Last weekend, customers at Target stores across the country saw their worst nightmares come true as the stores’ checkout stations broke down. Angry customer after angry customer flooded the store while Target staff members could only stand by until the problem was fixed.
While Target attributes Saturday’s outage to an “internal technology issue”, they believe that a snafu from their payment processor caused Sunday’s shutdown. That second issue forced a few Target locations to stop accepting credit/debit cards for 90 minutes, meaning Target lost thousands of dollars in revenue in less than two hours.
What can you learn from all this? Here are five things you can take away and apply at your business.
Always Have a Plan B
Target’s problems might not have been their fault, but they still should have had a backup plan to process cards while their main systems were down. The fact that they own hundreds of stores might make that a tough task, but investing in a backup POS system is much more doable for someone operating one or a couple businesses.
Again, when you can’t accept card payments, you lose out on money. Nowadays many people don’t carry cash on them, so earning their business is contingent on being able to swipe their card. It’s that simple.
One backup option to consider is a mobile card reader. You can attach one to your phone and accept chips, swipe cards, and even text receipts to customers. It’s a great way to save sales and keep checkout from halting to a standstill.
Customers WILL Get Impatient
Consumers are used to shopping without much difficulty at all. For some people it’s as simple as walking into a store, grabbing one item off the shelf, paying at a self-checkout kiosk, and then walking out of the store.
When this “flow” is interrupted by, say, a technical malfunction, it’s going to rattle your customers. Some will even lash out at employees who aren’t even responsible for the delay, all because they feel the need to blame someone. Is there any way you can mitigate their anger and keep customer spirits high until the problem is fixed?
One thing you must do is be upfront with the customers. As new customers walk through your doors, notify them of any issues you might be facing so that they’re not caught off guard by any checkout delays – exactly what one Twitter user claims happened at her Target.
For those already in line, make sure you explain the situation as thoroughly as you can. The most frustrating kinds of delays are the ones where you have no idea what’s going on, like a flight that’s delayed for hours without explanation. Share updates with the customers in line, talk to them, and let them know that you want the system back online as much as they do.
Always Perform “Technology Assessments”
A “technology assessment” is simply when you check your EMV terminals, online software, and security hardware to make sure everything is updated and foolproof. You need to perform these assessments on a regular basis.
Too many times businesses assume their technology is up to par, that it can withstand any hacking attempt on the face of the planet. The truth is that hackers only become smarter as time goes on, and the technology they use only grows more sophisticated.
You should be ok as long as you stay on top of your own technology. Keep tabs on any new POS/business technology that comes out. You might want to swap out your older systems if you feel it’s a significant-enough upgrade at a reasonable price.
Make Sure Your Processor Is Reliable
The payment processor you choose will be handling your customers’ personal information AND the money that goes into your merchant account. That’s a lot of responsibility to hand off to someone who doesn’t work for your business.
Choose your payment processor wisely! If you can, talk to merchants that use that processor and see whether they’ve ever experienced issues with them. There are also websites that review payment processors, so browse some of the reviews on those sites before making your choice.
By the way, what does “reliable” mean? It means your payment processor never fails to protect your customers’ information, rarely breaks down (especially in the middle of the day), and has a responsive customer support team to guide you passed any issues you may encounter.
Customer Satisfaction Matters
Your customers come first. That’s one of the golden rules of running a business. Making sure they leave your store happy is your top priority as a business owner.
Of course, things will happen that are out of your control, like what happened with Target. Are YOU prepared for the worst? Even if your POS system goes down, can you still go the extra mile for your customers left waiting?
One suggestion: if you have to turn customers away due to a technical issue, hand them vouchers for a free purchase during their next visit. Not only will that help alleviate their frustration, but they will also be more likely to trust you and become one of your loyal customers down the line.
Where Does That Leave You?
What’s the big idea? Problems happen. Technology isn’t perfect. However, your response to an unexpected problem can yield an even more fortuitous outcome for both your customers and your business. Do your best to take care of them when something like Target’s online crash happens. You won’t be able to please everyone, but you might win over a few long-term customers in the process.
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