Cadillac Wants To Provide Ritzy Service On The Cheap

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
cadillac wants to provide ritzy service on the cheap

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.

Join the conversation
5 of 15 comments
  • Gs340 Gs340 on Apr 03, 2010

    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.

  • Joeveto3 Joeveto3 on Apr 03, 2010

    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....

    • Bertel Schmitt Bertel Schmitt on Apr 04, 2010

      Great idea. I talked to some guys at Soi Cowboy, they are ready to set up seminars. The folks at Nana Plaza will go after Ford.

  • Don1967 Don1967 on Apr 04, 2010

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

  • Kristjan Ambroz Kristjan Ambroz on Apr 06, 2010

    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).