Smaller auto dealership software vendors have historically put more of a premium on dealer satisfaction. And as the giants in the sector try to prevent defections to a growing array of alternatives, they say they're focusing more on keeping customers happy as well.
Part of what CDK Global Inc. and Reynolds and Reynolds hope will justify their larger price tags is what they can do for customers through the software.
CDK has announced major changes to its customer services, such as adding personnel and hours to its support staff and including a dashboard for retailers to monitor efficiencies across their operations and see how their stores compare with those of other dealers.
Among CDK's actions was its acquisition of ELEAD1ONE, a maker of customer relationship management systems.
Rajiv Amar, chief technology officer at CDK, said at the software giant's press event that integrating the smaller company has been a major focus since the acquisition.
"We bought a company," Amar said, "but more importantly, we bought a culture, and products that just take us to the next level."
Other changes CDK touted at the National Automobile Dealers Association Show in January — such as better customer service and simplified billing — respond to long-standing problems with the software provider.
Dan Flynn, president of CDK Global North America, attributed ELEAD1ONE's success in customer retention before the acquisition to its customer service support.
"Why have they been so successful? Because they use this model," Flynn said. "We're taking all the best practices from that. We've added a few pieces, and I think it's a testament to who CDK is and where we're going with the company and how we're listening, how we're behaving differently, and you will see evidence of that for sure."
Reynolds, with its software united under one system, says dealers can use data from multiple departments to show software utilization, drive compliance and aid in marketing endeavors.
But smaller companies have stressed customer service all along. Similar to CDK, customer relationship management system provider DealerSocket also grew its customer services by more than 30 percent in 2018.
Dealer feedback from site visits is helping the company measure success by customer experience and outcomes, said DealerSocket COO Jose Arcilla.
"You often hear the term 'trusted adviser' being thrown around. We actually put substance behind it," Arcilla said. "Instead of focusing on what I want to achieve, and showing them how to use a tool, it's really focused on: Are you achieving what you set out to achieve as a dealership, and how are we facilitating that?"