Running a safe, customer-focused program is at the center of an Aquatic Operator’s job description, but what about the business-side of our jobs? Having the tools in place to retrieve financial information, analyze your return on investment for your killer marketing plan, and compare to previous summers’ results can be a game changer for your facility. There are many point-of-sale (POS) providers on the market, each with their individual benefits and d ownfalls. There are several features that may or may not be a dealbreaker for successful implementation in your facility. Sometimes, one of the first interactions customers have with your facility is to register for a class or purchase their tickets through your POS system, which can set the tone for their experience and set their expectations, so choose wisely!
By far, one of the most critical decisions to make when deciding on a POS system is whether or not it will be web-based or server-based. A web-based system allows for the flexibility of access anywhere there is an internet connection. This can be particularly helpful at the beginning of your season when new cashiers are still learning the system, new managers are struggling to close-out and balance the cash drawers, and things can be “off”. A quick phone call, log-in on your computer, and a few minutes later, an issue can be resolved. With a server-based system, you typically need to be located onsite to access the program, which means a late night trip back to work (been there, done that at 10:00pm) or leaving the “mess” until the morning, which is problematic in its own way.
In our seasonal facilities, staff turnover for entry-level positions such as cashiers or concessions is typically pretty high. Most entry-level aquatics employees are technologically savvy and can pick up POS system operations fairly quickly as long as it is intuitive and user-friendly. When selecting and researching a system, evaluate whether someone would be able to walk right up to the system and bumble their way through a transaction with little or no training. Teaching an employee the special terms, codes, and processes for a POS system that is not user-friendly can be a drain on the budget and a source of frustration for both staff and the customer. In addition to being user-friendly for staff, ask the POS provider to walk you through a transaction in the online portal customers will use to make purchases directly. If it’s too complicated, ask if modifications can be made. If not, move on. It’s not worth it to lose a customer before they enter the gates because they become frustrated while trying to give you their hard earned money.
Meets All Your Needs
Think about every avenue of your business- season passes, daily admissions, parties, cabana rentals, food and beverage, lockers, retail, swim lessons, etc. Does your current provider or potential provider meet those needs or do you have a lot of work-arounds in place? An efficient POS system will be a support and asset to your business rather than a financial drain and constant headache. For example, we spend a lot of time developing and implementing our marketing plans. Does this provider have a system for tracking your return on investment? Does your POS system have a mechanism for capturing emails and a medium for sending out targeted email blasts to groups of customers interested in specific programs or products? Determine what your important needs are and that your POS system can truly fulfill those demands.
Training is handled very differently between POS providers. Most provide onsite training for a fee to train the supervisors and staff, and then the supervisors are expected to maintain the training for all other incoming staff for future years. A growing trend is to provide initial onsite training for a fee, and then all subsequent trainings can be webinar based and are free of charge. This ensures that as updates are made to the system (which should be happening fairly consistently with a good provider), staff are given the proper tools and information right away. With a seasonal operation and high entry-level position turnover each summer, not spending additional money or time training new staff can be one less thing you need to worry about!
There are many “one size fits all” POS offerings on the market, but each have their own niche and focus. Most likely, none will meet all of your facility/agency-specific needs. Discuss with potential providers the process for adding enhancements specific to your organization. What is the wait time? How much will it cost? If you have a unique operation, search for a POS provider that offers enhancements free-of-charge to ensure that you are not taken advantage of and funding their business growth. A savvy POS provider will recognize that adding an enhancement that may help several of their customers will open up new business opportunities for them as well, and offer it as a complimentary service.
One of the most often overlooked components of a POS system is its reporting. Work with your finance team to determine what type of information they will need and ensure that there is a report to provide that information. There are some POS systems that have very straightforward reporting options, which can be sufficient if you just want basic information or they have the correct reports generated for you. If you would like more detailed or custom information on your reports, look for a system that allows you to select the terms for your reports. This will save you time with data collection and pulling out the unnecessary information. Be wary of companies that have hundreds of types of reports. Most POS system providers are unable to keep up with the maintenance of a large body of reports, which can lead to erroneous information and poor financial decision as a result.
While it is the hope that your POS system will never have any issues, this will be far from reality. Technology will always have glitches and require assistance to resolve. Discuss with any potential provider the process for notifying them and resolving issues. Do they have a 24 hour number? If you are in a different time zone than your provider, will you be left in a lurch at 4:00pm because their technicians are all off for the day? Confirming they have a seamless process for issue resolution and quick response time for their facilities will ensure that you are not standing face to face with a customer with a computer glitch, unable to process their transaction for 30 minutes.
Though the process and programs can appear confusing, a POS system is merely a tool. Using the criteria above, selecting a system that you are comfortable with is not too difficult. If you become overwhelmed, pretend you are a staff member or customer using the system and select one that works with ease whether you are the manager (reporting/adding programs), staff (quick transaction process), or customers (intuitive and simple). Researching and evaluating several POS system providers according to YOUR needs will always result in a successful match.