The origin of this Blog comes from my experience at one of the India's leading Hypermarkets chain that operates across the country. During my last visit at their Gurgaon store, I needed to purchase a bottle of shampoo along with a laundry list of other household items. After choosing a particular brand of shampoo dropped the same in my shopping cart. At the billing counter while all the items were being scanned the employee at the counter kept aside the shampoo bottle and continued scanning rest of the items. On enquiry he expressed his concern that there is a price drop promotion for the product but the same is not reflecting in the system. The price drop would give me a net savings of INR 5/- obviously a delight for any shopper. The scanning and packing process continued and considering that I was doing my weekly shopping, it did take some time - and during this process, both the counter person and I forgot all about the shampoo kept aside. On returning home, and going through the shopping things, I realized that the person at counter had forgotten about the shampoo purchase which I needed urgently. Yes, the Hypermart and the shampoo manufacturer lost a sale of INR 150 - but was that it? Do you think I or you would like to repeat this shopping experience? What about my shaken confidence in the Hypermart - could they have overcharged me on other things that I purchased?
Similar experience that I can share of a friend - her weekly shopping bill came for INR 3,500/- and she paid for the same in Cash. While the product was still being bagged, she checked on an item and decide not to buy the same - The counter person was nice to process an immediate return (as billing was completed) - but only to issues her a credit note for refund - absurd thing since she had paid cash just five minutes ago and is being given a credit note in place of cash.
What do the above stories reflect - Was it due to automation rigidity? Process Change? Stickiness of the application? Non Empowerment of the counter person?
I did not complain - but remember, in a competitive market, an Unspoken and Unhappy Customer is more dangerous than a Happy and complaining customer.
Being retail professional, in retrospect my thoughts on what could have avoided incidents like cited above and instead created a customer delight even in worse case scenarios:
Flexibility with Control:The POS solution should be highly flexible to accommodate the above cited incidents while ensuring adequate controls. User rights should be customer friendly. Controls could be in the form of exception approval by store managers with higher credentials. Discount overrides can additionally bring user right level, minimum and maximum discount range of approval.
Quick Keys for Operations:The design principle states that the minimum number of key strokes improves efficiency of operations. Checkout experience and time to checkout are critical parameters for Brick and Mortar retailers - a long queue almost always means lost sales - Counter solution should have quick keys and other provisions to address ease of operations.
Acceptance of Multiple Payment Methods - Payment Industry worldwide is undergoing rapid change and new methods of payment are evolving rapidly. Any POS solution should be adapt enough to accept different kind of payment methods as well as split tender sales. We all remember some instance where even with all our best intentions, we were short of cash and decide to split the payment between cash and card - non- acceptance of such payment mode could destroy checkout experience.
Enable Refund/ Returns and Credit for Customers - Customer today prefer shopper friendly policies rather than rigid practices. System should be adaptable to process refunds, returns and conduct credit management for customers. At the same time it should also put efficient controls in place to prevent fraud.
Mobile registers - Most B&M retailers have a policy around opening counter when there is a long line at checkout - on a regular day this could be possible as you have additional counters available. What to do during peak holiday season or weekends where more shoppers visit the store? A flexible Q-busting solution as well as temporary counters using Mobile devices are a must have to manage checkout experience. Software should have such capability to accommodate running the stores on Multi-POS Mode including tablets and mobiles.
Availability of information of product variants and Composite Items at the billing counter - The POS system should be able to seamless fetch information of the product variants and composite items at the billing counters. This would not allow better SKU management but also gives uninterrupted counter service. Since the customer could have picked up a Red Shirt of a particular brand but is not found in the Item list of the brand. Rather a variant matrix definition and attached to the master Shirt SKU available at the counter would help to track the inventory and sale. Similarly, if a customer is purchasing half a dozen Jam bottles because it has 10% discount would not like it if the counter person mentions that the detail of these composite items is not available at the billing counter.
Digital Tracking of Items - Many a times the customer asks the counter person about a particular Item location which if not attended would lead to loss of sale. The software should be able to provide information on the Item location and availability at the counter for better customer service.
Stock and Auto Filled Orders - In the world of evolving technology, be it by using better algorithms or Artificial Intelligence, it is expected that the software should be able to capture the recommended stock on hand and order automatically as and when the stock quantity goes down below the recommendations. Recommended Order Quantity should also be automatically calculated and depending on configurable rules, allow for auto-purchase orders for enrolled vendors in the system. This would help in improving uninterrupted sales at the counters and also reduce customer disappointment.
Running promotions and FOC distribution at counters - Promotions are successful when they run uninterrupted and as per the brand promise. Efficient FOC distribution at counters with adequate tracking to ensure that they reach the customer hands is the need of the hour - this should not perceived as extending post-checkout delay, else risk turning into a counterproductive experience.
Cross channel and location Inventory lookup for the counter sales person - Inventory dashboard at the counter would possibly convert a lost sale into a delight by arranging to deliver or increase in same for customer who at times requires the items in bulk.
Customer Servicing - POS Counter should be able to, with one stroke key functions, quick look up customer details, including sales history, or if need be, registration them into loyalty programs or servicing gift voucher redemption/ Loyalty points servicing/ Discount coupon servicing etc.
If you are looking at digital transformation of customer's shopping experience, we would be happy to schedule a slot with our experts - connect with us at http://www.intellectcommerce.com/contactus/contactus.html
About Author :
Bama Suresh is a Pre Sales expert with more than 25+ years of experience in Techno Functional area of Transaction Banking, Retail Banking and Retail Management. She has been an ex-banker who moved to the software industry and loves to play a front end role in customer handling.
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