2009 May: POS-itive Thinking

2009 May: POS-itive ThinkingMegan Nicholson and her partners run seven high-volume pizzerias in Wisconsin. On an average day at one of Nicholson’s Glass Nickel Pizza Company locations, approximately 800 to 1,000 orders will filter into the kitchen. One POS misstep and Nicholson knows the trouble that could follow: a kitchen in confusion and frustrated customers none-too-eager for a return visit or delivery order.

To combat common mistakes, Nicholson and her crew have committed themselves to extensive training on their POS system, thereby ensuring that the operations’ customer service element moves with efficiency and effectiveness.

“When you have staff trained well (on the POS system), then the customer can get their order in and feel confident they’ll get what they’ve ordered,” Nicholson says. “It certainly helps to make the customers’ visit that much more enjoyable when things go off without a hitch, and that type of service will keep them coming back.”

Though most operators know the perils of shoddy POS training, not all dedicate themselves to learning the system thoroughly and then providing staff the necessary support so they too can fulfill their daily duties. Taking the time to properly train staff on a new POS system can surely curtail errors, fulfill a customer’s expectations, and, better yet, heighten the bottom line.

“You just can’t throw staff in front of the computer and say ‘Sink or swim,’” says Kevin Wendland, the ASSAL Corporation’s director of training for InTouch POS. “Any business that has staff not trained properly also has a staff not armed to rectify problems quickly — and that’s the thing most likely to send customers out the door unhappy.”

When it comes to effective staff training on a new POS system, training experts offer these must-do tips: ? Wise owners attend the training. The number one thing that will lead to an operation’s successful use of a new POS system remains an owner present during each step of the training process, including time in training with both the POS company representative as well as the pizzeria’s staff. Since an owner is the final line of defense — not to mention the sole individual with a vested interest in seeing the investment perform — owners must intimately understand the system’s functions.

“If owners are involved, then everything goes beautifully from there,” Wendland assures. Better yet, owners who commit themselves to learning the additional features, such as accessing coupons and building a customer database (and, more importantly, understand how those features are best utilized), frequently witness an immediate return on their investment. “If operators don’t take the time to learn these features and only focus on input, then they’ve overpaid for a glorified cash register,” says Chris Clark, a training and installation specialist with Washington-based SpeedLine POS.

? Be prepared for the company’s training representative. Every minute the POS company’s representative must spend waiting for contractors or drilling holes into a counter is a minute lost on training, the representative’s primary duty with the on-site visit. Operators physically prepared for the installation and training can maximize their training session, eliminate wasted time, and ensure a thorough understanding of the system.

“Operators need to know from day one that they’re ready for that installer to get on site,” Clark says. “Not being ready is a big mistake operators make and one that can be easily avoided.”

? Overstaff in those first days of a new system. Too many operators make the mistake of not wanting to spend on labor during the training period and first two weeks of the system’s operation. Clark advises all of his clients to overstaff and specifically encourages owners to relinquish control for a few days as they learn the POS system. To avoid interruptions, Clark has even taken owners off-site to do training on a laptop.

An installer/trainer will only be on site for a limited time, which should compel an operator to have staff on hand solely for training during those days, ideally assigning no more than four staff members to a computer terminal and providing each individual ample time to interact with the system. “There will always be instances, such as out-of-the-box requests or dividing up a check, that will have the staff at a loss if they haven’t been properly trained,” Wendland says. “But you can combat these issues simply by showing each staff member the buttons appropriate for their use.”

? Allow for repetition and exploration. Learning a new POS system and its controls is about repetition and exploration, which is why Michael Anthony, a product specialist with Microworks POS Solutions, stands a strong proponent of slow-time role playing. At slow points, direct the staff to experiment on the system and navigate the various screens, learning to name guests, transfer items, and input unique requests.

Like Clark, Anthony also urges operators to overstaff during the first week of the system’s live run so staff members receive sufficient time to gain experience and confidence. “This is specifically important for managers,” Anthony says. “You need all of your management staff to be well-rounded and not merely proficient in one area.” 

Chicago-based writer Daniel P. Smith has covered business issues and best practices for a variety of trade publications, newspapers, and magazines.