The Care and Feeding of Seasonal IT

15 May 2016

Splashy signs and upbeat PA announcements tout the kiosks at a northeastern department store where customers can order a different color, access extended sizes, pay a balance or finish an online transaction. It’s a week after Black Friday, and the store is still showing the signs — every one of those kiosks is out of order. Potential sales are walking out the door.

No retailer wants to see their costly customer experience investments brought to their knees in a peak selling season. The financial hit from any kind of IT downtime can be painful. Gartner estimates the cost of network downtime at $5,600 a minute and developed a calculator for companies to figure their own downtime costs.

The special demands of peak seasons or the unique requirements of a selling region add to the pressure of maintaining uptime for an ever-lengthening roster of store IT equipment.

Those needs often fall out of line with standard maintenance contracts. Chances are a situation such as these are true at your stores:

  • Depot service is fine for manager’s mobile device for nine months of the year. But in peak selling time when it’s used for mobile POS, a faster turn is critical.
  • It may be economical to support this cluster of nearby stores via a local tech, but those two out-of-state stores are much costlier to serve and need a different approach.
  • POS terminals may demand a four-hour service window, but it feels like overkill for swapping out a malfunctioning POS printer.

Stores and their needs are unique. When retailers simply accept the standard maintenance and service terms recommended by the OEM manufacturer, they often end up over-paying for service levels they don’t need and under-supporting stores like the one with all non-working kiosks at Christmas.

Support is a key decision point for POS hardware, according to Gartner. By working with a partner with the experience and expertise to fully analyze the store, its equipment and its failure histories, retailers can get a customized POS and store hardware maintenance program that makes the most of their maintenance budgets.

That often means benefits such as:

  • Increases in store uptime, operational efficiency and overall cost savings.
  • Consolidation of vendors for less disruption and higher cost savings.
  • High quality repairs delivered at a service level that reflects the real contribution of each device to store operations by season and the specific characteristics of each location.

The profile of each store’s custom approach to maintenance becomes very specific to that store and device, with an eye to taking the most efficient approach. For example, it may mean the store keeps several extra tablets on hand to swap out when a full-scale POS system goes down so it can be sent to a depot instead of demanding an in-store service visit within four hours. And if a scanner goes down, the store can get a new one via parcel with step-by-step photo instructions to swap it out backed by a help desk staffed by agents with real in-store tech experience, so a store associate can take care of the problem.

Finally, because this is all they do, a great maintenance and support partner also has tools like portals to provide retailers with 24/7/365 visibility on projects, inventory levels and movement, service calls, refurbishment, and deployment. Retailers always know what’s happening and how their valuable maintenance dollars are being spent.

Creating a customized retail store hardware maintenance program might sound expensive, but in reality tailoring a program to support seasonal, geographic or other needs is often a highly cost-effective strategy.