives me some reinforcement that the product is a good one. This BLOG has also made me aware that GM doesn't seem to appreciate their customers because I now see it isn't just me that has issues getting an answer from GM. The BLOG can be used to promote and also as a complaint mechanism. I think this BLOG could easily be all positive if GM used it to determine what the customers and potential customers need...i.e. more information on the status/delivery, etc.
John Cass: How would you like to see the GM blog used in the future as a way to communicate with you and other GM customers and non-customers?
Lisa Foltz: I think the BLOG could be used to provide product information, to get marketing data for their products and even services...almost free demographics. I would like to see each question / series categorized and archived so you can easily search for information that may be in a previous BLOG. This will reduce the redundancy...not eliminate it but reduce it. I would like to see GM take advantage of what these customers are saying and address questions, issues etc.
John Cass: A few years ago two authors wrote a book called the Influentials, it talks about how 10% of a customer community will influence the other 90%. By their measure I think you might be an influential customer for GM. But it all depends on whether your active in talking with customers and non-customers about GM products. So I wondered, how many people do you talk with offline and online about GM vehicles? And do you regularly forward and post comments about GM information by email and on forums? And also, I was wondering if you hear a lot of the same issues about GM's lack of response in other places online?
Lisa Foltz: I liked your comment about 10% of the community can influence the other 90%. The people who use BLOGs are typically very passionate about the product. They are spending their personal time reading and responding to questions. They are making bonds with others and sharing ideas/passions.
On your question about how often I talk about GM products. It was very little until I registered for the Solstice. I had the poster in my office...I told a few people about it and how exciting it was. They told others and I bet I talked to 20-30 people about the car. I have emailed the link to at least 30 people to show them my soon to be 'new baby'. HOWEVER...since GM has failed to deliver...my poster is down, I don't talk about it...when asked I don't give an energetic response just a 'who knows when or if I will get it' and we talk about other options (Boxster, Miata etc). I really don't know if I want the car any more. I gave up my Boxster due to poor customer service. If I am going to spend big money I want to be treated with respect and as a valued customer.
I would say about 90% of online help is garbage (I mean sending emails into the abyss or using a BLOG to get help). It is rare from my experience that companies provide service to email and BLOGS. On the other hand, the interactive on-line help i have found to be very helpful and not very painful.
Let me know if you want to buy a Solstice...maybe I can sell you mine if I ever get it!
As you can see I am a big proponent of customer support. I live by the fact that a happy customer tells another person about their experience and an unhappy customer will tell dozens about theirs!
John Cass: From discussions with several GM customer blog commentators it seems that the lack of response from the GM to a customer response has negatively affected the opinion and perception of several GM customers.
This is difficult problem for any company, as Laurie Myers explained it would be impossible for Bob Lutz to answer all 4500 comments. However, there does appear to be some perception amongst several GM customers that posting comments on the FastLane Blog does not elicit a response from GM. How can a company avoid upsetting their most supportive and active customers and potential customers when they do not have the resources to respond to comments and suggestions on a blog? In the next week I will post another GM customer interview and also some suggestions as to how a company can avoid some of the pitfalls of handling customer suggestions and criticism.
Update: This blog has no connection with the company General Motors, if you have any complaints or ideas for GM I suggest you contact the company directly.
Posted by johncass at August 29, 2005 12:00 PM
TrackBack URL for this entry:
Hey, nice interview John, and Lisa. I'd like to see more about this story. I'm curious to know if you first became interested in the Solstice after Donald Trump featured Pontiac’s Solstice Marketing as a client on an episode of the Apprentice. Thanks Lisa, please keep us posted.
Posted by: stephen turcotte at September 1, 2005 2:55 AM
First off, this is being written by a very loyal (at least used to be) GM / American made consumer. Secondly, I think that my dealership, Hurd GMC,Chevrolet, Pontiac in Johnston,RI is second to none....anywhere. I presently lease a 2005 Buick Lacrosse, a 2005 Pontiac Grand Am, and a 2005 GMC Canyon. This coupled with the fact that at the age of 59, I have probably owned or leased more than 20 vehicles, all American made, 95% + General Motors.....I'm sure this is in your computers, or the people at Hurd can help to verify this.
The relationship is over (obviously when the leases expire). I'm tired of defending my General Motors vehicles to many of my foreign car friends, when GM itself could care less. Many of these friends are chuckling at the fact that I had to pay a couple of hundred dollars to pay for breaks on a Pontiac with just over 15,000 miles.....they have a right to and I can no longer defend my loyalties.
My name is Dennis Neri, Bob Machado (great guy) was the service profesional who took care of the job. It IS WRONG FOR BRAKES TO NEED REPLACED AT 15,000 miles.....and I just think that no one at General Motors cares.
Thanks for the past 40 years or so.
401-231-6066...you have my e-mail address
Posted by: Dennis A. Neri at May 22, 2006 9:49 PM
As a 63 year old long time GM lover who has tried other brands, I have a question or two and a comment for Mr. Bob Lutz and anyone else who wishes to answer.
My wife and I are both lovers of performance vehicles be it two wheels or four. Currently, my wife owns a 96 vette, LT4 with six speed manual trans. She would like to drive it "properly", but hates the fact that at 5'2" she has to move the seat all the way up and hug the wheel to drive with personal endowments adding to the problem. When is GM going to recognize this market and provide vehicles with adjustable pedals and tilt/telescope steering wheels? Especially, let me know when it is provided on a ZO6 convertible. Meanwhile, what about a Sky Red Line and others, just in case I can't make the sticker on the ZO6?
What vehicles in the entire GM line have either or both of these options?
Posted by: Jim Aleksa at June 12, 2006 9:04 AM
Hi Jim, thanks for your comment. I think you should ask your question on the GM FastLane blog. As this blog has no connection with Bog Lutz or GM.
Posted by: John Cass at June 12, 2006 11:20 AM
I understand your saddness about GM. As a GM dealer I should not write this for fear of seroius repercussions but I feel someone should know this . As General Motors is trying to increase sales the Cleveland branch of GMAC has made a serious commitment to close "quite a few of the smaller dealers in Ohio". The question is how can GM increase sale when in no-urban areas GMAC is doing whatever they can to shut smaller dealers down. They are using all the tool in the box to do this. ie. not buying deals, raising interest rates dealers must pay to floorplan, ect...
Posted by: Bill(can not state due to fear) at June 16, 2006 2:23 PM
Thanks for the comment Bill. For the rest of the readers, I can tell you that I have been in contact with Bill. He is a GM dealer and I called him directly to double check his identity. Though he does run a competitor's dealership as well.
Posted by: John Cass at June 16, 2006 3:08 PM
I have a 2005 malibu and some times when I turn the key to start nothing happens, then I try again and it starts. I have had in to the dealer 3 or 4 times and they can not repair it. It is still under warranty and I would like to know if I could get a signed statement saying G M will cover if it fails after warranty runs out. I would very much like to get it repaired but have been unable to do so. Waiting for your reply.
Posted by: Ken Madden at June 25, 2006 11:47 PM
I bought a 2006 Pontiac Grand Prix GXP 2 months ago and I have driven 3000 miles. The front rotors were grooved after 150 miles and there is a really bad brake dust problem. I brought it in for service and the dealership called GM and there is a bulletin on this problem through GM. GM told the dealer that they are aware of this problem but there is no safety concern so they will do nothing about it. There is nothing worse than buying a $35,000 car and having the brakes pulsate after 3000 miles. So if you are looking at purchasing a GXP don't because there is a problem with the front brakes and GM will do nothing for you up to this point. I called GM customer service and they told me that they were aware of the problem and if a resolution comes up they will let me know. I knew I should of bought the Toyota Avalon. If anyone else knows how to deal with GM other than the customer service number please let me know. Thanks
Posted by: Ryan at September 6, 2006 2:47 PM