Is Your Store Tech Holiday-Ready?

30 Oct 2017

Store tech cannibalization plagues many stores, and retailers pay for it come holiday time. Here’s how it works: The front end has three registers, but only two of them are used year-round. The third one is just for holidays, so the rest of the year it becomes the store’s spare pool ― a handy place to grab a replacement printer, a better keyboard, or a working scanner when other units break down.

Then Black Friday looms, and store personnel realize their critical third register is woefully incomplete. They quickly submit a service ticket ― as do many other stores across the chain. The backlog of calls means they may all not get serviced before demand begins to surge.

Sound familiar? When a retailer’s busy season arrives, retailers need all their store technology to be working at peak efficiency. But few create the detailed reporting on store tech usage and repair patterns that are essential to creating and executing a proactive pre- and post-holiday service plan. Instead, store managers must carve out precious holiday prep time to coordinate trouble tickets, sometimes with multiple OEMs with varying service level agreements that can mean waiting weeks for a tech.

Detail is Key

Retailers know their store tech repairs needs vary across the year, of course. In fact, many build this insight into their service contracts, arranging for maximum coverage during their busiest seasons. But often they lack detailed insight into what needs servicing most often, and why. They know more trouble tickets get submitted right before the holiday period, for example, but not the exact volume, or patterns such as a specific component seeing an unusually high number of issues.

Cannibalizing registers isn’t the only commonly seen store tech service issue impacting the holidays. Some retailers store extra POS, mobile or kiosk devices and roll them out for holidays. But while they were locked away, they missed out on a firmware upgrade or were overlooked when new printers were installed. When they do get rolled out, they must be updated, fast.

Best Practices: Data and Active Management

Retailers depend on great store technology to deliver an engaging store experience. Broken tech and a lagging network means disappointed customers and the potential for lost sales ― and the high-stakes holiday season intensifies this risk.

The most effective approach for ensuring store tech is holiday-ready to leverage good data and expert service:

  • Collect data. Carefully track store tech performance and service needs throughout the year to guide next year’s planning. Analyzing this data reveals what really happens day-do-day with store tech ― not what IT folks think happens.
  • Closely monitor volume needs. What appears to be a few stores experiencing issues with access points can suddenly spike into a resource crunch if no one is constantly watching trends.
  • Centralize support. When each component of a POS terminal, kiosk or other solution has a different SLA with a different OEM, it can take too long and too much store time to identify the right provider and wait for service. Consolidating support to a single provider eliminates finger pointing and delays.
  • Create a plan. Analyzing repair data is the foundation of a proactive store tech service plan with a checklist of test scripts to ensure every component is ready for prime time. It’s equally important to execute that plan well and coordinate pre-holiday service with the operations team, so every store is ready for the surge without costly urgent service calls.
  • Promptly perform a post-holiday review. Nothing supports a holiday plan better than lessons learned from the previous season. Post-holiday tech performance data also feeds the following year’s upgrade plans. But it’s too easy to put this off, and delays mean lost detail.

Many retail IT departments know what the ideal service plans looks like. But it’s a rare retailer who can allocate sufficient resources to monitoring and prevention. With well-functioning store tech more important than ever to the success of in-store sales, more retailers are choosing to outsource store tech field service to a well-qualified partner equipped to keep their store tech humming ― holidays and every day.