If you happened to walk into Starbucks and ordered a coffee a few weeks back on Friday, April 24, chances are good that you remember that day well. Either you got a free coffee because of a glitch in the company’s point of sale (POS) system, or you were turned away when Starbucks made the decision to close down 60 percent of its stores in the U.S. and Canada until they could fix the problem. In the end, the issue did not get fully resolved until hours later during that evening.

What actually happened on that fateful day? Seemingly out of nowhere, thousands of registers across North America were no longer able to process customer payments. People’s loyalty cards could not be accepted, nor were they able to pay on their mobile phones. Needless to say, it was not a banner day for Starbucks or its under-caffeinated consumers.

Glitches such as this show in stark relief the undeniable fact that a company is only as good as its POS equipment. These modern cash registers do much more than simply allow you to take people’s money. Perhaps most importantly, they provide you with invaluable data about the people who are buying your products, giving you the capability of tailoring promotions and offers to their specific individual needs. Furthermore, you can track and reward customer loyalty with POS systems. On the other side of the coin, you can manage your inventory and your staff much more efficiently.

But no matter how hot and delicious your company’s coffee may be, it simply is irrelevant if your loyal consumers can’t get their hands on it in a timely fashion. What makes POS equipment so revolutionary is the way it helps the customer’s payment experience flow so quickly and smoothly. That being said, if a given buyer comes into your shop 100 times and 99 of his purchase experiences are positive, chances are good that he will still focus on that one isolated day that a monkey wrench in the system kept him waiting. That’s just human nature.

Accidents and glitches happen; that is simply a fact of life. However, taking steps to make these flukes as unlikely to occur as possible is in your best interest as a business owner. What can you do to reduce the likelihood that you will be the next Starbucks?

  • Do your homework. The more you know about your own POS equipment, the better will be your chances of heading a glitch off at the pass. Buy a system that is intuitive and easy to use, and don’t be afraid to ask questions of your POS provider, particularly during your free trial or over the initial few weeks when you are rolling out the system.
  • Have backups in place. You might not be able to accept people’s credit and debit cards, but at the very least, be prepared to take their cash. If possible, back up your broad band Internet connection with a cellular one just in case the former goes down.
  • Make sure your POS system is up-to-date. POS providers always have legitimate reasons for updating their firmware, so make sure you have the latest tweaks installed in your system.

Today’s POS systems have amazing capabilities. They truly can help you take your business to the next level of success, while simultaneously automating many of the mundane processes that once took so much of your time and energy. Nevertheless, even your most conscientious efforts can’t guarantee you a snafu-free relationship with your POS system. Nevertheless, as long as you do all you can to choose the best system and learn all you can about how to use it, you will probably never find yourself in Starbucks’ unenviable position.

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