Saturn – how NOT to run a word of mouth campaign

The brand contract with car manufacturers and drivers is a complicated one. The cars are sold through emotional engagement, but are maintained and serviced according to pure mechanics and legal terms. MasiGuy’s complaints are complicated — but in a world talking about "lovemarks", it seems there ain’t room enough for love in the Saturn world.

So following on from yesterday’s post, I filled in the Saturn website contact us form … and got the following response (did ANYONE really read my comment? Did they check the MasiGuy’s post? And, finally, is Linda T related to Mr T (and is she going to pity me as a fool?)?

Dear Gavin,

Thank you for taking time to send us an email. We are very excited about
some of the new products we will be offering to our customers over the next
few years which provide alternative fuel options.

We appreciate your interest and have documented your comments. If we can be
of further assistance, please feel free to contact us again. You can send
another email or if you would prefer to speak with someone, our phone number
is (800) 553-6000, option 3.


Linda T.

Saturn Customer Assistance Center
SR: 1-22625549

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12 thoughts on “Saturn – how NOT to run a word of mouth campaign

  1. Wow! That is amazing… that is almost the exact same email I got when we contacted Saturn the first time too. Jeesh… you don’t think all of their folks are using a simple form letter to respond do you? That doesn’t seem very full of love and sunshine… wow…
    I love it when companies do this; respond with a form letter like this that doesn’t even come close to having anything in common with the original contact. Just proves that they aren’t listening/ reading and paying any attention. Frightening.

  2. Well, in my case, I’d send an email and get the auto reply confirmation telling me a real human would be in contact. Then I’d get the form letter with a short message from the Customer Service rep at the bottom. It’s very heartwarming… isn’t it?

  3. guys, do you remember how i was upset with nba store for the xmas gift? i suspect they use the same customer care. sometimes i believe that we write words on the sand.

  4. lol. Love form letters.
    Isn’t it amazing how we’ve come to expect them? And it’s amazing what happens when someone takes a few minutes to NOT send a form letter. You could actually say it engenders loyalty, suprise and even advocacy. Sad, but true.
    I’ve got a bit of a hate-on going with Internet Access at Starbucks up here in Canada. But every time I’ve submitted a complaint, a person has responded. Sometimes with pieces of a form letter, but always with some type of personal reply.
    It actualy stopped me from starting a blog post and even caused me to defend them in a discussion. And there’s been no change to the dreadful access. Yet my view has softened.
    I’ll stop rambling about coffee now. Back to Tim and his Saturn death machine!
    (P.S. Updated my entry with a link to your form letter. )

  5. Having worked for Saturn for 3 years in the mid-90s this is a sad story to read; plus Tim is my friend and a long time source of blogging encouragement.
    The aspect of Saturn’s vision that I always connected to the most was not the product but rather the reinventing of a dysfunctional industry’s relationship to car owners.
    Most of us came to Saturn from outside the auto industry because we wanted to be part of making that difference.
    “different kind of car, different kind of car company” was our mantra not just in marketing material but inside where we did our daily work.
    My work experience at Saturn gave me a new and positive definition of sales for the first time in my life.
    My thinking about “brand ownership” was inspired there as well.
    And I am thankful for those days. But they appear to either be long gone or soon to disappear; I can’t tell which.
    If we had never made the claim to be a different kind of car company all of this would be less disappointing.
    Broken promises destroy relationships and brands when it comes to the marketplace. So very obvious. So ignored.
    Thanks for enlarging the conversation Gavin.
    Keep creating…a different kind of marketplace,

  6. Mike,
    I felt so horrible posting some of my comments about this solely because I knew of your former connection to the brand. I get sad whenever I see bad reviews of products I was formerly associated with, so I can simply imagine that you might feel a little sadness at what has happened.
    It does seem that the reviews and comments I’ve seen elsewhere would seem to indicate that the brand has stepped back from it’s original premise and that it is now diluted. The cult of loyal followers in the early years of the brand seem to be losing faith as well- that’s a bummer.

  7. This is just poor CRM planning, but it shouldn’t surprise anyone who has read about Tim’s experience that Saturn’s culture would allow such a letter to go unheeded.
    Please let us know if you EVER get a response. I had a similar problem with a printer recently… The printer was in perfect working order, but when I upgraded my OS, the printer no longer worked. After a long time searching, I found someplace I could write, but I never received an answer. Consequently, I’ll never use that brand of printer again.

  8. Hey Mike … sorry this is a negative story for you — particularly on the “owning the brand” front.
    I have never had the opportunity to work for a car or motorcycle brand — but am often surprised at the lack of creativity employed in their positioning and presentation (with the obvious exception of Harley Davidson and Ducati (US)). These brands have such imaginative potential that just seems to be wasted — reminds me of your ZOMBIE posts.
    Oh no! Just spied a Google Ad for Saturn cars in my sidebar. Got to go get on my soapbox.

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