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Problem Solving With SARA

A proven technique for solving a customer's needs

Recently I had the opportunity to participate in an employee review program for a local company. As they give each of their employees great latitude in resolving customers' needs, they train each employee to use a technique entitled "SARA". SARA will work well in any retail business, whether it is for your mechanics or your sales staff. Take a look at how the acronym of SARA can be adapted to your business.

S stands for scan. Ask questions of the customer about their perception of the problem or opportunity. In writing a repair ticket, there are a number of questions that could be asked. Many times the customer has an idea as to what is wrong. Too often, the customer's guess is wrong. But, it is in the questions about the sounds the machine makes, the way it handles, and other symptoms that often lead the mechanic to the actual problem.

What about the customer that walks in wanting to buy a certain piece of equipment? How does he know this is the best choice for him? Why did he select that brand? What type of performance is expected from the equipment? How long does the customer expect the equipment to last? The same thing goes for parts. Currently, one of the auto parts makers is running a commercial that demonstrates why their parts are better than non-Original Equipment Manufacturers. The commercial makes a valid claim for using OEM parts, but our question is to ask how you explain to customers the various items you sell.

A stands for analyze. From the questions asked, your employee should be able to gather the facts, and draw a conclusion. Your sales person or mechanic may be able to do this in 10 seconds. But, this raises a question of how much confidence your customer has in the answer that may appear to be "off the cuff". What would it look like if your mechanic or sales person were to take a few notes, again ask a few questions, and hear the answers followed by a few "I see", or "I understand" responses?

Most customers will think your employee is genuinely interested in their needs or problems. The answer may be the same as if the employee had answered in the first 30 seconds, but the customer is more likely to appreciate the additional conversation and eventually the answer.

R stands for respond. Create a plan of action and respond to the customer that initiated the inquiry. What would it be like if every time your mechanic had a piece of equipment on the bench, he would take a moment, or have someone from your business, make a phone call to your customer? Just take a moment to tell them what you found was wrong, that you have the parts on hand, the repair price, and what day they can come to pick up the equipment. This would also be an excellent time to make that add on sale. "Sir, we are running a tune up special right now. May I suggest this for only....?"

In regards to the sales person utilizing this technique, what if they were to respond to the customer with, "In light of what you have told me, these are the three machines that will best suit your purpose; allow me a moment to explain the differences." This technique sure beats the idea of walking the customer to the display and saying, "We sell 18 models of chain saws. You gotta find one here that you like".

A stands for assessment. Review your efforts and make changes as necessary. In your shop, what would your customer think about your business if they received a phone call a week later asking how they liked the equipment they had purchased? Or if the call was to make sure the repairs and price of the repairs had been to the satisfaction of the customer? Some businesses actually have an assigned staff person to make a visit to the customer just to ask these questions. More importantly, does any of your competition do this? If not, then more than advertising, this call or post card addressed to the customer will do more to differentiate you from all of the competition in your trade area.

Does SARA work and can it work for you? Absolutely. Think about what differentiates you from your competition. If one of the differences is price, then may I suggest you have a problem. For someone is always cheaper on everything you sell. If you are using SARA, you are probably the only business in the community that does so. And if you are unique, you have no competition.

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This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.

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PO Box 1577
St. Petersburg, Fl 33731
(727) 464-2182
Fax: (727) 898-3179