Using customer feedback to pinpoint hardware problems

28Oct10

As I was paying for my purchase at an otherwise modern retail store, I encountered a rather odd scenario on the POS terminal. The text asking me to swipe my card was legible enough. But when I got to the screen where it usually asks you to sign and press OK, none of the text was legible. Apparently, those areas of the screen had failed, and a series of random lines appeared where the text would normally be.

I asked the cashier what to do, and she was immediately familiar with the situation. This clearly happened a lot — perhaps every time a customer paid with a credit card. The workaround was for me to sign a paper receipt instead of using the screen on the POS terminal.

Obviously, I haven’t visited enough stores in this particular chain to know how widespread the illegible POS problem has become. However, the store in question is a very high volume, “flagship” location. If that store doesn’t qualify for replacement of equipment that has clearly reached the end of its useful life, what sort of priorities does that retailer have?

Taking a step back, I bet the real issue is just one of reporting. The corporate office would probaby be glad to replace any broken gear in stores that bring in substantial revenues. Of course, someone needs to tell them about the problem in the first place. Normally, that responsibility falls on employees — especially store managers. But if that line of reporting and communication isn’t working, maybe it’s time to get customers involved, too.

Enabling shoppers to tell you about this sort of problem is easy. In fact, it’s really no different than how stores present customer satisfaction surveys today. Just add some messaging to the receipt with a toll-free number to call to report any issues with stuff that isn’t working right, and offer a small incentive for those who report problems. By turning shoppers’ attention to these issues, retailers will have the information they need to better identify and prioritize hardware replacements, and customers will end up with a smoother and more enjoyable shopping experience.



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