Cadillac, once known as "The Standard of the World," may want to dust off that old title.
When it comes to customer service, a Business Week survey put the company third in a group of 25 "luxury or specialty" brands or companies, including those not in an automotive-related business. When it comes to cars, Cadillac outranked stalwarts such as Lexus and Porsche.
Business Week supplemented 2006 data from J.D.Power & Associates with a survey of about 3,000 Business Week readers who were asked to nominate three companies that offered the best customer service.
In the end, Cadillac was outranked by only insurance company USAA and the Four Seasons hotel chain, beating firms such as Nordstrom, Starbucks, Ritz-Carlton and Southwest Airlines.
"The fact is that most people in America wouldn't believe that an American car company would place that high. But these are people whose perceptions of our quality are based on 10, 20, 30 years ago, when frankly we weren't doing that great a job," Cadillac spokesman Kevin Smith said.
Moreover, the Business Week study isn't the only feather in Cadillac's hat. In a survey done by the Luxury Institute, wealthy customers rated Cadillac, Lexus and Acura as the three luxury auto brands that delivered the best customer experience in 2007, with Cadillac topping the list.
"It's significant to see American icon Cadillac rise solidly to achieve the No. 1 rating with highly discerning wealthy owners in our impartial surveys," said Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute. He said the brands that were rated in the survey included Acura, Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Infiniti, Jaguar, Lexus, Lincoln, Mercedes and Volvo.
What's Cadillac doing right?
Giving dealers lots of authority to get things done, and not being hidebound and rigid when it comes to pleasing customers, for one thing.
"What Business Week found were a lot of good comments from dealers talking about how they now have what they need the most: lots of latitude to do whatever it takes to please customers no matter what," said Dave Caldwell, Cadillac communications manager. That even includes the ability to honor a warranty that has expired.
"An important part of the luxury component is the experience part of it, it's not just about the business. The reason that brands like Ritz Carlton or Nordstrom did well on the survey is because those brands pay attention not just to the tangible elements, but to the intangibles, and so does Cadillac," Mr. Caldwell said.