A point of sale (POS) system can have a dramatic impact on the way you run your business - and on your bottom line. Choosing the right one requires careful planning.
Here are some of the things you need to think through to make a good decision when selecting POS equipment and systems for your business. Use this list as a starting point for your planning process.
* First of all, price should not be the main consideration when buying a POS system. The improved efficiency, greater flexibility and better reporting should pay for the investment in a reasonable period of time.
* Don’t start off by calling for lists of features of various POS systems. Instead, start with a comprehensive analysis of what your business requires.
* Do you have operations spread over multiple locations? What are the implications?
If you run a restaurant, for example, you may need to keep some parameters common across locations while varying others. For instance, your menu may be identical at all locations, but prices of some items may vary from one outlet to another. The system you choose must be capable of implementing such differences.
* How easily can you make changes to the system? You can be sure that your business will keep changing in many respects - employees join and leave, prices go up or down, your product range expands, locations get added or deleted and so on.
Ask yourself if the programming interface will easily allow your employees to execute such changes.
* Will it be possible to make changes ahead of time? For example, if you’re beginning a special promotion on November 15, can you input the price changes well in advance and set the system to automatically effect the changes on that date?
This as well as other types of flexibility are essential for many retail operations.
* To what extent will the POS system need to integrate with your accounting system? Does it have to be real time? Or is it enough to have an export of entries at day-end?
* If you are running a bar, does the POS system need to work with liquor control devices? A liquor control device tracks pours from bottles. This makes billing easier and reduces shrinkage.
* Will the credit / debit card processing system in the POS equipment work well with your merchant account?
* Will the system allow you to implement special deals for frequent shoppers? For instance, each purchase could have points associated with them and these points could eventually translate into lower prices or free gifts.
* What reporting capabilities will you need? If you work across multiple locations, will the system give you an online real-time report of transactions completed?
Most dealers will have sample reports available. Ask to see them so that you can compare better.
* In most cases, the POS system will have to be upgraded as your needs evolve and expand. How quickly can the dealer respond to your needs?
Also, most dealers put out regular software upgrades. Are they included in the contract or does the dealer charge extra for them?
For the sake of avoiding compatibility problems, plan to purchase new hardware of the same kind as the original. That way you’ll ensure everything works well together - and even if there are problems, you can get the dealer to handle it.
* Support is a critical consideration. What happens if your POS system goes down? This can have a serious impact on the business. You need to get a detailed written agreement on how the dealer is going to handle breakdowns.
The dealer may try to diagnose and solve the problem over phone initially. If that doesn’t work, they may send support staff to your location. And if the problem can’t be solved quickly, you may need to get equipment on loan till your system is repaired.
POS system downtime can have serious implications. Make sure you get the support you need.
The above list should help trigger ideas about the kind of issues you need to look at. Do your planning well before deciding on a POS system for your business.
Mark Henry is a systems consultant and has written on POS systems , tips for choosing the right point of sale equipment , how point of sale systems need to fit in with the business environment and other related topics.