Let’s say you have the nation’s most beautiful omnichannel college store set-up: a bricks-and-mortar offering that draws traffic with a café and lounge chairs, an app with vibrant color photos of your spirit wear and gifts, and a website students can access from any device.
None of these offerings matters the moment your POS goes down.
In fact, without an efficient POS, your omnichannel efforts will frustrate customers. In years past, students had fewer options. If a cash register crashed or a website froze, they waited. They complained, but they waited. If your POS was notoriously slow, they probably scheduled extra time on the days they knew they had to visit your store. And, yes, they complained, but still: They had nowhere else to go.
Those days disappeared back when we stopped expecting our email to take more than a second to load. Now, if your system crashes, students give you about 15 seconds before the following chain reaction occurs:
- A customer notices a delay at the front of the line, starts sighing loudly and checking her phone.
- A longer line gathers behind Sighing Customer No. 1. Those who aren’t already looking at their phones start digging for theirs.
- Customer No. 1 starts shopping on her mobile.
- Others look over No. 1’s shoulder, start navigating to the same site.
- Customer No. 1 finds the book, stationary, etc. she might have bought from you on another retailer’s websites
- Others follow.
- Customer No. 1 drops the products she might have bought in a “convenient” (for her) spot and exits your store.
- Others follow.
- Your associates restock the misplaced merchandise.
How much time has passed? Two, maybe five minutes.
Your POS crash has caused customers frustration and associates agony. It’s driven people to other retailers while standing in your store. What’s more, those would-have-been customers spread the word that your lines are slow and your system unreliable. A single breakdown can transform into word-of-mouth that says They’re always so slow!
A much-discussed Starbucks outage illustrates the cost of a single crash. A few years ago, a “system refresh” caused a POS blackout in stores nationwide. Some managers closed for the day. Others had baristas pass out complimentary drinks until closing time. The freebies cut short much of the negative backlash. Compliments for the company’s customer service flooded the internet — but the crash still cost the company millions.
Losses associated with an outdated POS vary depending on the business. If you’re still driving an old system, it’s time to ask yourself how much you can afford to lose. Starbucks has a brand-power that brings people back after catastrophe. College stores are far more vulnerable to the bad word-of-mouth a single crash can prompt. Also, you probably can’t afford to win back customer approval with free merchandise. The markup on a textbook or t-shirt pales compared to that of a coffee drink.
A POS glitch brings stress and confusion for associates that can further customer neglect. While you’re hyper-focused on efforts to fix the system, customers feel ignored.
How do you protect yourself?
Cloud-based software is one of the most effective shields from a crash. Your back-office applications won’t overload your operating system, drain memory and slow productivity. You’ll also have less trouble running several apps at once. A cloud-based system with a single sign-on portal offers the most convenience.
When you update, your associates, your customers and, most of all, your bottom line will thank you.