A return to the golden age of customer service

SmartMPOS launched in the jewellery retail sector in August and was then launched to the wider retail sector a few weeks later. Among its many advantages are an ability for shop staff to interact with the customer as they enter the shop; the ability to take payment anywhere in the store; the ability to check what goods are in stock or order something in for the customer; it even allows the shop assistant to make suggestions based on previous shopping history. In short it empowers staff, improves customer service and increases productivity and sales.

Which is all well and good if you are a large retailer with the time to spend on new systems and the resources to train staff – surely SmartMPOS is out of reach for smaller, independent shop-keepers who have just a handful of staff and are working all hours to make sure their business survives in these challenging times?

Well actually, SmartMPOS is perfect for the independent retailer for just those two reasons. It is relatively cheap to install SmartMPOS and the training required by staff is minimal.

Here’s why.

SmartMPOS has a low infrastructure cost, meaning it is a perfect solution for businesses with low transaction values. Because SmartMPOS integrates with existing systems, there is no need for a total technology re-fit. There will be no lost trading time as the system is upgraded and with a monthly rental price starting as low as £17, this is a truly cost-effective solution. We would be surprised, if not astonished, if the increased productivity that SmartMPOS enables doesn’t counter the price of incorporating SmartMPOS into your operation.

When it comes to staff training on the SmartMPOS system, we have gone for familiarity. SmartMPOS uses a tablet, with which the majority of people are very familiar. The system is intuitive and staff will be able to transfer to the new system quickly and with minimum time needed for training.

There are other reasons why SmartMPOS is the perfect fit for a smaller operation.

The ethos behind most independent shops is one of high levels of customer service. Independent shops rely on customer loyalty and they generally look to achieve this by encouraging staff to interact with customers, perhaps to a greater extent than many larger retailers. SmartMPOS helps staff in this aim. By using the tablet to access a customer’s purchasing history, the shop assistant has prior knowledge of what the customer might be looking for.

Prior knowledge can also help an assistant to offer other purchasing options that the customer may not have considered. “Last time you were in, you bought that shirt in green, we have a lovely blue shirt in the same range now.”

And then there is the convenience factor. By interacting with the customer on the shop floor, the assistant is removing the need for the customer to queue or wait. For the period that customer is in the shop, from first interaction to final payment, the shop assistant is offering a bespoke service – what customer would not like that?

SmartMPOS – perfect for the independent retailer

SmartMPOS launched in the jewellery retail sector in August and was then launched to the wider retail sector a few weeks later. Among its many advantages are an ability for shop staff to interact with the customer as they enter the shop; the ability to take payment anywhere in the store; the ability to check what goods are in stock or order something in for the customer; it even allows the shop assistant to make suggestions based on previous shopping history. In short it empowers staff, improves customer service and increases productivity and sales.

Which is all well and good if you are a large retailer with the time to spend on new systems and the resources to train staff – surely SmartMPOS is out of reach for smaller, independent shop-keepers who have just a handful of staff and are working all hours to make sure their business survives in these challenging times?

Well actually, SmartMPOS is perfect for the independent retailer for just those two reasons. It is relatively cheap to install SmartMPOS and the training required by staff is minimal.

Here’s why.

SmartMPOS has a low infrastructure cost, meaning it is a perfect solution for businesses with low transaction values. Because SmartMPOS integrates with existing systems, there is no need for a total technology re-fit. There will be no lost trading time as the system is upgraded and with a monthly rental price starting as low as £17, this is a truly cost-effective solution. We would be surprised, if not astonished, if the increased productivity that SmartMPOS enables doesn’t counter the price of incorporating SmartMPOS into your operation.

When it comes to staff training on the SmartMPOS system, we have gone for familiarity. SmartMPOS uses a tablet, with which the majority of people are very familiar. The system is intuitive and staff will be able to transfer to the new system quickly and with minimum time needed for training.

There are other reasons why SmartMPOS is the perfect fit for a smaller operation.

The ethos behind most independent shops is one of high levels of customer service. Independent shops rely on customer loyalty and they generally look to achieve this by encouraging staff to interact with customers, perhaps to a greater extent than many larger retailers. SmartMPOS helps staff in this aim. By using the tablet to access a customer’s purchasing history, the shop assistant has prior knowledge of what the customer might be looking for.

Prior knowledge can also help an assistant to offer other purchasing options that the customer may not have considered. “Last time you were in, you bought that shirt in green, we have a lovely blue shirt in the same range now.”

And then there is the convenience factor. By interacting with the customer on the shop floor, the assistant is removing the need for the customer to queue or wait. For the period that customer is in the shop, from first interaction to final payment, the shop assistant is offering a bespoke service – what customer would not like that?

Using mobile technology to improve productivity

Mobile technology is changing the retail landscape and Pursuit Software is at the forefront of the revolution with its SmartMPOS system.

The first challenge for all managers is how to keep your employees engaged. The larger your business, the more difficult it is to make sure that staff are informed, connected and productive. How does an employee on the second floor collaborate or share ideas with a manager on the ground floor? By the time the employee has walked the flight of stairs and crossed the retail space the original idea that sparked earlier may have disappeared.

The mobile device can provide a tool for instant communication. We have devoted much talk to the interaction between shop staff and customers but let’s not forget the interaction between staff.

According to a report by The Economist Intelligence Unit, “Workers who use mobile technology well are typically more productive, creative, satisfied and loyal.”

We already know that mobile technology is a solution to enhancing employee empowerment, the next challenge comes with how to most effectively employ this tool.

1. Source of information SmartMPOS is a constant source of ready information. What’s in stock, what colours are available, what sizes are available, the next delivery date – all vital pieces of information that the employee needs when talking to a customer. The system also allows stores with multiple outlets to stay in contact with each other and up to date with any store developments. Through the system, stores can share information easily and quickly.

2. Staff engagement The literature stressing the importance of employee engagement, and proving its value, is endless. Employers that ignore this research do so to their inevitable detriment. Alex Edmans, in a paper in the Academy of Management Perspectives, “studied 28 years of data and found that firms with high employee satisfaction outperform their peers by 2.3% to 3.8% per year in long-run stock returns – 89% to 184% cumulative – even after controlling for other factors that drive returns.”

3. Increase productivity Mobile technology such as SmartMPOS effectively increases productivity and help employees to improve on KPI’s, allowing them to be empowered to more quickly complete tasks and excel at their jobs. A rise in productivity and time savings allows the employee to get more done in a day, and can mean big savings for the company.

4. Future proofing An added benefit of implementing mobile technology is these applications can be constantly iterated and improved upon based on the changing retail climate and needs of the users. An investment in mobile technology could mean lasting savings for retailers.

By using a tablet as the technology platform for SmartMPOS, Pursuit Software has provided staff with technology they are most likely already accustomed to using in everyday life. This has two effects: it is easier to train staff to use the system and the staff will feel comfortable using the system straight away.

We believe that learning to use a system such as SmartMPOS is a positive experience, miles removed from the old system of a classroom lecture, watching a DVD or reading a word-heavy manual. SmartMPOS training is dynamic and people will learn more effectively because it is on a device they are familiar with.

5. Improving accessibility Providing employees with access to the information they need to do their jobs effectively is a ‘no-brainer’, but until the introduction of SmartMPOS, it has been difficult to ensure that staff have all the information they need at their fingertips. By having all the necessary information they need to do the job effectively, an employee will feel valued and competent.

In conclusion, Pursuit Software chairman Doug Burns says: “Mobile devices are part of the modern culture and have permeated all parts of daily life. SmartMPOS has taken that on board and incorporated mobile devices into the retail environment.”

Empowering staff through SmartMPOS

A business is only as strong as its staff and good staff are hard to come by but even harder to retain. All of which means that the more a manager or owner of a business can create an environment that attracts great people and is able to help them develop through the business, the more successful the business will become.

According to the Quantum Workforce 2015 Employee Engagement Trends Report, there is “a direct link between engagement and profit. In organisations that showed a profit increase, 69% of employees were engaged, compared to 56% employee engagement in organisations where profits decreased.”

At Pursuit Software, we have thought long and hard about what technical innovations and solutions will not only help the business as a whole, but will also empower and support staff in their daily workplace. And we think the SmartMPOS system hits the right buttons in a number of ways.

The key to happy and productive employees is making sure they feel competent and important within their role. How many times have you walked into a retail outlet and seen a disengaged member of staff lurking behind the till, the only integration with the customer being a financial transaction?

With SmartMPOS, the employees are able to actively engage with customers from the minute someone enters the shop. Device in hand, the staff member can approach the customer safe in the knowledge that he or she will be able to answer questions, deal with queries and even make buying suggestions based on purchasing history.

If the customer is looking for an item in a different colour to the one on display, a quick check on the system will let the staff member know if the item is in stock. If not, some quick tapping and an item can be ordered or held at another store.

A repeat customer might be open to suggestions for items or accessories based on previous acquisitions.

As the customer makes his or her decision, the payment can be taken quickly, on the spot, meaning the customer is not kept waiting in a queue and once again, the staff member is able to record a successful, quick transaction.

The important point is that the customer and the employee are interacting and the employee is very conscious that he or she is providing a service, rather than watching from the side-lines. If the customer goes away happy, the employee will get the innate satisfaction of a job well done.

Norwich: A fine city when it comes to technology

For people who live and work in Norwich, it came as no surprise when the city was named in the top 20 cities in the UK for technological innovation. While there is a common (mythological) stereotype of your typical Norfolk bumpkin, this is just so far from the truth.

According to research from the Open Data Institute and Digital Catapult in Leeds, the city currently ranks seventh for manufacturing and 19th overall. It is a leading city when it comes to technology and science and green industries are leading the way in research and development.

The findings were reported in the Eastern Daily Press and, in an article in the paper, Tom Forth, head of data at OPI Leeds which led the research, said a more focused approach, such as Norwich’s manufacturing strength, had emerged in the study.

This is great news for the region and answers a recent call from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) for business, science and technology leaders in the region to show just what Norfolk and the surrounding East Anglian counties could achieve. The call follows BEIS’s decision to pump £2bn into science and innovation.

Local Enterprise Partnerships from across the region, including the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough (GCGP) LEP, New Anglia LEP and Hertfordshire LEP as well as universities, businesses and research clusters, are all involved in running an audit of the regions’ technological and scientific development.

GCGP head of innovation Steven Wilson, who is leading the consortium of industry and academia, said: “Here is our chance to say: ‘These are our key science and innovation assets of truly global significance’.

“It is about raising the profile of the region, trying to attract inward investment and getting our clusters in life science, agri-tech, manufacturing and ICT to help each other.”

Sally Ann Forsyth, chief executive of Norwich Research Park, said: “We want the government to be aware of what we have and what we are ready and able to deliver.”

One company that is really pushing the boundaries of technology in a wholly applicable and relevant way is Pursuit Software, who are based at Rackheath, just outside Norwich.

Pursuit Software has recently launched its SmartMPOS system into the retail market, after an initial launch within the jewellery trade. The system presents a huge step forward in customer service as it allows shop staff to take a far more interactive approach with the customer, including quick access to the customer’s past shopping history; information on items in stock; ability to offer suggestions for other complementary items; and an ability to pay anywhere in the store.

The results are more engaged staff, higher levels of customer satisfaction, more returning customers and positive reviews on social media.

From the company’s perspective, SmartMPOS complements existing systems, meaning there is no need for an expensive, disruptive overhaul of the existing payment systems.

Chairman of Pursuit Software is Doug Burns. He said: “People can take a blinkered view of Norfolk-based businesses, but you only have to visit Norwich to feel the buzz and vibrancy in the city. It is a place where entrepreneurial spirit is encouraged and flourishes.

“Our team at Pursuit Software has developed the SmartMPOS system within that same innovative environment. It has all the potential to be a global game-changer but its roots are here in Norwich.”

SmartMPOS offers a positive customer experience

While the retail environment is a fast-moving beast, there are some things that never change. Customers want good service, staff want to feel valued, word of mouth is the best form of advertising.

We feel SmartMPOS delivers on all three fronts. By getting the staff out from behind the till, the SmartMPOS system allows for a much more personal interaction between the customers and staff. Customers like being greeted by a member of staff and then feeling that they are being given personal attention. With all the customer’s purchasing history at their fingertips, the staff can really help the customer find what they are looking for and make additional suggestions.

For the staff, this is a chance for them to become more than just checkout monitors. They can engage with the customer and really exercise their ability to sell. An engaged member of staff will be able to respond to the customer’s requirements and feel the pride that comes from offering a good service. The staff will also be able to develop a new level of product knowledge – the information about what is in stock, what can be ordered instantly, what colour schemes/sizes are available is at their fingertips – enabling them to demonstrate a good level of knowledge.

It is when the customer leaves the shop that you want the advertising process to begin. Firstly, it is about customer loyalty. If the customer leaves the shop in a positive mindset, feeling that he or she has received the best attention, then it is very likely he or she will return. It is also highly likely that a happy customer will tell his or her friends about the experience and, in doing so, will become an ambassador for your shop/brand. Studies have shown that it costs six to seven times more to acquire a new customer than keep an old one, so our aim is to help you build a loyal tribe of happy customers, by helping your staff offer the best in customer service.

Then there is social media. A good review on TripAdvisor or Google Review will be seen by anyone searching for your business. A glowing update on Facebook, a positive mention on Twitter, a picture of the products on Instagram – these are all ways that the customer is helping your business grow.

As we see it, customer loyalty really is the new marketing. Today’s customers have access to an endless amount of information about your business, and research shows that they’re ready and willing to stick with companies who go above and beyond to create a fantastic customer experience.

And just to add a little elementary research into the mix: A customer interactions study conducted by the Gallup Group analysed the roles speed and overall service quality play in maintaining customer loyalty.

Gallup’s findings show an expected outcome: Customers who felt that they received quick, responsive service were six times more likely to be rated as “engaged” (in support of the brand).

However, speed was not the largest driver for customer loyalty. Customers were nine times more likely to be engaged with the brand when they evaluated the service as “courteous, willing, and helpful.”

Businesses can expect to be rewarded with more engagement if they encourage their employees to take the necessary time to deliver an outstanding experience. SmartMPOS helps your staff do just that.

The thinking behind SmartMPOS

Speak to any managing director or financial director and mention the words ‘system upgrade’, and you can be pretty sure of a white-faced reaction. All too often a system upgrade results in high costs, lots of disruption and a long staff training period.

When we were developing SmartMPOS, these were the three things that we knew we had to avoid. No business in today’s uncertain economic environment wants to be paying out huge sums of money on upgrading a system. What shops and other retail outlets do want, however, is a smart system that allows the shop assistants to be more productive.

Taking into account customer feedback, we also realised that, while the customers wanted efficient service, they also wanted a more interactive service as well. If they had taken the time to go to the shop, they wanted a personal service; something more than just a transaction at the till point.

Having gathered all these pieces of information we set about developing a system that delivered on every level. And we are very pleased with the outcome.

SmartMPOS has launched in the jewellery sector and is already providing initial great feedback. Now we are extending to the wider retail sector and we think shop owners and managers will like what they see.

Here are some of the key points that SmartMPOS delivers:

SmartMPOS is an extension to your existing EPOS system, meaning there is no expensive and time-consuming installation of a completely new system. The savings for a company can run into the hundreds of thousands. Companies have the option of buying the system outright or renting from a starting point of £17/month – we would expect the increase in staff productivity to cover the outlay on rent many times over.

With SmartMPOS, the mobility offered allows the shop staff to talk, walk and interact with the customer throughout the store. The tablet allows the member of staff to check stock, check colours available, suggest accessories for an item and take payment. The member of staff feels comfortable with the knowledge at his or her fingertips and the customer is getting a completely attentive and personalised shopping experience.

The tablet device is an easy access point to the SmartMPOS system. It is intuitive, meaning staff need very little training to become familiar and competent with the system. There is an integrated Chip and Pin payment processor, so there is no need for a queue at a checkout point.

The SmartMPOS system also offers stores the chance to learn more about their customers. Through the system, the customer’s purchasing history will be readily available so the shop assistant already has a connection with the customer and can make recommendations based on prior purchases.

Today’s world of retail is a fast changing environment with a huge amount of choice for the customer. As retailers, the aim is to get customer loyalty. SmartMPOS is a powerful tool to help retailers offer the very best experience to customers so that they leave the shop in a positive frame of mind. And more importantly, they return time and again!

The view from the shop floor

There is a saying “to be forewarned is to be fore-armed” and this is very true of the staff on the shop floor. With a massive 72 per cent of store staff claiming that customers are more demanding now than they ever used to be, being knowledgeable and confident within an area is an important asset to staff.

For a member of staff to be able to approach a customer and offer pertinent, relevant and welcome information is a huge step forward in developing customer and staff relationships. The member of staff will feel far more confident in his or her dealings with the customer and the customer in turn, will feel that the staff member is taking an interest in their shopping requirements.

The days of a member of staff being half hidden behind a pay point and the only interaction coming with a transaction, should be a thing of the past. The store owner wants his or her staff to be confident, knowledgeable and approachable and the customer wants the same thing.

SmartMPOS enables the staff to develop a great relationship with customers. At the first interaction, the member of staff can quickly find out what the customer is looking for and help him or her find it quickly and easily. Once the knowledge level and competency of the staff has been established in the customer’s mind, then the member of staff can offer suggestions for other things the customer might like. Payment is taken on the spot, which is quick and convenient and all the details of that first interaction can be saved and a snapshot of the customer begins to be created. Future visits further develop the relationship.

This proactive approach helps to eradicate that unwanted scenario of a customer wandering around the shop becoming increasingly frustrated as she or she cannot find the item they want; it also helps prevent the build-up of pressure at a static pay point – as soon as a queue starts to develop, you can almost sense the level of tension getting higher.

The further beauty of SmartMPOS is its simplicity of use. Staff do not want, indeed do not have time for, lots of additional training on new systems. Not only does this system integrate seamlessly with your existing systems, it is also incredibly intuitive and easy to operate.

92 per cent of customers liked that the staff could take payments there and then.

    SmartMPOS key points for staff engagement:
  • 1. Intuitive and easy-to-use system
  • 2. Allows the staff to get out onto the shop floor
  • 3. Enables staff to build relationships with customers
  • 4. Increases staff knowledge
  • 5. Staff feel motivated and appreciated

Putting the customer first

Imagine the scenario: a customer walks into your shop and is greeted immediately by a member of staff. They enjoy a quick conversation where the customer outlines his or her requirements and the member of staff is able to locate the goods quickly and efficiently. During the course of the conversation, the staff member suggests some other items that might complement the purchase – if it is a jacket, there might be the perfect accompanying tie; a pair of gloves might complement the leather handbag your customer is buying. The transaction is completed there and then and the customer leaves the shop happy and with everything he or she needed… and a couple of things that hadn’t been on the list.

This is not some imaginary shopping paradise. This is the shopping experience that you and your staff could be giving your customers right now. With the retail industry under heavy fire from online shopping, now more than ever, shop owners need a way of making a visit to the store something that customers value. The best way of doing that is to make the experience as convenient and pleasurable as possible.

Shop assistants stuck behind the till needs to become a thing of the past, interaction between staff and customers is the way to keep those customers returning time and again. And, by giving your staff the knowledge they need to do the job well, their own levels of satisfaction at a job well done will rise. A happy and motivated staff is one of the keys to a successful business.

This is all very possible with the SmartMPOS system from Pursuit Software. Shop assistants carry a tablet which holds all the information they need to help the customer find what they are looking for. What’s in stock, what colour/size choices are available, what accessories might the customer need, the potential for giving your staff enhanced knowledge is huge.

It is also convenient. Payment can be taken there and then, which means the customer isn’t stuck in a queue. E-receipts are sent to the customer, dispensing with the need for paper receipts and, so importantly, you have captured customer data so the next shopping experience can be even more tailored and personal.

And it is what happens after the customer leaves the shop that is so vital to your business. The conversation with friends about the “great shopping experience”, the post on Facebook or Twitter about how friendly the staff were on their trip to your store. And the most telling factor of all – the return visit!

2 out of 3 shoppers said they want better availability of staff on the shop floor

    SmartMPos Key points for great customer service:
  • 1. Customers and staff can engage and interact anywhere within the store
  • 2. Staff have a knowledge of the customer’s shopping history so can make informed suggestions
  • 3. No queuing at a check-out
  • 4. E-receipts, chip and pin and contactless all make for a seamless payment system
  • 5. To reflect our multi-cultural world, the system offers a choice of languages
  • 6. The shopping experience is quick, convenient and personalised