Corporate Blogging Survey 2005
 
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September 2, 2005

The GM Blog: Lessons For Customer Blogging Relations

Though the case studies with Macromedia and Microsoft in the Corporate Blogging Survey, I’ve seen the effects and benefits of engaging customers with blogs. I thought I’d look at GM’s FastLane Blog, run by Bob Lutz and his colleagues to listen to several customers about their experiences with the FastLane Blog.

In two previous posts in interviews with two GM customers, Lisa Foltz and Dennis Schrage, both customers’s explained their experiences with the blog and their impressions of the feedback and reaction they received from General Motors. I had also attended the business blog summit where in a presentation from GM’s agency about the amount of comment posts received from GM customers I discovered that GM does not answer every single customer comment on their blog. The FastLane blog has received about 4,500 comments since January of this year. It was explained General Motors does not have the resources to answer every comment.

GeneralMotorsBlogging.jpg

To me a blog is a conversation between a company and its customers, while it is up to any company to decide how they manage customer relations. If you set the expectations of the customer that if a customer writes a comment they will receive a response back, but do not reply to a customer’s questions, I question whether a company should give customers the ability to leave a question.

General Motors by setting up a blog is basically saying to the world that they are open to receiving questions and comments. There is now a cultural expectation on the part of customer Internet users that if a company has a forum or blog and gives customers the ability to post comments then the company should respond to any customer request. This is similar to having an office or telephone line open to receive customer queries.

Bob Lutz had explained several times throughout the last eight months that he is not able to answer every question or query on the FastLane blog. However, I don’t know if every customer reads every single post on the blog, so I suspect most customers have not got the message and have an expectation that they will receive an email or comment back from General Motors.

I’ve queried a few customers who posted comments on the GM Blog about their experience with the blog and all have been disappointed with the response. While my survey was not comprehensive, when you consider the nature of the customers who commented on the blog as illustrated by the two interviews with Lisa Foltz and Dennis Schrage, my concern for General Motors is that the blog may be giving a negative impression to customers who really are influential in spreading the word amongst fellow consumers about GM products. Berry and Keller from RoperASW in their book “The Influentials? described how 10% of a population would through active engagement within their community influence the attitudes and behavior of the rest of the 90% of a population. I believe Lisa Foltz and Dennis Schrage are by posting comments on the GM Blog influential people in their communities.

It would be my suggestion to any corporate blogger that you carefully consider your comment response strategy with any corporate blogs. The best scenario is to be able to answer any customer queries through your customer service department. If your company were not able to handle the volume of feedback, as in the case of General Motors, I’d recommend posting on the comment form a statement to that effect. Plus if a customer leaves an email address, send the customer an email with a statement that they may not receive an answer to their question. While GM has posted this message a number of times on their blog posts, I believe most customers have not read the message, and they still expect a response back from GM.

Setting expectations goes a long way to avoiding customer frustrations. Otherwise your company might give the impression that you are not listening to customer feedback. And while this is always bad on an individual call from a customer, when this happens in full public view on a blog website the negative customer perceptions can be really bad for a company’s reputation within their customer community, thousands if not millions of customers see your lack of response and act accordingly.

I think that General Motors has done an excellent job of building several blogs and being a thought leader in their industry, and the company has even gone so far as to answer several customer questions. However, despite these successes, I am placing GM on the left side of the bridge for crossing the corporate blogging cultural divide. I believe they can do more to be open and transparent with their customers, here’s a list of suggestions for the company to make that transition across the divide:

· Answer every customer question; answer them through comment follow-ups, or additional blog posts. A company could answer several customer questions if they all are the same sort of question at the same time. Remember to send an email back to the original customer so they know that your company has answered the customer’s question.
· Create more blogs for each product, thereby directing customer responses to the appropriate product.
· General Motors is a manufacturer, they use a dealer network to sell their products, leverage their dealer network’s expertise in customer service to answer customer blog comments. By forwarding comments to dealers for a response back to the GM Blog where appropriate, GM would use the existing channel of communication plus tie customer service back where it belongs with the dealer network.

Posted by johncass at September 2, 2005 3:54 PM

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» Blogging customer relations - handling customer comments from Seven Generational Ruminations
John Cass (?) from Backbone Media has an interesting post about handling customer relations in corporate blogs. He starts by describing the expectation in blogging, that the readers should be free to make comments and that by posting a blog it's best to [Read More]

Tracked on November 29, 2005 10:22 PM

Comments

TO WHOM...I AM CURRENTLY DRIVING A 2006 CHEVY IMPALA LT 6 CYL RENTAL FOR A WEEK NOW AND WOULD LIKE Y\TO SHARE SOME OBSERVATIONS HAVING OWNED 5 CAMAROS,A FIREO,A TRANS AM, AND A CORVETTE, NOT TO MENTION COUNTLESS RENTALS.EXTERIOR WISE IT IS A WELLSCULPURED VEHICLE. IT ALWAYS PLEASURABLE TP APPROACH.THE DRIVE LINE IS POWERFUL ENOUGH FOR FOR ANY TYPE OF DRIVING.HOWEVER THE HANDLING DOES NOT INSTILL ANY CONFIDENCE OR ANY "FUN FACTOR" WHATSOEVER.HOWEVER, MY BIGGEST PROBLEM IS WITH THE INERIOR ACCOUTREMENTS. THEY ARE AS MUNDANE AND PEDESTRIAN AS I HAVE EVER SEEN.THE DOOR PANELS ARE BLAH, AND THE PLASTIC WOOD TRIM IS AWEFUL.THE FACT THAT THE A/C CONSTANTLY RETUNS TO FRESH AIR IN IS A NUISANCE HERE IN FLORIDA. IHATE THAT. I'M SURE YOU HAVE GOOD REASONS FOR IT, BUT IT'S A PAIN.THE SEATS ARE CHEAP LOOKING AND THE STITCHING IS UNEVEN.WORST OF ALL THEY'RE UNCOMFORTABLE.MY BEST RECOMMENDATION IS TO START LOOKING TO REPLACE YOUR INTERIOR DESIGN PEOPLE AND START LOOKING FOR PEOPLE WITH SIMILAR TASTE TO THE FOLKS THAT DO HONDA ACCORD'S INTERIORS (RECENTLY DROVE ONE, AND AM CONSIDERING BUYING ONE OR MAYBE A LUCERNE). THESE COMMENTS ARE FROM THE HEART AS A LOYAL GM BUYER(FATHER ONLY DROVE OLDS' FOR 50 YRS.)OF 35 YRS, AND I WANT YOU TO STAY SOLVENT. GOOD LUCK! DON

Posted by: DON MARTIN at March 10, 2006 3:10 PM

don, many thanks for your comment. I must tell you that the Blogsurvey blog is in no way connected with General Motors. I suggest you send a note to Bob Lutz at general motors at the fastlane blog at GM. http://fastlane.gmblogs.com/ In particular I'd suggest commenting on this post about getting new ideas from GM customers.

http://fastlane.gmblogs.com/archives/2006/03/all_of_your_ide.html

Posted by: John Cass at March 10, 2006 3:32 PM

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