When you run a retail business you have a lot on your mind from supply to sale. At the end of the chain is the transaction where your customers pay for goods and services. In modern times running a cash-only business is inefficient. Digital solutions are the way to go from point-of-sale (POS) terminals to payment processing. Here’s what you need to know when choosing a POS vendor.
Know your location needs
POS equipment should match your business needs. Examine carefully every point of contact with customers in which they will need to make payment. Make a list of every location transactions occur – whether they are in the real world or online.
If you have a physical location you may need terminals at checkout stations. If you operate a restaurant you may need portable units so servers can take credit cards at dining tables. If you need multiple units or have multiple retail sites you may need a networked system to connect them all – either to each other or a home office. If your business can sell online you will need web-based payment processing.
Know your back-end needs
Back-end operations include data entry, reporting, and more. You need to know how easy it will be to program your POS system with your current goods and services, set pricing, track cost-of-goods-sold (COGS) and more. Many vendors will assist with initial programming and train your staff in this task.
Reporting is also a crucial back-end function. It is through reporting that you track profit and loss, inventory, and in many cases can include timecard functions. It also provides hardcopy data for accounting and taxation purposes. A good system will have a full-featured, customizable reporting function that allows users to track all aspects of business performance as they related to revenue at point-of-sale.
Know your equipment needs
POS systems come in many shapes, sizes, and capabilities. They range from handheld units around the size of a remote control up to the table-top sized units one finds at checkout counters. You can see an example of what a broad spectrum vendor offers at this page from Collective Point-of-Sale Solutions. The range of equipment in the marketplace for handling payment transactions is enormous.
Each unit is likely to have a load of optional features. Some will be important while others may have no use for your business. One example is relevant to fast-food restaurants with drive-through stations. Have you ever tried to watch television while sun glares onto the screen? If so you know that bright light makes it hard to see the image. The same is true of drive-through cash register displays. To be easily read while sun falls on their monitors they need special technology like transflective screens. They are absolutely necessary for drive-through stations – but they cost money.
Having an accurate count of how many optional upgrades or special features you need, such as transflective displays, will ensure you only buy what is necessary.
Find a one-stop-shopping vendor
While the old saying about not putting all of one’s eggs in a single basket often holds true, it is absolutely not the case when it comes to your POS system needs. Having a single vendor gives two enormous advantages to keep in mind.
First, all the hardware and software comes from the same source. That means equipment and software compatibility happens by design. Updates and upgrades are easy to get. If an employee is trained on the POS stations in one spot, he or she automatically knows how to use any similar terminal anywhere your business operates.
Second, there is only one phone number to remember in most cases. If your entire system comes from one company you need only one support number in the event of a technical issue. POS systems can be very reliable, but remember: they are just equipment and eventually something will break. Having one central support number to handle any problem is an important advantage.
Know when help is available
Speaking of technical support, it’s important to have it available twenty-four hours a day. Your business may not operate all day and all night, but it is a certainty that at some point your system will be in use outside of traditional business hours. It’s also possible that your business may operate across multiple time zones, skewing what “traditionally business hours” can mean for your company. If there is any chance you may need the system operational you want tech support available for the times when it may have trouble.
The takeaway items to remember
- Know your exact physical system needs
- Know your back-end operation needs
- Know your special upgrade needs
- Know when support is available
- Find a single vendor when possible
Keep them in mind and you will get the right system for your business.