How CDK Global is Strengthening Opportunities for Women in the Automotive Industry – Kathy Gilbert & John Hickey

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At NADA 2020 in sunny Las Vegas, host Bridget Fitzpatrick was joined on the CBT Stage by John Hickey and Kathy Gilbert from CDK Global. John is the Executive Vice President of North America Customer Experience and Kathy is the Director of Customer Success.

Technology exchangeVIDEO TRANSCRIPT:

Bridget Fitzpatrick: So I’ll start with you Kathy. Now, CDK has provided a lot of quality research on a variety of topics, anywhere from female car buyers to job seekers. Can you tell us what inspired that research?

Kathy Gilbert: So CDK actually has been supporting our women dealers for over 20 years. It started back in the day, I say when we really wanted to focus on how do we help our women dealers be successful? And that research has led us over the last three years, we’ve really focused on the dealer survey of understanding what do dealers need in their business? And then we’ve expanded it out to this year we did a job seeker survey. And that job seeker survey was really focused on helping our dealers understand what are job seekers looking for in order for them to pursue a career in automotive. And it really helps us understand how we can better service our dealers, but how we can also help to attract and retain talent in this industry.

Bridget Fitzpatrick: Absolutely. That’s great work. Now we’ve also recently done a customer experience study. Now. John, can you talk to us about that?

John Hickey: Yes, actually it’s very exciting because as a customer experience professional, we like to look at quantitative and qualitative data, understanding trends of customer experience at the dealerships. And what we found is dealerships who embrace investment in customer experience are actually raising revenue retention and net promoter score. And specifically when you look at the net promoter score and you compare a dealership who is doing customer experience versus one who isn’t, you’ll see an 18 point improvement, which is incredible. And what’s also quite interesting about that is it’s actually higher when it’s a female customer experience leader versus male. Female has a 25% increased NPS, and male has a 12% increase. So it’s compelling and it’s very interesting to us because customer experience is not only about roles, it’s also about technology and how you change the process. But there’s a really good career opportunity in customer experience in car dealerships.

Bridget Fitzpatrick: Now, so can you talk to us about the value? What does the value of the customer experience role provide?

John Hickey: I guess there’s many different ways to look at that. If you are very good at customer experience, a dealership can typically get better OEM incentives, which is obviously a big win in a competitive market like we have today. It also creates sort of a buzz of customers that are willing to go back because they really enjoyed the experience. What we’ve seen is female buyers often find that it’s a little bit daunting, because of the sales experience they’ve had in car dealerships.

John Hickey: When a customer experience professional comes on the scene, they typically are responsible for the problem resolution from start to finish. So they’re really thinking about a personalized service for that person. And so when you walk out of the dealership you think, “Wow, I would definitely go back because I had that great experience.” And the research that we’ve done shows us that actually the customer experience professionals can sort of start at a job doer phase and can move it to a strategist level where they’re kind of thinking about the overall technology strategy within the dealership, which I think is a great career opportunity for people too.

Bridget Fitzpatrick: It really is, yeah.

Kathy Gilbert: And I would just add that really ties into women looking at the automotive from different lenses because the idea that a customer experience role offers them a lot more and terms of career growth. So it’s not just a matter of coming into the dealership and thinking that there isn’t a career path, they’re finding that customer experience roles and customer success roles really help that.

Bridget Jim Fitzpatrick: Yes. Now CDK has interviewed a lot of women in the customer experience role. Kathy, can you talk to us about the unique perspectives that they bring to auto dealers and their customers?

Kathy Gilbert: So one of the interesting things is when you step back, the challenge that women have just in a dealership in general is feeling that they’re not really well received. The culture of the dealership isn’t what they needed to be. And so when you look at a customer experience roles, especially some, where it’s either a BDC type role or another role really focused on customers, where there’s a compassion piece of it is really important for women. As well as just the opportunity for them to continuously grow and improve the organization. That helps women look at this role differently and it helps them to grow within the dealership role as well.

Bridget Fitzpatrick: Yeah absolutely.

John Hickey: I would actually add to that just one thing as well as the research we did, shows that women in automotive are actually better multitaskers. And if you think about the dealership landscape today, they’re busy. Like in an F and I office in fixed ops, everybody’s quite busy. Having somebody who is able to multitask well, it’s a great trait to add into any dealership.

Bridget Fitzpatrick: Yeah, absolutely. I agree 100%. now, Kathy, how’s CDK strengthening opportunities for women in the automotive industry?

Kathy Gilbert: So overall, I mean the research that we’re doing specifically to job seekers is important, but we have stepped back and looked at not only what dealers are doing in terms of how our women dealers are attracting more women into the industry. How they’re building more hiring, more retaining, more women within their own space. But CDK has been a big supporter of women throughout the industry. Five years ago we were part of the Women in Automotive, we founded the organization and the goal there was how do you attract more women into the industry? How do you keep them here?

Kathy Gilbert: And one of the challenges women have across the board is you don’t see a whole lot of other women. That’s the challenge that wherever you go in this industry, we’re trying to get more women to come out to share their stories. And CDK has been a big supporter of women across the board. So we look at not only women in automotive and other opportunities for women to speak to participate, to join panels, but also for them to attend a lot of the conferences where they can build their own strength, they can share their own stories and we’re doing that both internal to CDK as well as external as well.

Bridget Fitzpatrick: Nice. Nice. Now John, can you tell us what encouragement would you offer women or advice would you offer women looking to get into the automotive industry?

John Hickey: I think it’s important as I’m beside Kathy Gilbert that she is a perfect brand ambassador for women in automotive. And what I see when I watch her operate is her ability to create relationships is phenomenal. That’s a skill set that you can learn over time too, by having the right mentors. So as you think about a new role in the dealership, it’s good to have a mentor that you could rely on to give you some tips and advice.

John Hickey: The other thing is, in my experience in the past, you really own your own career. So you have to kind of control that from the very beginning and think about what is the job you want to do and who is the leader that you’d like to work for? That’s an important thing. In the customer experience world, because it’s evolving in automotive, we’re behind in terms of what we’re investing. If you compare us to big box brands out there, if you compare us to hotels, we’re behind in terms of what we’re doing today, so that means there’s a great opportunity. So I think coming in, having a mindset of customer experience end to end, thinking about the experience and the flow of the customer through the dealership. If anybody comes into that role thinking like, that they have an experience to grow pretty quickly.

Bridget Fitzpatrick: Great, Kathy?

Kathy Gilbert: And I would add too. I mean mentors and coaches are so important. Don’t be afraid to ask the question. Don’t be afraid to take a real serious look at this industry. The thing that I love most about automotive is there are people here, especially women, but there are people here that will share their story with you. They love talking about their career, how they got in the industry, what made them stay in the industry.

Kathy Gilbert: Our research has shown that the same reasons that women get in the industry are the reasons that they stay in the industry. And that is because the relationships, the compassion, they want to give back, they want to help. And so when I talk to women about why automotive, the thing I tell them is be curious. There’s so many opportunities for women, whether that is in the dealership, whether that’s designing cars, whether it’s selling cars, whether it’s making cars. There’s things that women can do here. And so across the board, I love customers, customer success, I’m a year into the role and when you are able to help customers to achieve their objectives, we all win. And so we’re doing that within our automotive space. And we’re doing that within CDK.

Bridget Fitzpatrick: Well, as a woman in automotive, I appreciate and respect the work that you both are doing. So thank you so much. And thank you for joining me today on CBT.

John Hickey: Thanks a lot.

Kathy Gilbert: Thank you.

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