The retail auto industry saw some big vendor mergers and acquisitions last year that took center stage at this year’s NADA show in San Francisco. Scott Mathews, executive vice president of sales and marketing for CDK Global, and Bill Wittenmyer, vice president of sales and operations at ELEADONE, stopped by the CBT stage to discuss the integration of their two companies, and the exciting products ahead.
JIM FITZPATRICK: You guys have been the talk of the town here in the last six months, right?
SCOTT MATHEWS: That’s nice to hear.
JIM FITZPATRICK: The powerhouse of CDK coming together with the powerhouse of ELEAD1ONE. Let’s talk about that. It’s been a few months now. How’s the transition going?
BILL WITTENMYER: Really fortunate, first of all. I think the biggest thing is we went into it, foundationally, with a lot of very similar DNA and cloth. Maybe we didn’t recognize that, but as we’ve come together in acquisition it’s been unbelievable. I think the best way to put it is it could not have gone any better, and it certainly could’ve gone a lot more challenging. So we’ve been really fortunate in that, in really being able to amplify each other. There’s so many positive pieces on both sides.
JIM FITZPATRICK: Sure. And I mean, you guys at ELEAD1ONE, you’ve had your hands in so many different things in dealers across the country and built such a phenomenal platform. And obviously with CDK, these two forces coming together. From CDK’s perspective, how’s the transition going?
SCOTT MATHEWS: So honestly, I think we went into it with a healthy outlook that these things don’t happen easily. There’s a lot of people on both sides. ELEADS, smaller company, but not a small company.
Lots of employees. And I think we went into it knowing that it has to first work with the people. If it works with the people it will work with the products and the customers. And I think that’s where we’ve focused, at least for the last four months. We’ve only been at it about four months. We’re two sides, I think, of the same coin, and if Bill’s feeling good about it, we’re feeling better about it.
JIM FITZPATRICK: Right, right. What do you say to the dealers out there that go, “Uh oh, another transition here. Another merger in our industry.” How’s it going to affect me if I’m a CDK client or if an ELEAD1ONE client?
BILL WITTENMYER: Sure, well, I think first of all, the proof is always in the pudding. It’s execution. Words can go a long way when they’re great words, but it’s all about the actions that really happen. I think we’ve already demonstrated the actions in support, expanding the hours. Lot of different press news we put out in those areas. Taking some of the things that we did over the years at ELEAD with our customer care, and again, amplifying those on the CDK resource side, which was a huge help for us.
BILL WITTENMYER: So I think it’s really about continuing those actions and not just putting out the words, and we’ve already done that. In the first 120-plus days, all we’ve seen in continued growth in all the areas, continued growth in the customer success areas, post installation transformation teams. I mean, it’s all over. I think dealers are gonna continue to see that, and that’s really what dealers want. This is a show me business.
JIM FITZPATRICK: Sure. We talked to a couple of your very big clients that had 20-plus stores, and we asked them that question, because it is such a big merger in the industry. And they said, “No, thumbs up in all cases. We’re excited about the merger. We think that ELEAD can be better, and we certainly think that it’s a missing piece that maybe CDK Global has really picked up.” So kudos to you for having your customers talk that way.
SCOTT MATHEWS: [crosstalk 00:03:38] couple of more pieces there, and we tried to take some cost out of the equation for the dealer, the integration fees that we had when we were separate companies. Secondly, the proof’s in the pudding. Are we doing better together, at least so far, than we were separately? And you never know until you get into it for a while. And we’re doing better by the numbers, selling more, dealers buying more, than we were separately.
JIM FITZPATRICK: Sure, for sure. You know, we hear so much. I’ve interviewed, now, probably 30-some individuals in the last day here at NADA, and the two words digital retailing keeps popping up. What does the future look like? Who’s gonna really master this? What partners are out there to help dealers in the vendor world to navigate through this? Talk to us, if you will, a minute about digital retailing and what you guys are talking about in your conference rooms each day.
BILL WITTENMYER: Well, we were really fortunate because of the, again, it’s back to that marriage and that foundation. Ironically, CDK Global family was already very well down the road with Connected Store and the online version, and ELEAD was very far down the road on the in Showroom aspect of that. And what we’ve been able to announce and accomplish here at NADA, again in a very short period of time, is connecting those two. So they’re fully integrated, and really you’re setting the right experience. The experience that we are claiming in the industry is we’re gonna save you time and all this, but the reality is in most cases, all we’re delivering is leads via those portals.
JIM FITZPATRICK: That’s right.
BILL WITTENMYER: What’s different today, with CDK Global, now with ELEADS addition as a product family, we can actually deliver a deal, versus leads. So that lead will come in online, customer can actually do all the shopping that they need to as far as the customer journey, and then they can come into the store, pick right up where they left off. It’s not a lead. It’s built with the same calculator and engines that you have in the DMS as you do online as you do in the showroom, so you’re perfect to the penny. That’s a big separator right now in the industry in my opinion.
JIM FITZPATRICK: Yeah, there’s no question. And obviously, from CDK’s standpoint, with having dealers all over the country as well, have they been coming to CDK before the merger and saying, “Hey, what do you got planned for us?” ‘Cause this-
SCOTT MATHEWS: I mean, completely … because the truth of digital contracting, business online, whatever you wanna call it, it’s about putting the pieces together. It’s about putting the pieces together for the consumer, as well, if not better, than they’re put together for the dealer. And starting up front, as far as the website, right through the Connected Store experience, into the CRM, into the DMS, and back around again someday, we didn’t have all the pieces to make all that happen. ELEADS didn’t have all the pieces. Together, we have most of the pieces, and our ability to integrate that is where our shoulder’s going for the next couple of years.
JIM FITZPATRICK: Yeah, for sure, for sure. What are some of the things that you’ve got rolling out here at NADA this year? Any new toys, or new widgets, to talk about?
BILL WITTENMYER: It’s constant roll out. In industry you have to stay that way, particularly the software side of this business. I think a couple of big ones, obviously the Connected Store integrating with Deal Builder. So really, again, a perfect symbiotic marriage between CDK Global and the acquisition of ELEAD transformed into an actual product in a very short period of time. I think you add onto that some of the other things that our new CEO has brought out, which is a lot of the service aspect and looking at the customer care and support. We expanded customer care support hours by over 30%. That’s a huge item for dealers.
BILL WITTENMYER: And then at the end of the day it’s all the other products. We have Executive Eye, which is a phenomenal reporting piece. And there’s so many different connected layers within the CDK Global family, that really just complement everything that our existing customers and future customers are looking for.
SCOTT MATHEWS: Yeah, three big things here at NADA for us. Bill touched on them. The new Drive Flex DMS system is our step to modernize DMS for our customers. The platforms in the DMS space are pretty old, really, across the board, and we’re making a pretty bold step to change that. Secondly, our agnostic platform, Fortellis, to let the industry play together-
And thirdly, and we gotta get a lot of credit to ELEAD here, our new customer success initiative. So this is about taking people and getting them closer to our customers after the sale. I think a lot of folks think sometimes the big company is picking up the smaller company, and we know everything, and in a lot of ways it’s the other way around.
What they have done over the past years, and the way they have connected with the customer after the sale. It’s easy to do it before the sale, but after the sale, and stayed there, and been a valuable partner, and seeing that the customer realizes the value that he or she thought they bought. We are taking that template, really, and scaling it in bigger way for all the products, starting in a big way with the DMS, with our customer success program. So you’re gonna see a lot there from us over the coming months.
JIM FITZPATRICK: Yeah, very, very exciting. Very exciting. So the big question that every dealer has on their mind is will you continue the cookies?
BILL WITTENMYER: Yeah-
JIM FITZPATRICK: Will ELEAD continue with the cookies?
BILL WITTENMYER: … cookies in the booth right now.
SCOTT MATHEWS: They’re all over our booth right now.
BILL WITTENMYER: That’s right. That’s exactly right.
JIM FITZPATRICK: Did CDK Global kill the cookies?
SCOTT MATHEWS: Number one.
BILL WITTENMYER: Yeah, yeah.
SCOTT MATHEWS: Oh, my gosh. Opposite.
JIM FITZPATRICK: ‘Cause if so, we’re canceling CDK.
SCOTT MATHEWS: Our CEO, Brian Krzanich, our new CEO, number one reason he supported everything that we do with ELEAD, he’s hooked on the cookies.
JIM FITZPATRICK: Right, well, Bill Wittenmyer and Scott Mathews from CDK Global. I wanna thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule here at NADA. We very much appreciate it, and hopefully we can have you back in a couple of months to see how everything’s going.
BILL WITTENMYER: You got it. Thank you, Jim. Appreciate it.
SCOTT MATHEWS: Thank you.