By on April 3, 2010

Cadillac contracted the services of the Ritz-Carlton to train Cadillac dealers to provide 5-star service. The Ritz Carlton, first recipient of the Baldridge award in 1999, has a side business in training other companies to provide quality service.

Don Butler, Cadillac’s marketing VP, said to Automotive News [sub] that the program will emphasize customer treatment rather than facilities. For instance, he said, a dealership employee might take an umbrella and walk a customer out to his or her car when it’s raining. “It’s simple,” Butler said. “It’s the things that don’t cost a lot of money.” If he would only know.

Ritz Carlton’s fabled customer service rests on two pillars:

One, a huge database that collects customers’ wishes and preferences. If you order a pillow filled with bricks in one Ritz Carlton, be prepared to be told at check-in in the next one: “Of course, the pillow is just as you expect it. I personally selected the bricks.”

Two, personnel at the Ritz will be selected according to their enthusiasm for delivering quality service. As a high ranking Ritz Carlton manager once told me: “Selecting people who love to serve our guests is much easier than trying to train people who have no idea of the concept.”

About 10 years ago, we tried the same as Cadillac and hired the Ritz Carlton to train Volkswagen dealer personnel. Nobody wanted to pay for the database. Nobody allowed the Ritz to fire all sales and service people and hire new ones. You know how that worked out. At least something good came from it: The hotel at Volkswagen’s Autostadt in Wolfsburg is a Ritz Carlton.

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15 Comments on “Cadillac Wants To Provide Ritzy Service On The Cheap...”

  • avatar

    At least it’s a step in the right direction. The dealer experience is probably the NBT in the auto business.

  • avatar

    I’m not sure why only Cadillac is trying to improve their customer service. It would behoove Chevy and Buick to do the same. GM had the right idea with Saturn but F’ed that concept up.

    Leave the high pressure sales people and surly parts department workers for the European dealerships.

    Always give clients more than they expect and you will have a client for life.

  • avatar

    Although my sample size can be counted on 1 hand, staying at lux hotels and (to a lesser extent) flying 1st class are things that have to be experienced to be fully appreciated. Of course, it helps when someone else is picking up the tab.

    This type of service is never going to happen in a US car dealership (exception: Lexus – when they launched they had the luxury of keeping out many unwashed dealers). Most states’ car franchise laws prohibit OEM’s from culling based on degenerate customer service. Once awarded a franchise, many of these pimples on the butt of American capitalism are harder to dump than a tenured NY City school teacher…

  • avatar

    I don’t care if they hold an umbrella for me… what I care about is an honest price structure, no cheating and lying. Car sales people that actually know about cars. and service after the sale, i.e. when something needs to be fixed. Which, of course, also would require that the mechanic had any type of education.

    But of course, that is not being taught at those seminars.

  • avatar

    The sad part is that most of the dealer experience could be upgraded by simply hiring better people.

    Sure, it’s commission sales and there is a certain ‘sharky’ quality inherent to the transaction, but it still can be done in a civilized manner.

    The trick to that is hiring civilized people – and let’s be honest, that can be difficult. When Ritz puts a new employee through the paces, they are merely training details of the Ritz system as the basics of good manners are already there.

    To be honest, I have found a couple of rather well-trained Chev/GMC/Caddy dealers as of late (getting parts for a work van). Clean, modern, friendly, professional. Were they all like that, it would go a long way to rehab GM’s reputation.

  • avatar

    I have to say… my Cadillac dealership will be sorely missed if I abandon ship to a different brand. In fact, it’s possible that I’ll hang on to Cad a little longer just because of my dealer. Forget the Ritz, they should have my service dept teach the class. I would put their name on here but I’m not sure it’s appropriate on this forum. Plus you’ll think I work there or something. Meanwhile, the Lincoln guys down the road totally blew me off as some punk kid, even tho I rolled in an 07 STS (not my first caddy, either) (plus I’ve gotten my mom to buy two). Told me they had no ecoBoost in stock (a lie, I saw one) and never called me back. Gave me the $50 and I never even got my test drive. If they don’t step up next time I go in the next few weeks, no matter how sick the MKS is, I won’t get it.

  • avatar

    Ah, yes. Another anti-GM screen from TTAC. We all knew it was coming. Cadillac addresses what you – and others – have identified as a major problem: Dealer-customer interface. So, naturally, the effort must be labeled a failure because Cadillac is trying it. But you have your audience who will gladly drink from the same pitcher, and love to hate GM. If there’s any proof that the internet has undermined responsible journalism, just look here.

    • 0 avatar

      Ah yes, another transient who didn’t read what was written in the article.

      It was VW who failed to implement the Ritz Carlton method, not Cadillac who are just starting out on it.

      I guess you read what your biases are.

    • 0 avatar

      The headline says it all. If WMBA is correct and I’m wrong, wouldn’t the headline have said, “VW Tried Ritzy Service on the Cheap, Will Cadillac Do Better?” My point is that TTAC’s decision on Cadillac was already made.

  • avatar

    Great. Now our tax dollars are being used to teach car salesmen how to be human beings. And for umbrellas.

    Tell ya what, GM — I’ll go to one of your dealerships, you give me an umbrella, and I’ll consider it a good-faith repayment towards my small part of the $60 billion wasted to sustain your pitiful existence.

    And then you’ll never, ever, ever see me again.

  • avatar

    I attempted to purchase a 1996 Impala SS for my first new car, and the dealership experience was so unpleasant that I haven’t considered a GM product since then.

    But now, the CTS, and the wagon, have my eye. Cadillac has fled my town, which is good – the dealership was dystopian. I would welcome their return elsewhere.

    The dealership experience is the single biggest factor that drives me away. The salespeople I encounter defy reality: how can a dealership succeed with individuals who know nothing about sales or the very cars they are tasked with selling? Is it really the domain of chain-smoking, minimum wage high school dropouts, or washed-up middle aged sleaze balls? How did it get to this?

    If my firm presented this level of quality of customer service to our clients, we’d be out of business.

    You can do it, Cadillac. Be tough. Get the data. Respect it. Implement it. Fire people. Send out mystery shoppers to check the sales staff experience.

    Of course I realize that in order to do this, and to attract quality people, you have to pay them at least decently. So it’s a risk. Take it.

  • avatar

    If they really want to be clever, they should go to the Bangkok red light district and learn how to really take care of the clientele. That will sell a few cars, boost the JD Power Customer Satisfaction ratings and shake up the industry to boot….

  • avatar

    It all sounds great, until you remember that selling crappy, defective cars with a smile has been done before. It was called Saturn.

  • avatar
    Kristjan Ambroz

    As a result of that VW Ritz Carlton cooperation the one in Wolfsburg will now be the closest 3 star Michelin restaurant to my future home. ;)

    Joking aside, a very interesting point you are making, Bertel – and something companies like Inifinity with their current launch in Europe hopefully got right (Lexus to a large extent did – their service level in Europe is so much better than any of the premium German competition – maybe because they are still small).

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