How to Improve Your Customers’ Checkout Experience Today

Over the last number of years, retailers have been changing their tactics in response to the consumer. Nowadays, consumers are savvier and are being conditioned to have certain expectations, especially in their checkout experience. The key to repeat business really comes down to offering exceptional service; in an increasingly competitive market, it isn’t so much your product offering that makes you unique but how you deliver on consumer expectations.

Where is your point of sale?

Where you place your checkout and your POS in a retail store is a question you can ask yourself for days. However, a good rule of thumb is to remember that the check out should be located at a natural stopping point during the customers shopping experience.

It is vital that retailers place their POS in a location that is also clearly visible to customers – are there clear signs? Is there a staff member close by that could help me?

If customers naturally turn right when they enter, and you guide them to circle all the way around, you’ll realize that the front left is probably the ideal location for your checkout counter. However, this decision also depends on the size and layout of the store itself, which means you’ll have to use your best judgment on the most natural point to have that check-out counter and POS station.

You’ll also want to keep in mind that if you’re a one-person show or don’t have staff wandering the store, it’ll be important to be able to see everything from a loss-prevention perspective.

Other tips to keep in mind when designing your checkout counter are:

- Have a counter that’s big enough for shoppers to place their bags and/or personal belongings but not too big where it may act as a barrier

- Take advantage of the wall behind the counter to create interesting and engaging displays

- Encourage impulse purchases by stocking items customers crave or commonly need close by

- Be polite in person by asking questions like “Were you able to find everything you were looking for?” and in signage regarding your exchange or refund policies

Be proactive in engaging customers

The way you talk to customers has a big impact on your brand, and nothing delivers customer satisfaction like consistently engaging communication. Sawhney, Head Of Operations at Shopify says  “Engagement marketing means leading with content, not products,”. Content must be genuinely useful to your customers for it to be a meaningful engagement strategy.

Today, customer service can be very dry and bland, even if the brand or representative thinks they are being engaging. What may sound like good communication can come across very impersonal, for example, most consumers are tired of lines like “Hi, how is your day going?” or “Thanks, come again!”Customers hear these lines nearly every day. If you and your colleagues deliver these statements, your brand won’t make a lasting impression because the approach is inauthentic, especially if the person in front of them gets greeted the exact same way!

Why not try tailoring a conversation directly to the customer? Comments such as “I use this brand myself and found that X or Y really help me for Z!” and engaging with their responses shows that you are genuinely interested in them versus reciting a script. Even small efforts like eye contact and smiling will go a long way towards personalising your interactions.

It is understood that even checkouts can be seen as a big psychological barrier to customer interactions. Removing this allows you to connect on a person-to-person basis, instead of the employee-to-customer arrangement which quickly gets boring and repetitive. This is when a mobile POS system a great benefit. Allow the customer to pay for whatever they want in any location in the store. This will help keep that personal connection you have made.

Why not make customers feel part of your team? We all like to feel we’re part of a team and your customers will be no different. Highlight a loyal customer with some discounts each month. If you just celebrated your first year in business, celebrate with your customers by offering them a discount or coupon or attending an exclusive anniversary party. Not only does this make them feel like they’re part of the team, this also thanks them for their years of loyalty.

These suggestions are all small touches which may take a little extra time, but it has a huge impact on your customer’s perceptions. Most were pleasantly surprised as it isn’t the ‘done’ thing. This feeling is exactly what you want to provoke in your customers! It gives them a level of service they aren’t expecting, and this is what will stick in their minds long-term.

Premium packaging

52% of consumers say they would likely return to a business for another purchase if they receive products in a premium packaging. Premium products are expected to come in premium packaging, using elegant, durable and unusual materials. Investing in premium packaging will add value and make consumers more likely to share their experience. Sustainable packaging is also popular, so making your packaging from recycled materials and/or recycled materials will appeal to your customers.

90% of consumers reuse packaging boxes and bags after purchase. Designing attractive packaging really pays off. Consumers are drawn to bold and attractive, this leads to more time looking at products while making purchasing decisions. Research suggests at least a third of product decision-making is based on packaging, along with personal preferences.

Often, it can even be how staff handle a customer’s purchase which differentiate the perception of a premium store from a lower end one. If someone threw clothing you had just bought unfolded into a generic plastic bag, what impression would you have? Probably of a store that doesn’t value their own goods! If they don’t, why should you? The store might have gotten that sale, but it’s unlikely they’ll get a follow-up if they don’t make their customer feel that what they offer is special.

Collect Feedback

Analytics and data gives us all sorts of insights into what our customers want from our business. But sometimes…don’t you wish you could get an answer straight from your customers?

You can. Just ask.

This is a small thing which goes a long way, because customers like to know their experience is valued. Ask customers whether they found their items ok, or if they received the help they wanted. This shows that your store has a vested interest in improving its services standards. It also gives you the opportunity to remedy a customer’s experience at the moment if it wasn’t quite up to scratch, rather than them taking a negative perception out the door with them!

In short, this will allow you to:

- Learn what your customers like and don’t like

- Make customers feel important and involved

- Constantly improve your service offering

Admitting when it’s your fault

Not every checkout interaction will go as planned. Customers will also visit a checkout for other reasons; to voice a complaint, to bring back a faulty product, or because their goods weren’t charged correctly. This is part of the daily business of retail, and how well you handle this is one of the biggest ways to create a lasting impression.

Your customers probably aren’t interested in hearing apologies or excuses. They just want to know what you are going to do or what you are currently doing to fix the issue. It’s a solution they’re interested in, not the problem, and this is where they will form their opinion of your customer service.

Obviously, the best thing you can do is to remedy the issue quickly and efficiently. However, we know this isn’t always possible. The most important thing here is honesty; being transparent is always the best policy. If the issue is complex, tell your customer that you will do everything you reasonably can. It’s empathy that will mollify even the angriest customer.

Unfortunately, there is no getting around customer complaints, regardless of your industry. However, by employing these steps and taking the time to review the issue with the customer, you can turn challenges into something constructive.

Opus Retail Manager

Opus Retail Solutions specialise in providing Retail, Wholesale, & Integrated e-Commerce Solutions through its Software suite Opus Retail Manager.  Opus has been developing software for over 30 years and was one of the first Windows based EPoS systems in 1997.  Opus Retail Manager is hardware independent and we offer hardware depending on client requirements, policy or budget.

The key to Opus’s success lies with its ongoing investment in Research and Development and Training to keep our Software products and services and staff world class.  Services range from specifying client requirements to providing custom modifications, system implementation, training with a special emphasis on after-sales support so our customers can get the most from their system. The Company invests c £100k pa in R&D to ensure it’s software remains world-class.

The entire Opus operation is managed from Opus’s Headquarters in Belfast, Northern Ireland, along with regional development and support offices in the UK and Russia.  Opus has partners all over the world and currently ships the software in five languages.  Please contact us if you would like to discuss a partnership.

Although our Retail Manager Software and services procedures have evolved over the years from DOS through Windows enabling us to stay ahead of the curve, our core objective is still to provide innovative, best in breed, easy to use and robust EPoS solutions, no matter what the industry, the size or the individual need.