To continue the momentum started by our Women in Remarketing and Women in Auto Finance franchises, AuSM has launched Women in Retail, an awards program that specifically recognizes leaders on the retail side of the auto industry.
This inaugural class of honorees is spotlighted in the , which includes Q&As with each recipient of the award.
Next up is Kathy Gilbert, who is director of customer success at CDK Global.
AuSM: What was your career path to the retail auto industry? Did you always see yourself in this line of work?
Kathy Gilbert: I believe like many women, I was not intentional about starting my career in the automotive industry. My background with both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration was technical. I began my career at CDK, formerly ADP, in a technical position to roll out a new product that digitized a process, removing a dealer’s dependency on paper and making documents available online. Working with automobile dealers helped me to develop a passion for this industry, because it wasn’t just about the technology — it was about the people.
AR: What’s a typical day like in your job? (if there is such a thing as “typical!”)
KG: Most of my automotive career, I’ve worked with dealers, helping them to attract more minorities and women into the business while also encouraging women to understand their own opportunities. In my new position as the director of customer success, I’m building a new team of customer success advocates that will proactively work with dealer customers to help them achieve their business objectives. This involves recruiting and hiring a team, developing a training plan, strategizing customer lifecycle management and measuring results.
AR: What are some of the top challenges (and opportunities) in the retail car business this year? How are you and your company addressing those?
KG: Despite the fact that the number of female drivers and automotive customers continues to rise, the number of women who work in dealerships has remained fairly stagnant, averaging 19% over the past four years (Bureau of Labor Statistics), and a mere 21% of new hires are female (2018 NADA Workforce Study). These challenges call for fundamental changes in how we educate women about the automotive workplace and how we advocate for women already in the industry.
CDK is participating in education and advocacy through organizations, like Women in Retail and Women in Automotive, leveraging research to investigate trends as we inform the industry about ways we can challenge the status quo for women. This year, CDK is launching a series of informative papers, videos and engagement activities that will help break barriers for women in the industry.
AR: What accomplishment or moment in your career are you most proud of?
KG: Working with five other female industry leaders, we developed and implemented the first Women in Automotive (WIA) conference, which was created to assist the automotive community in recruiting, retaining and developing female employees and leaders.
Over the last 20- years, I have been an advocate to women in the automotive industry. Working together with others that have a common mission, making each of us more powerful, resilient and self-sufficient. I have worked to empower women and to help them with career development, education and success strategies.
AR: What do you enjoy most about working in the auto industry?
KG: In the early days of my career, I really enjoyed the cars and the attention that was placed on them. But, over the years, I realize that what I enjoy most is the people. My customers.
AR: What aspects of the retail car business would you change?
KG: Throughout my career in automotive, I’ve never been more passionate than I am right now about transforming customer success. From a retail perspective, customer experience is the No. 1 differentiator in all aspects of business. And now, through a recent position change, I have the opportunity to lead my organization in developing a new business model that will change how we serve the industry. Combining this exciting opportunity with what our research has demonstrated about how women perceive the car buying experience, I know I am in a unique position to transform how the industry perceives and serves its female customers.
AR: What advice would you have for someone just starting out in retail automotive?
KG: Follow your own path. The role of women in the automotive industry is growing, and we are making strides.
Preparation. Every experience I’ve had in my career has provided an occasion to learn and to grow. Even when you believe you’re prepared, the game can change — and you have to be ready to adapt. The key to making the right decision is preparation — mentally, physically, spiritually and financially. If you’re prepared when opportunities present themselves, you can pick and choose which ones are right for you and which ones you can let go.