02 October 2007

The Rise and Fall of Saturn Customer Service

Back in the days of yore, when Saturn was much vaunted for its high quality customer service, oil changes came with red carpets. The complimentary car wash came with RainX on the windshield and vacuum of the entire car, not just the front floorboards. There were donuts, coffee, and popcorn free for the taking. Once, someone left a carnation on my dashboard.

Alas those days seem to have gone. My last oil change came with service staff that did their best to ignore my presence and anything I had to say about my car. They were so spectacularly good at this that they even managed to ignore me while talking to me. The woman behind the counter made fun of my name. The mechanic overcharged me with glee ($90 for a diagnostic of why my key won't go into the ignition? $80 for a new sideview mirror?? $45 for windshield wipers???). I had to dig my car out of their packed parking lot instead of having it conveniently pulled up front where I could leave with ease.

In short, all the reasons why I bought a Saturn in the first place seem to have evaporated. Now I have to go back to demanding that they show me every little car innard they claim is broken, calling around for price estimates and second opinions, and convincing big burly blue-collar-looking guys to take it in on my behalf.

At least the donuts and popcorn are still good. Probably a good thing that those are made by someone else. Not that I'll be enjoying them again.


Jim Wright said...

Crap. Thanks for the heads up, the wife and I were looking to replace her aging jeep with something a little roomier and we've been looking at the Saturn VUE. A little pricey but the customer service was part of the attraction.

wonder what it's like here in AK? Guess I'd better find out.

MWT said...

Well, it could just be Saturn of Savannah. It might just be those two specific counter clerks, who only came in recently and replaced someone way better. I'm biding my time waiting for the corporate office to send me the survey they send after every service I go for, so I can write a lengthy letter demanding that they be sacked. (Assuming they're still doing those. If not, well, I'll probably still write them a lengthy letter explaining why I'm never going back.)

My next car won't be a Saturn anyhow - there are a number of shortcomings about the car itself that I'm tired of dealing with. Not that I've tried a VUE, but check the turn radius - see if it can make u-turns at all. Also, I would hope they've come up with more powerful engines by now. And better sunflaps - the ones on mine are much too small.

But yeah, I'm kind of curious whether service has gone downhill in AK too. It'd suck if it was endemic and not just me.

Peppermint Twist said...

It is so sad how GM has systematically taken everything that was so great about Saturn, especially the commitment to customer service, and dismantled it. Saturn used to have a great deal of autonomy from GM, but now GM has basically taken it over and turned it into just another division of GM. Gone is the great customer service. BTW, I'm currently experiencing the EXACT thing you just referenced about a key that won't go into the ignition (of a '99 SL2)...and from what I'm reading on the web today, this is a common problem with many Saturn models. That said, my '99 SL2 has been very reliable over the years. I also used to be able to count on Saturn service, but now it has gone so far downhill that my next car probably won't be a Saturn, since GM has ruined them in terms of models they offer, too. I want a small, fuel efficient car, not an SUV or a nuevo Oldsmobile. Saturn did indeed used to be a "different kind of car company" and I loved it very much. Now it is just one more division of GM with no models I'm interested in and without the signature excellent customer service that used to define Saturn. So sad!

MWT said...

Ahh, so that's what happened. I guess all good things do eventually come to an end, unfortunately. I've since found a local auto repair shop that treats me much better than the dealership and charges a lot less.

If your Saturn is like mine, you can get the key into the ignition by banging on the steering wheel from underneath. A couple firm whacks on the part right under the ignition, and the key goes right in. I think it must have something to do with temperature, because it behaved well all winter, but now it's starting to do it again with summer coming.

My next car will probably be some kind of hybrid. I'd bought the Saturn because of the service, even though the car wasn't exactly what I wanted; now that the service is gone there's no reason to look at them at all anymore.

Thanks for your comment. :)

Anonymous said...

I was lulled by the smiles, doughnuts, etc when I originally took my Saturn wagon in for service. I complained several times that the rear wiper did not always work, so I believed them when they said nothing could be done if it worked OK when I had it in. Years later, with it rarely working at all, and well beyond the warranty and service contract I learned that they had received a bulliten describing the same exact problem including the fact that it was an intermittent problem and they had this bulliten when I was trying to get them to do something about the problem. I recently tried to get them to fix it as if under warranty since it was not my fault it hadn't bee fixed under warranty like it should have been. I tried to show them the bulliten, but the "service"man took one glance, said it wasn't a recall, again tried to tell me they couldn't have done anything if it worked OK when I had it ina and handi\ed the bulliten back to me.
Believe me, I won't deal with them again and will rescind the recommendations I had previously given to friends!

Anonymous said...

I live in New Milford C.T.. I was looking to lease an Aura from Saturn. The dealer nearest to me is in Danbury C.T.. Before my visit I heard rumors about dealers in Danbury. Well to say the least the rumors were on point. Saturn of Danbury was the worst sales service I have received in my 33 years of life. Saturn of Danbury practically pushed me out the door when I said lease. ridiculous how they would not at least call another dealership to accomodate a customer. Whats the difference if I buy or lease from them or another dealer ship. It seems all that Saturn of Danbury cares for is commission on a sale not the customer. I ended up traveling to Saturn of poughkeepsie in N.Y.. The best move I made. I received great attention and all my questions were answered. Less than ten minute with Jaime I was sighning lease papers. Great service from Saturn of Poughkeepsie. FU Saturn of Danbury

Anonymous said...

I also went back to saturn for prior service. took my car in to repair. It came to almost 1000 dollars. when I said I cannot get it done today the whole attitude switch to you are so stupid, get it done. All manners gone out the door.It was like you are not taking this car off the lot unless you pay us. Then when I insisted they finally brought it after about an hour. Meanwhile while waiting for car I go over to the used side. They find that out and send him home immediately.Guess competition was fierce. Next week I say ok I will buy a new one. Salesperson was nice.After the sale, salesperson went on vacation. Then all hell broke loose. Finance company did not pay off old car like promise. Credit company and bank started calling me. dealership was never in, never worked on fridays and came in late on monday-friday. finally had to speak to manager and that was about 10 calls in two days. Finally got hold of finance company. They reimburse for money taken but kept 50 dollars for who knows what. On top of that car is acting funny and back firing.I will never buy another car from them. Now wonder about if they will fix it.

gloria m said...

Nothing has changed...had lumbar support repaired 5 times ....waited 80+ days for parts during those repairs...loyalty means nothing to saturn and GM.....go elsewhere .....warning to future consumers

Outsource Call Center said...

In my opinion, Good customer service is necessary. I believe that treating the customer so politely makes them so comfortable and satisfied with your services.