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Mark Shackelford

Mark Shackelford

Author's details

Name: Mark Shackelford
Date registered: December 5, 2013


Mark joined NCM Associates in 2013 as an Executive Conference Moderator. His 30-plus year retail automotive experience began in Akron, Ohio as a sales consultant for a local Automotive dealership. Through different dealerships over the next fifteen years, Mark worked as a Sales Manager and General Manager. Mark has been a Twenty Group moderator for the last five years and has been certified by ASTD in Training and Design Learning.

Latest posts

  1. From the 20 Group: Scripts to Improve Service Advisor Sales — August 1, 2017
  2. The 10-Minute Fix for Lost Customer-Pay Hours — June 6, 2017
  3. How Well Do You Understand the Internet Process in Your Dealership? — August 6, 2015
  4. Have You Tracked Your Employee Turnover Lately? — June 18, 2015

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Mark Shackelford

From the 20 Group: Scripts to Improve Service Advisor Sales

Cars in the automotive service

Service advisors see more customers in a week than many salespeople see in a month—without question, they are the public face of your dealership. And, when properly trained, your service advisors can bring in a steady stream of used vehicles to sell, customers to purchase units, and happy clients who frequent your service department.

These scripts and sales techniques, which I recommend to all my NCM 20 Group members, are a great start to transform you service advisors into sales professionals. Another way is to invest in training from the NCM Institute or arrange for an NCM consultant to present on-site training at your dealership.

1.   Friendly meet and greet script

“Welcome to ______ (dealership name).”

Offer the customer a hand shake, and then offer a business card.

“My name is ______, and you are …? (let them answer) Thank you for coming in today. Are you here for an appointment?”

Ideally, you should promptly greet the customer, but if you can’t, at least nonverbally or verbally acknowledge the customer. If the customer has an appointment with another advisor, then go get that advisor. If the advisor is not immediately available, start the write-up process with the customer. Do not leave the customer hanging unattended and unacknowledged.

Once the customer has been properly greeted, verify the following information—or gather it for the first time—and add it to his/her contact file in your system:

  1. Customer Name
  2. Customer Cell Phone Number
  3. E-Mail Address
  4. Vehicle Identification Number
  5. Preferred Method of Communication (Phone, Text, Email)

2.   Identify the customer’s primary needs

Next, a service advisor should determine the customer’s needs, using the LADDER technique:

L: Look at the person speaking to you

A: Ask questions

D: Don’t interrupt

D: Don’t change the subject

E: Empathize

R: Respond verbally and nonverbally

Keep the LADDER technique in mind while you use reporter-style questions to dig into the customer’s problem. Here are some sample questions using the “Six Ws”:

  1. What are the symptoms?
  2. Where do you notice the symptoms?
  3. When do you see the symptoms?
  4. How often do the symptoms occur?
  5. Who typically drives the vehicle?
  6. Why is the vehicle used? What for?

3.   Restate concerns

Be mindful of the customer’s comments and show that they can trust you by restating their concerns. Be sure to confirm your understanding of the concerns. Assure the customer that all their worries and concerns will be addressed.

4.   Perform a full circle vehicle walk-around

The walk-around does more than just identify problems; it helps build rapport and trust between the advisor and the customer. Here’s how to do a great walk-around:

  • Find common ground with your customer. Engage in conversation about their children, bumper stickers, aftermarket wheels, etc.
  • Discuss the condition of their vehicle.
  • Inspect the vehicle—tire tread depth, wipers, vehicle damage, windshield condition, etc.

5. Build value in your dealer recommended maintenance program

  • Get a maintenance guide into your customer’s hands.
  • Explain that your maintenance program is set up based on the driving conditions in your area.
  • Explain the benefits of your preferred customer maintenance guide.
  • Point out recommended maintenance items due at different mileage intervals.
  • Educate your customer about maintenance.

6.   Offer a courtesy multi-point inspection

Make sure that the customer knows that the multipoint inspection is free. Then, explain what happens during the inspection and why it’s important.

7.   Confirm final commitments

  • Explain to the customer what you will be doing to the vehicle.
  • Outline how much it is going to cost.
  • Determine if the customer plans to wait for the vehicle or if you need to arrange a shuttle ride or rental car for them.
  • Tell the customer when you plan to first contact them with an update. Verify their preferred contact method.
  • Have the customer sign the write-up sheet for an estimated dollar amount and any damage on the vehicle; note that any “diagnostic charges” will be applied to the bill.

8.   Follow up with the customer

  • Using the “10 AM / 2 PM / 4 PM” method, set up a deadline by which to contact the customer and give the customer a copy of the write-up sheet. Then, direct them to the lounge or rental office.
  • Present the multipoint inspection results.
  • Contact the customer two times per day with any updates: the first when the inspection is complete, the second when the job is done.
  • Set up a delivery appointment.
  • Instruct the customer to see you to review their paperwork.
  • Go over the repair order with the customer on the phone (tell them you would like to email them a copy).

9.   Customer active delivery

  • Review the customer’s completed paperwork including the multi-point inspection sheet.
  • Review the customer satisfaction survey process.

Script: “You may be receiving a survey from          (dealership name). It is my report card for how I did during your service visit today; it is vital to me. My goal is to provide all my customers with excellent service, so I would really appreciate it if you would take a few minutes and fill it out and send it in.”

  • Set future appointments in “lead results” (dates and times).
  • Next appointment card (offer the customer another business card with their next appointment noted on the back).
  • Escort or direct the customer to their vehicle.

10. 24/48 follow up with the inspection lead results

  • Inquire about the customer’s most recent service experience.
  • Ask how their vehicle is doing since service.
  • Thank them for doing business with you.
  • Remind them to send in the customer satisfaction survey.

Learn more from Mark and the other NCM moderators by joining an NCM 20 Group. NCM also offers manager 20 Groups where your team can gather industry best practices from peers and have a forum to voice new ideas and implement strategies to better your business.

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Mark Shackelford

The 10-Minute Fix for Lost Customer-Pay Hours


There’s no question that customer repair hours and R.O.’s are on the decline. I have the pleasure of working with more than 250 dealers, and I’m alarmed at how many service departments are going backward in customer-pay service hours and gross.

If we saw a massive downturn like this in new vehicle sales, every dealership would be clamoring for a solution. I think the increase of warranty and internal hours have lulled us into a false sense of security. But even though those hours are up, hemorrhaging customer-pay is a losing long-term strategy.

We have the tools to get more customer-pay hours, so let’s use them.

I’m continually amazed at the effectiveness of the automotive industry’s sales processes; yet we rarely, if ever, apply the same approaches in our service department. We need to change that because the best way to solve the customer repair hour problem is through improved service sales.

To do this, though, we need to overcome culture. When service team members encounter issues with a sale, most of us just let the sale go … we commonly send service business home without any attempt to save the deal. And then we rely on a coupon or other incentive to get customers back into the shop.

Bring more sales to service.

We would never allow a new vehicle buyer to just walk way! So, why do we let service work go? After all, what do you think happened? Did the client wait for the discount coupon? Or, do you think they called up one of your competitors and had the work done elsewhere?

Let’s get back to the basics and begin holding training meetings with the number one sales people in our stores: our service advisors. They talk to more customers in a day than some sales people do in a month, and they generate more gross profit in a month than most sales people do in two or three months! A sales model makes perfect sense, yet we spend too little time motivating and training the most productive sales person in our dealership.

Here are two easy meeting agendas you can use to start bringing a sales approach to your fixed operations staff. I also recommend training to support this culture change; the NCM Institute has a great one-day training course that teaches your service advisors how to sell.

10-Minute Service and Parts Meeting
Meet with techs and advisors every day for 10 minutes at 7:15 a.m. Here are some discussion points:

  • Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) numbers: 1-month and 3-month
  • Fixed Right First Time (FRFT) stats
  • Number of hours written by each advisor and tech against their goal(s)
  • Pace for the month
  • Review work schedule for the day
  • Problems (i.e. problem child issues)
  • Housekeeping
  • Multi-Point Inspection (M.P.I.) walk around

Bring back service sales.

What happened to the time in our industry when a customer could simply call our store for service work on their vehicle and be told to bring it in today with no appointment?

Think about it, how do you feel when you are told it’s an hour wait to get a table at your favorite restaurant? If you’re like me—and like most people—you probably just go somewhere else for dinner because of the wait! The same thing happens in our service department.

It’s time to realign our fixed ops approach to be more sales focused. Let’s take control of our service lanes and have a very profitable year!

See how Mark Shackelford and his NCM colleagues can help your dealership improve performance with 20 Groups, in-dealership consulting, and customized training optionsAnd don’t forget about NCMi training for service managers and service advisors!

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Mark Shackelford

How Well Do You Understand the Internet Process in Your Dealership?


As e-Commerce continues to play an ever increasingly-significant role in your dealership’s operations, how well do you understand the tools your potential clients are using in the purchase of and subsequent maintenance for their new or pre-owned vehicles?

More and more information tells us that your customers have already moved towards buying and paying online. Today, and more importantly, tomorrow’s millennial consumers are sourcing their purchases via the Internet where products are now shipped directly to their homes. These transactions are mostly generated as a result of reviews found online or through a Google search where reviews are part of the results.

What if, after doing an Internet survey of more than 200 dealership customers recently, I was to inform you that over 50 percent of the customers shopped on the Internet, the dealership did not ask the online consumers for an appointment, and over 60 percent of the shoppers did not even receive a price! Are you shaking your head in disbelief, or is this what customers are experiencing with your dealership, too?

Simply put, there are high-value customers out there looking on the Internet for products and services and they are willing to use your services, even if you’re not the cheapest price in the marketplace. That’s right…the lowest price doesn’t always get the deal. What these millennial customers are looking for is engagement from your business!

Your presence on the web is vital to that engagement (as well as to your future success in the automotive industry). Your image and reputation are a big part of that engagement strategy; so, too, is your ability to be found by the shoppers you most want to attract.

What is your marketing strategy relative to the markets around you?

Some consumers shop online within a 20-30 mile radius while others are going out as far as 500-1,000 miles out, depending on what they are looking for. Focusing on certain geographical areas for targeting your message and directing your marketing, such as Equity Alerts, have been found by many dealers in NCM 20 Groups to be very successful and quite possibly the key to your continued and future success!

Although buying third party leads may have resulted in delivering a vehicle to a consumer, many of NCM’s 20 Group member dealers are finding that by analyzing Google Analytics and having the right SEO (Search Engine Optimization), SRP (Search Results Page) and VDP (Vehicle Display Page) plan for their websites, they are able to drive more organic searches, thus minimizing or even eliminating the need to buy these types of leads.

Most of you have probably figured out that these leads are in your market already, or in your current database. Doing a better job of mining your own customer database, both in sales and service, will yield many opportunities in those departments, and the Internet can and will play an important role in helping you accomplish just that.

As business owners, we need to fine-tune our people and processes to ensure we are giving the consumers what they’re looking for. Make sure your e-Commerce strategy is incorporating those Internet management best practices that will drive the engagement your online customers want – and your dealership needs!


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Mark Shackelford

Have You Tracked Your Employee Turnover Lately?


Do you find yourself constantly concerned about retaining your employees and trying to hire the right people to take care of your customers?

There has been an awful lot of discussion about this topic and how to become better at your hiring process and pay plans. I believe the issue starts with identifying the right personality for the job and then having the right training process and accountability in place in order to retain good employees.

This starts with the dealer doing the right thing and having managers do things right!

We come in contact with salespeople in our everyday life and when we do, we recognize talent and we also recognize when we are treated poorly. Today’s workplace is becoming more and more challenging to find someone who wants to work the hours needed to operate our business effectively and is motivated by money. That being said, maybe we need to look at our pay plans and how they motivate our employees, while at the same time allowing them to balance their work schedule with time off.

We know that our industry has been challenged by vendors as well as manufactures in finding ways to change or eliminate our sales process, however, one thing will never change: people sell cars. So we need to hire the best at it and keep them.

The first thing we need to change is how we look at the work schedule.

Then, through our interview process, we need to identify what motivates the new potential hire financially as well as how we can assist them in achieving their goals in order to succeed in their new career. Our pay plan should be tied to performance, as well as effort. Along this line, how often do you monitor their training and evaluate their performance? Do they align with each other?

Don’t forget that most people like to be held accountable and be led by a leader.

How often do you have an accountability meeting with your employees to discuss what obstacles may stand in the way of them hitting their objectives?

Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about: A new salesperson was hired that had performed quite well at their previous store, but after two months of struggling with their sales performance, they began talking about leaving. The sales manager and the HR manager held a meeting with the employee. During this meeting it was discovered that the sales person was struggling with getting leads and opportunities to work with customers.

After reviewing the salesperson’s closing ratio and the number of opportunities, they discovered the statement to be true. In fact, the salesperson with the most sales had a lower closing ratio and burned through more ups than the person being reviewed. What if this salesperson had been given the same number of opportunities? It would be a win for everyone.

Many times we lose good employees and never know the real reason for their departure. Dealers who are doing the right things and managers who do things right will make the right hire, train weekly, and have a performance review with all employees at least twice a month.


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