The first step in becoming more customer-centric is to understand what customers want
In late 2018, when former Intel chief executive Brian Krzanich took the helm at CDK Global, a provider of enterprise software for car dealerships, one of his top priorities was to uncover the reasons behind a falling customer retention rate and a poor Net Promoter Score (NPS). The NPS is a customer experience measure based on the percentage of customers who say they would recommend the company’s product or service to others.
It soon became clear to him that, for some time, dating back to its 2014 spin-off as an independent company from payroll specialist ADP, CDK Global’s leadership had been highly focused on internal measures around cost and profitability, and not enough on its customers. “Customers had suffered, and there was a lot of frustration,” he says.
“I spent a lot of time in my first few months visiting dealerships, spending time with their owners. And what I consistently heard was, ‘We don’t see CDK as a partner. Your business sells me a product, you implement it and then you go away—and the next time we see you is when it’s time to renew our contract and you want to talk about pricing. But you’re just not helping me to run my business.’”
That was the catalyst for Mr Krzanich and his team to make a start on building a more customer-centric model, in direct response to the frustration they were hearing. At the heart of this model is a new “customer success” team of between 80 and 90 people, currently being recruited for deployment this year, who will make regular visits to customers. This team will talk customers through recent key metrics for their business (sales and service revenue growth, advertising spend, how their performance compares against the industry average for their region, and so on), as well as make suggestions as to where and how improvements might be made.
Mr Krzanich has also extended CDK Global’s customer support hours by 30%, in order to better cover the weekends and holidays when car dealerships are at their busiest and can least afford to experience software problems. In addition, sales executives at the company are now compensated not just on new sales, but also on retaining existing customers.
It’s still too early to say what the impact of these changes will be, Mr Krzanich acknowledges. But, he adds, “A year from now, I want to see that customers are using our software more, that they’re more productive as a result and that they’re making more money. If we’re able to see these things, then that will be the best validation of our success in putting them first—because if our customers win, then we win too. It’s as simple as that.”