It’s fair to say that Americans value efficiency. According to Yale University, in their explanation of American culture to international students, this value is why Americans typically become impatient with slow-moving lines and why they expect efficient customer service. It isn’t just about values, though.
Another factor is that advancements in technology have trained us to expect things to happen immediately and to become agitated when they don’t. When consumers are shopping online, they can expect a pretty quick checkout experience from online retailers. After all, there are no lines to wait in and no personal interaction with a cashier. But what about checking out in a brick and mortar store? It turns out that consumers bring those same expectations for speed when they go out to shop. This creates a challenge for retailers, but it’s one they can conquer.
In this post, we’ll look at six ways you can speed up checkout time to meet your customers’ needs and expectations for efficiency, plus one bonus tip for keeping customers engaged while they’re checking out. When people know they can count on your store to deliver an efficient checkout experience, this gives your store a competitive advantage. As we’ll see, in every case, your point of sale (POS) system plays a crucial role.
What is a POS?
Before we jump into discussing the six ways you can reduce checkout time at your store, it’s important to understand what a POS system is. A POS system is comprised of the tools you use to facilitate the checkout process, also known as the point of sale. It includes components like a cash register with register terminal, a barcode scanner, card reader, receipt printer and customer-facing display screen. You can purchase these components separately or can opt for an all-in-one system where these various components are all designed to work together.
Since your POS system is what your employees use to check out customers, it plays an extremely influential role in the efficiency of the checkout process. Of course, your staff is just as crucial for ensuring that the checkout process goes smoothly, so we’ll discuss both — POS and employees — in this post.
1. Train Sales Associates
Retail sales associates are the ones who meet the pressure of customers’ expectations for speed on a daily basis. While these expectations may make cashiers a bit nervous at first, you can set them up for success by providing the proper training.
If your POS system provider offers training on the system for all of your employees, as National Retail Solutions (NRS) does, then take advantage of this. NRS also offers an online training center so that you can learn how to master your POS+ system without interfering with daily operations. It’s essential that all your cashiers are familiar with the POS system so they can confidently ring up items and handle payment without having to figure out the hardware and software as they go. While some customers will be gracious when they can tell an employee is still learning, others will be intolerant of having to wait.
Outside of the POS technology training, it’s also important to inform your staff of things such as how to greet customers, when they need to check ID and how to redeem gift cards. Ask any cashiers who have worked at your store for awhile what sorts of tasks or scenarios they wish they had been more prepared for when they started, even ones that rarely occur. Anticipating these situations allows you to prepare new staff so they know exactly how to handle these situations and may not need to call a more senior member of staff for help when they come up.
Even after employees have received training on the POS system and other aspects of the checkout process, they should observe this process in action. Have new cashiers start by shadowing a more experienced staff member. When they’re ready to try it on their own, make sure it’s during a slower time of day and that there’s a more experienced employee nearby in case they need help.
When your staff is well-trained and prepared, they’ll feel more confident and will be able to focus on providing fast and efficient customer service to every customer that comes into their checkout lane.
2. Have a POS That is User-Friendly
Another way you avoid the issue of cashiers having to stop or slow down the checkout process to figure out how to perform an action is to have a POS that is intuitive to use. When the POS register terminal and the software it runs on are easy to navigate and understand, employees are less likely to think, “How do I do this again?” and more likely to figure it out right away.
A complicated keyboard is likely to get in the way of efficiency, but a touchscreen with easy-to-understand icon buttons should have the opposite effect. It’s all about finding the perfect balance of a POS that is sophisticated enough with all the bells and whistles needed to handle every sales scenario but doesn’t appear complicated or confusing.
The POS+ from NRS features a touch-screen for sales associates with a large monitor, high-definition picture and easy-to-understand buttons. The size helps buttons to be spaced out from each other so you don’t accidentally press the wrong button. The screen even faces the cashier at an angle that makes it comfortable to use. Convenience and ease of use are factored into every aspect of the POS+.
Manual and outdated systems leave more room for error and involve more steps. A modern POS system is designed to make the checkout process easier for the employee, and in turn, faster for the customer.
3. Use a Barcode Scanner
Some small retail establishments choose to do things the old-fashioned way, with a calculator and a cash register. A step up from this is software that allows you to enter in product numbers manually and adds the totals for you. If your business is such that most customers only purchase one or two items, these methods could work, but they leave far more room for human error and are sure to take longer. If your customers typically buy more than just a couple of items, then you need a more efficient method.
In many situations in life, speed comes at the expense of accuracy and vice versa, but that’s not the case with a barcode scanner. A barcode scanner will improve both speed and accuracy in the checkout process. Instead of entering a product’s number or punching a price into a calculator, you simply scan the barcode, and the register terminal does all the adding.
If your store carries products from major brands, you can expect these products to come with barcodes on them already. The NRS POS system comes preprogrammed with thousands of products in its system already, which makes creating your pricebook even easier. For products that don’t have barcodes, such as homemade products, there’s a way to scan these in, too. All you have to do is create barcodes, known as PLUs, for these items and store them in your pricebook.
If you already have a POS with a pricebook and switch to the POS+ from NRS, you can easily transfer all of your pricing data to your new POS system with the help of an NRS expert.
When you have a fast, accurate barcode scanner, you eliminate steps, cutting down on time and the potential for human error. Prices add up accurately as you go, and the customer can see every product that gets rung up, along with its price, on the screen.
4. Program in Promotions
We all know how effective promotions can be at driving sales, but when they create a challenge for cashiers and slow down the checkout process, they could leave customers dissatisfied. If a cashier forgets to do the extra math to discount a product or makes an error in their math, this could also upset customers. Since the whole point of a promotion is that it’s temporary, it can be next to impossible for employees to keep track of what items are currently on sale and how much to take off of each item.
If customers end up feeling like they’ve been cheated because a sales associate forgot to apply a promotion, or if they feel frustrated by having to wait on an employee to figure out how to correctly discount items, the promotions you meant to draw in customers and make them happy could end up causing more harm than good.
How can you avoid this scenario? The best way is to have promotions programmed into your POS system so that they automatically apply to items that are on sale. Programming in promotions eliminates yet another step for the cashier, making the checkout process faster and more accurate. The POS+ system allows you to enter any discounts you want into the pricebook software. Once you do this, that discount will automatically apply when that item is scanned, and the customer will see the correct, discounted price show up on the customer-facing screen.
For retailers who use the POS+, you have the option to use preset monthly promotions through the BR Club Loyalty Program. This way, you don’t even have to come up with promotions yourself.
5. Accept Mobile Methods of Payment
Remember when it was commonplace for customers to write out a personal check at the store? Today, most consumers rely on credit and debit cards for a more efficient way of paying. The next step in the evolution of fast financial transactions is paying for things using mobile methods. These methods are also known as digital wallet apps.
Despite the rising popularity of mobile payments, just 12 percent of small businesses in the U.S. accept these forms of payment, as of October 2017. This is bad news for customers who are used to the convenience and speed of paying for things with their favorite digital wallet mobile app. In comparison to this method, checking out with a debit card may feel cumbersome and slow.
You can accommodate these customers’ preference for mobile pay and can speed up the checkout process by making sure your POS system is equipped to take these innovative methods of payment. The debit and credit card reader from NRS is equipped to accept both Google Pay and Android Pay, in addition to more traditional payment methods.
6. Digitize Your Loyalty Program
Over the years, businesses have discovered the value of customer loyalty programs. They reward customers for their repeat business and, in turn, reward businesses by encouraging customers to remain loyal. While many companies take advantage of this mutually-beneficial arrangement, implementing a loyalty program is another factor that can slow down the checkout process.
Consider a common manual method — the punchcard. Let’s say a customer gets a hole punched in their card for every $20 spent, and after getting ten holes punched in their card, they receive a discount. Once the sales associate sees a customer’s total, they will have to determine how many punches the customer earned. They will then have to use an embosser or hole puncher to mark the card. If the customer’s punchcard is full, then they will have to apply the discount.
Every step of this process adds time to the current customer’s checkout experience and to anyone waiting in line. Automating your loyalty program through a digital platform greatly reduces checkout time and makes things simpler for everyone involved. Retailers with the POS+ have access to the BR Club program, a nationwide customer loyalty program for independent retailers that provides customers with digital coupons.
Many of the tips we’ve looked at for reducing checkout time have been focused on automating whatever possible to reduce the number of steps a sales associate has to go through. This makes the checkout process more efficient for both cashier and customer. Using a digital loyalty program fits right in with this overarching goal of automation.
Bonus Tip: Keep Customers Engaged
Even when your checkout process is relatively fast, customers are more likely to become impatient if they are bored. Retailers try to keep customers engaged by placing magazines, candy and more near checkout lines. However, these items are intended to engage customers who are in line more than customers who are currently checking out. The PRS+ helps you keep customers engaged while they are being checked out through colorful ads that occupy part of the screen.
While their items are being rung up, customers can be informed of upcoming promotions at your store or promotions from partnering businesses. In a world where people are so used to being visually engaged, use this to your advantage to keep customers happy and informed while they’re checking out.
Contact NRS Today
Small businesses have to do all they can to compete with the big guys. One way to do that is through consistently offering a speedy checkout experience to customers. As we’ve seen, having the right POS system can make all the difference when it comes to achieving this goal. If you’re interested in learning more about the POS+ system or receiving a free quote, contact the sales department at NRS today. We’ll help both your employees and customers enjoy a more efficient checkout process every time.