Improving Customer Experience at Point of Sale

Scott Francis
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Square has always been an interesting startup.  Attempting to disrupt how payments are made is non-trivial.  They started with the little add-on device for swiping credit cards – attacking the merchant side of the equation.  As a customer, it really made no difference to me how the merchant was swiping my card – but for some small merchants, square was easier to use to get their business started than opening a merchant account, etc.

Moreover, the Square card readers are free to merchants.  Which means almost *anyone* could potentially use one to receive payment from a customer. But not too long ago, Square introduced “Card Case”.  I didn’t pay too much attention at first, but someone’s comment on twitter caused me to go back and look more closely.  And if you watch their video here, you’ll see that what they’re really selling is a new customer experience for making payments. What’s different?

  • First, it lets you discover merchants that accept Square payments (for now, that’s a useful filter).  For merchants, this is a nice distinction – a way to stand out – as well.
  • Second, it offers a potentially more efficient payment mechanism (we’ll see) – by not requiring any swiping of cards. “Just put it on Nelson.”
  • Third, you can open a tab at your favorite places.  Upon your arrival, Card Case puts itself in “payment” mode and notifies the Square app the cashier is using.  Since the app includes your picture, the cashier can do identification verification easily – or even greet you by name when you get to the register.

These last two features offer merchants to do something important – enhance the service level that “regulars” receive.

Even a cashier who doesn’t know you might greet you by name when you get to the counter (or one who recognizes you, but has far too may names to remember!).  One of the great feats of the Starbucks I used to frequent regularly was their ability to remember customer names and faces – and favorite drinks! – and to interact with you on that basis.  This was by no means uniform across all Starbucks, or all employees, but the location I went to was particularly impressive at it.

If I was designing a retail presence for a cafe, or similar store that attracts regulars, I’d be seriously thinking about the features of Square – whether or not you actually use their payment service – how can you replicate the familiarity with regulars?  How can you make them feel welcome and at-home?  How can you do this without a large infrastructure or IT expense?  How can we make the service more personal than it is today, and differentiate from the competition? The other lesson to learn here is that if you’re looking to improve X, and X is one of:

  • process
  • experience
  • product

You probably want to take a step back and examine the forest, not just the trees.  There are new technologies that can really open up new possibilities for changing your interaction with customers and team members, and there are new customer expectations that need to be met.

Time to sharpen pencils charge iPads… Now I’m kind of looking forward to trying Card Case myself – I’ll just have to use the app to find merchants who accept it!

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