Blog Posts

Cost Saving Measures at the Point of Sale

Cost Saving Measures at the Point of Sale

Many retailers often focus on various cost saving measures their stores that could actually end-up doing the opposite, generating increased costs instead of a savings.

For many brick and mortar retailers, Internet competition is eating away at both market share and profit margins, as many businesses are looking for ways to reduce overall operation costs. Just one way that this is being done by many retailers is to cut down on material overhead at Point of Sale.

To accomplish part of this, one simple thing that some Retailers have resorted to is not printing or giving out receipts to customers unless they ask for one. For many of these business owners, the most often used logic for allowing this could be any or all of the following:

  • I’ll same money on receipt paper.
  • There will be less wear and tear on my printers, so they will last longer.
  • If I don’t hand out receipts, I can get more people through the registers faster.
  • If people don’t have receipts, they can’t return items. So less returns equates to a savings.

Some of the unintended consequences of this can be:

Theft at the Till – For cash transactions, employees may not ring up the sale, and subsequently bag the items, and pocket cash at the register. This is especially critical risk area in businesses that do a lot of cash transactions.

Irate customers – If the stores return policy states that you must have a receipt, and the customer was never given one, they may be angered when they find out that they can’t return the item. So this could end up actually costing you customers. This is one such reason why I personally ask for a receipt for ever purchase that I make.

Customers being erroneously charged with theft – I know of multiple situations involving Credit Card transactions where the clerk printed a receipt and charge draft for the customer to sign, but never gave the customer a copy of the receipt. Later that, the customer was forcibly detained for shoplifting by store security, and held for several hours while being berated by the security people, and being continually being threaten with arrest for theft for something that they had legitimately paid for. However, these customers were later vindicated when the security personnel reviewed the stores video surveillance footage. The video clearly show the customer paying for the transaction. as well as the failure of the clerk to give the customer a receipt. This scenario’s later involved the customer taking legal action to sue the store for violating their rights. The end result was a lot of legal fees and an undisclosed out-of-court settlements, plus the loss of a long time, loyal customers.

Shrinkage/Inventory Control Issues– Items bagged for customers that were never rung up in the register. In these cases the customer leaves with merchandise for which they were never charged. Since there is no paper receipt to verify what is in the bag, the customer could also end up walking out without some of what they legitimately purchased.

You got my order wrong – This I really common in the restaurant and fast food arena. You order something very specific, and you get something completely different than what you ordered. In most cases, the customer having a receipt ends the debate over what was actually ordered.

If you would like assistance in reviewing your existing Point of Sale register procedures, please contact the CCS Retail Systems Support Department.

– John

Passport Version 12.06 Update for July 2018

Passport Version 12.06 Update

With the release of PBS 12.06, Passport completes a major infrastructure project on field expansions begun with the version 12.05 release. Enhancements for PBS 12.06 will include:

  • Expanded field sizes for both the name and addresses in Customer, Ship-to, and Contact files.
  • Field expansions in A/R, O/E, POS and Customer Order Processing in PBS Manufacturing.
  • Professional Time & Billing fields expanded.
  • PO # expanded to 30 characters to accommodate Amazon, etc.
  • Approximately 12-14 Accounts Payable SSRS (SQL Server Reporting Services) reports have been created
  • Three new SSRS reports have been created to replace the previous standard reports for wholesale distributers.
  • Passport 12.06 includes a new runtime, version 10.2, so a fresh install will be required and the use of EZ Convert is required to migrate your existing data to the new format.

Currently, version 12.06 is being thoroughly beta tested in-house at Passport. A Limited release will begin mid-July, 2018 with general release anticipated to be available at the end of July, 2018

Please consult the CCS Support department if you have any questions on the above release.

– John

The threat of Attack on Point-Of-Sale (POS) systems

The threat of Attack on Point-Of-Sale (POS) systems

In the retail world, the threat of attack on Point-Of-Sale (POS) systems is always high, as they are a prime target for the bad actors trying to get credit card information. There is always new malware being created to try to get that information. There are, however, steps that can be taken to reduce the risk, even with regards to the latest attack software.

The best thing that you can do is to isolate your servers and workstations as much as possible. In an ideal world, these would be completely isolated, and not interact with any other systems. The reality is that this is very rarely the case. With that in mind, let’s look at some things that can be done.

The first step is to make sure that your firewall is as restrictive as possible. Your POS workstations and server if needed should only be restricted to accessing what is absolutely needed. In most cases, this is only your credit card processor. In no case, should your firewall allow either the workstations or the server, unrestricted access to the internet? The firewall will eliminate the chance for drive-by downloads, or users browsing to malicious sites.

Along those lines, any computers that are used for general internet browsing, and also email, should be on a separate network. If it is not possible to implement workstations on a separate physical network, at least use a different logical network as in a different network address range. Even just the different logical network, will stop the majority of malware infections.

If remote access is needed, and it should be restricted to those cases where it truly is needed such as your support company, then it should be restricted to only those addresses that have a legitimate reason to connect. Also, any such connections should be closely monitored. One such method is to disable the remote access software, and only enable it when your support personnel is actively connecting. Of course, it is again disabled as soon as they are finished.

Those cover the basics of securing your POS system. It is a good place to start, but it is only a start. Keeping software updated, training personnel, and keeping vigilant are always key components, also.

Dave

Quick Chip

Quick Chip.

NCR Counterpoint now supports “Quick Chip”!

What is Quick Chip?

Quick Chip for EMV allows customers to insert (dip) and remove their EMV chip card at checkout in about 2 seconds. They can even do so before the transaction is complete. This is similar to the “Swipe Any Time” feature in NCR Counterpoint.

Quick Chip is also meant to help the payment industry’s transition to EMV chip.

In order to use Quick Chip with NCR Counterpoint, you will need to be running version 8.5.4.1, have an Ingenico ISC250 payment terminal with the required firmware version, and an account setup and configured with NCR Secure Pay.

So if you are already processing EMV chip cards through your NCR Counterpoint software, all that should need to be done is update your software to 8.5.4.1 and update your payment terminal to the required firmware.

With the update to 8.5.4.1, you will also be able to accept Pin Debit transactions using the EMV technology as well. There are some processor specific restrictions for Pin Debit, so be sure to ask CCS about your current configuration.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please contact the CCS Retail Systems Support Department at 800.672.4806 or email us at support.

-Bryan

About Procrastination

About Procrastination

Sometimes when things become a little hectic, we tend to put off doing some of the things that we know should be done. As an example, a few weeks ago my computer monitor started doing some unusual things. It would occasionally “flicker” when I was using my computer, and sometimes it would not turn off or on as it should. I delayed taking care of the issue for a while because I could still coax the monitor into usage, usually.

Of course, it eventually “died,” and of course it “died” when I was expecting emailed copies of important tax documents, airline tickets, and medical information, all of which could not be accessed with no computer monitor! I had to drop everything and look into monitor replacement options.

This type of procrastination can happen in the office as well. What have you been putting off? Maybe you need a software upgrade. Maybe you or your employees need some additional training on the use of your POS Software. Maybe you need to re-arrange your office for better efficiency and need help moving your technical equipment safely. Perhaps you just haven’t gotten around to paying your Subscription Renewal!

CCS is here to help you with those occasional “glitches” that cause interference with your POS operations. Sometimes it can be something unexpected, like a power outage that shuts you down. Often it is an issue that could have been prevented if it had been addressed sooner, rather than later.

Don’t procrastinate! We can help you find and fix the problems that interfere with your day-to-day business before they become greater issues that can happen at inopportune times.

Our phone number is 425-672-4806, or you can email us.

Marlene

Summer Times Blues

Summer Times Blues

Its summer time again, and it is time to check that your PC is nice and clean inside to prevent unwanted shutdowns and possible damage to your PC.

Cleaning out your PC is very easy to do, to begin with, you should purchase a couple of cans of compressed air. These can be purchased at most office supply stores, as well as Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Fred Meyer type stores. Once you have your compressed air, turn off your PC and unplug from the wall. You should remove the side of your case and blow out all of the dust that may be built up inside. Pay close attention to any fans and heat sinks as when the heat sink builds up with dust between the fins, it hampers the ability of it to cool properly causing strange problems to occur with your workstation.

Some symptoms of overheating are:

  • Strange errors/blue screens
  • A random shutdown of the computer
  • Slow or non-responsive actions

If you need help with removing the case or would prefer a professional do the job, contact the CCS Retail Systems Support Department for help.

-Bryan

How Can Retailers Succeed in an Unpredictable Future?

How Can Retailers Succeed in an Unpredictable Future?

We’ve heard it voiced many times that “the only thing in life that doesn’t change is change itself.” The expression seems to fit what’s currently happening in the world of retail sales. As technology continues to progress at an astonishing speed, retailers are scrambling to accommodate the changes while looking for new ways to keep present customers and attract new ones. The question is, “How can this be done?”

In an article for National Retail Federation, Kristina Stewart presents five suggestions from Trevor Hardy, CEO of The Future Laboratory. The suggestions (shown below) are based on the need for retailers to renew corporate/brand trust, which Hardy deems to be at an all-time low in the world today.

Use of radical transparency. An example would be the use of plain language on packaging, rather than marketing buzzwords, showing customers clearly what’s in a product. (What exactly does “organic” mean, anyway?)

Providing civic duty and education. Finding ways to act as a force for good in society, such as sponsoring a charity drive, or furnishing opportunities for customers to learn a new lifestyle or creative skill at their favorite store.

Supplying better service. Rather than just being facilitators to customers in a store, staff should focus on being in-store influencers, which humanizes the retail experience.

Increase localism. Customers want a connection to the brands they support with their dollars. Look to sourcing from local providers. (My community, for example, has many independent wineries)

“Explorium” retail. Technology has to a great degree taken the joy out of shopping for many. Retailers can profit by reintroducing complexity in the shopping experience, such as focusing on ways for customers to appreciate the journey more. Turning the store into a performance venue for a month or two, for example, would allow customers to enjoy the store differently.

Reestablishing consumer trust is a long-term technique that leads to greater success for businesses. Using the above guidelines will go a long way in providing that success.

Marlene

Where’s My Automatic Updates?

Where’re My Automatic Updates?

Over the years I have seen people assume that a software manufacturer, software supplier, or support vendor should be doing something automatically.

Here are some fairly standard examples of things that are most often NOT automatic:

1. Operating System and Security

  • Installation of Windows Security Service Packs – While this can be scheduled for automatic download and installation, by default this is not turned on.
  • Installation of Anti-Virus And Anti-Malware Software Updates

These items may not be configured to auto-download, auto-install, or auto-notify of success or failure. If something in this area is only partially automated, one needs to take care that these processes are not going on while end-users are on the system and using applications that would be affected, especially if a server or workstation reboot was required. As examples:

  • Scheduling windows updates to only download and install in off-hours while users are not logged into servers or workstations.
  • An anti-virus update might be prompting for a computer restart to complete the installation of a specific update. If this isn’t addressed in a timely manner, your systems could be at risk of being compromised.

2. Application Software – Application Software Security Service Packs

  • MS Office Suites
  • Adobe Acrobat Reader
  • Adobe Flash Player
  • Java

There are regular updates for the above applications that should be installed. Failure to do so could result in security holes being present with these applications. While some of these installations can be automated, others cannot be.

3. Application Software Data/Usage issues.

Care should also be taken to make sure that certain updates are not auto-applied especially in situations where there are a lot of customizations.

  • Point of Sale – Sales Tax Rates, which are typically by state, or By Taxing Jurisdictions. The rates should be updated regularly so that the proper sales tax is withheld. While there are some
  • systems that update automatically, some do not.
  • Customers – Taxable Status. If Tax Exempt, the Tax ID number, and expiration dates may need to be updated. Doing this protects you in future tax audit scenarios.
  • Items – Taxable Flags, Item-Based Tax Categories – If tax Flags and item based Tax Categories are not assigned, the result could be incorrect tax amounts being withheld.
  • Payroll – Federal Tax Tables – This includes such things and Social Security and Medicare tax rates, and FUI, 401K Maximums; State Tax Codes – This includes SUI rates; Workers Compensation Rates.

If you have some specific issues or questions, please contact the CCS Retail Systems Support Department.

– John

To Purge or not to Purge? – The data migration dilemma

To Purge or not to Purge? – The data migration dilemma

When anticipating an upcoming Data Migration, here are a few things that you should consider in making purge decisions.

  1. The Time Crunch.

Depending on the application, a typical Data Migration can take at least several days to complete, if not longer.

Depending on the amount of data that one currently has, the entire process can be artificially extended. and cause you to have extra support expense and unwanted downtime.

As the amount of data that you have increased, more disk space is used and so exponentially does the number of resources required to do various tasks. This situation puts more resource pressure on your server and increases the amount of time that it takes to complete tasks. As an example, running history reports could end up taking a considerable amount of time, which may end-up reducing overall staff productivity of people are constantly waiting for something to complete. Generally, this scenario is true whether you are doing a data migration or not.

  1. Do I really need to migrate all of the data?

Typically, most Retailers only keep about (2) two years of detailed history. I have found many instances over the years where companies have decades of detailed history on file. However, with some industries, it may be necessary to retain more history, as examples of this might be if there were extended product warranties or high-priced items with serial numbers (e.g. Water Heaters, Pool and Spa Equipment, Wood Stoves, Tools, Farm Equipment, Electronics, etc.).

  1. What kind of time constraints do I have regarding the purging operations?

Normally, it is best to schedule purging related work for times when there is no one using the application software. Generally, there are at least (3) three good reasons for this as follows:

  • Purging operations usually require a lot of CPU and memory usage. So if this should normally not be done during peak hours, as it can bog-down your server.
  • Some historical purging operations will hang and wait if it encounters records within the selected range that are in use. This artificially extends the amount of time required to complete the purging operation.
  • Smaller databases generally mean faster backup times.
  1. What is the general condition of the source data?

Most purging and data migration operations require that the data be in good shape, otherwise separate and extensive work may be required to accomplish complete removal of the data or the ability to migrate it.

Some examples of this kind of issue would be.

  • Historical sales data that references sales reps or users that are no longer on file.
  • POS ticket history that involves sales data for customer and items that are no longer on file, or that have corrupt ticket lines.
  • Set-up and supporting data for features that are no longer used, such as sales prices, discount codes, and other pricing schemas.
  • Old customers that haven’t purchased anything for many years. This could include customers with invalid or obsolete contact data.
  • Items that are obsolete/discontinued or haven’t been used for many years.

In many cases, some of this kind of data can be cleaned up ahead of your data migration date,

If you have questions about purging, file utility usage, and data migrations, please contact the CCS Retail Systems Support Department

John

What Consumers Want – 2018

What Consumers Want – 2018

With the closure of so many retail stores in recent news, we might wonder if brick and mortar stores are becoming a thing of the past. A more accurate assessment is that they are changing to accommodate current trends.

In a recent National Retail Federation article by Katie Jordan, five retail concepts to watch for this year were outlined. These are research-backed trends outlining what consumers want available to them when they shop. Below is a condensed list of the findings.

The ability to buy online, but pick up in the store. (I did this recently with a refurbished computer and found it quite convenient!)

The ability to “talk” with a virtual assistant. (Like Alexa) This helps with researching what it is you are looking to buy.

Availability of “showroom stores”. These stores provide samples but do not have inventory on hand. Interestingly, I encountered one of these showroom stores when I visited Italy a few years ago. Customers could view models with dresses and then order what they wanted to buy, without having to tote packages home.

The ability to try out products before purchasing (Experimental Retail).Already being used in many retail stores (think cosmetics), this is now being expanded, like offering cooking classes in a store that sells cookware.

Availability of food service On-Site. Many consumers enjoy eating while shopping, so retail stores with on-site cafes are becoming increasingly popular, especially among younger shoppers. It’s a form of entertainment as well as a shopping expedition!

Change is inevitable. Stores that survive are the ones that stay abreast of customer needs. Are you meeting your customers’ needs?

Marlene