If you’ve worked in retail, there is a 99.9% chance you referred to your point of sale software as a “POS” software, and the “S” didn’t stand for “sale.” And there’s a 50% chance you thought you were the first one ever to say that.
Because it often seems like there is a disconnect between the sales people who actually use the POS system, and the decision makers who purchase one, I conducted an informal survey of 80+ retail workers to learn what the biggest issues are.
Overall I found out the obvious:.
Sales people are using their POS systems to close a sale but many such systems these days are made for people who want to manage their entire store and need their POS to pull reports, track inventory, and do other things not directly related to selling. It seems like the designers of these systems forget the main point of the software in favor of making fancier/stronger retail management systems.
Here are the top three things I heard sales associates complain about:
1. There are too many steps required to actually ring a sale.
This means things like:
- Having to type in an employee ID every single time you go to ring someone new, even when you haven’t moved from behind the register in 25 minutes.
- Being prompted to ask for things like opening a store card – and then not being able to bypass that section easily without actually opening a card.
- Being forced to add the customer into a CRM (think, “Can I have your email?”)
These things are usually added by a well-meaning management attempting to raise sales etc., but in reality, they cause more problems for sales people than anything else. Not every customer will want a store card, and often you get customers who are offended or annoyed by requests for personal information. As a retail manager, you can’t fix your sales problems by placing a clunky script into your POS system – you have to invest in good training of your sales people.
As for typing in an employee ID, it is, of course, meant to make the register more secure, but having to type your ID in every time you start a brand new sale is tedious. Especially when you think about a few other things:
- It does nothing to prevent employees from stealing a customer’s card information. Fraud is far more likely to come from the sales associates physically handling the cards. In my few years in retail, I had thousands of excellent opportunities to steal people’s card info and even SSNs without ever touching the register!
- As one of the people I interrogated pointed out: Entering the IDs was meant partially to prevent customers from walking around and ringing themselves up/stealing your money, and frankly, if your store is having that problem, you have much bigger issues than just your POS not being secure.
So with those thoughts in mind – it might be worth it to invest in a system that only requires an employee id for every new session rather than every new transaction. Logging in for a session still allows for the POS to track which employee’s doing what when, which helps with loss prevention and sales tracking.
2. The system is slow, freezes, or disconnects from the main server all the time.
This is pretty obnoxious for obvious reasons. One sales associate told me a horror story of how their POS decided to run glacially slow on Black Friday. It took between 5-10 minutes to ring up every single customer. Who knows how many sales were lost simply because customers did not want to wait in an already long line made even slower by a malfunctioning POS system? A POS system needs, above all else, to function efficiently and dependably. Without that, there is no point of sale, and therefore no sale.
- You can use a locally installed system, so that you don’t have Wi-Fi outage issues. If you want to use a cloud system, though, definitely make sure that you’re using the absolute best Wi-Fi connection possible.
- Make sure you’re using good hardware. Cheap and old hardware will run slower and break down more often.
- Last thing: make sure you’re updating your POS system regularly! Old POS runs much, much slower than newer POSs.
3. The card swipe doesn’t work the first time, or sometimes at all.
This one seems like it shouldn’t be a problem that exists but you wouldn’t believe how many people talked about it! It’s even something that used to irk me about a system I used. If the card is having difficulty swiping, it can make customers worry that they don’t have enough money, which makes them rethink the sale. That means, at best, they may remove one or two items, causing your over all sale amount, units per transaction, and dollars per transaction to all go down. At worst, they decide not to buy anything and never return to your store.
If you’re having this problem, there may be a quick fix: a cleaner card! It’s very possible that your card reader is dirty and just needs to be cleaned. Cleaner cards can be purchased very cheaply from many places, including Amazon. If the cleaner card doesn’t fix the problem, however, may I refer you to Capterra’s payment processing software directory? The best way to solve this problem is trying out a new payment gateway. Usually your POS software should integrate with at least one or two outside payment processing software companies.
So what should you take away from this post?
A few things:
- If you’re in charge of designing or buying POS, don’t forget that the most important thing your POS will be used for is closing sales. Design/buy with that in mind. All the advanced reporting and inventory management features in the world will be useless if you have nothing to report because you can’t move the inventory because you can’t close a sale.
- In fact, while I’m at it, let me make this suggestion: you should definitely let a few sales people demo or otherwise test run a new POS system before purchasing. Many, many companies give you a free month to try the software before you commit – you really need to take that time to let your sales people attempt to use the new system and then listen to their feedback.
- If you’re thinking about adding a lot of hurdles to your system in order to improve your employees’ closing techniques, I implore you to stop, reconsider and come to this much better decision: train your employees in sales techniques. And I mean really train them. Don’t just send round a memo to your managers to talk to them about things.
What kinds of things do you hate about your POS? Or if you’ve been on the designing end: what kinds of things have you done to make sure closing sales is easy?
Looking for Point of Sale software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Point of Sale software solutions.