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Few things are as stressful and damaging for retailers as a point-of-sale (POS) system outage. Even minutes of downtime can lead to lost revenue and damaged reputations.
As critical infrastructure, POS systems are inherently complex. Keeping these systems moving smoothly is no simple task. They are dependent on wide-ranging variables, from local network connectivity to physical security and power supply.
Fortunately, there are steps that retailers can take that dramatically reduce the complexity and overhead associated with maintaining and supporting "always-on" access to POS systems.
Before exploring best practices, it's essential to recognize the rapid advances that have changed modern POS systems' nature. Instead of serving as simple transaction execution devices, POS systems now act as links to a customer's loyalty and behavioral history across all channels.
In the past, POS systems were, for the most part, simple transaction execution devices.
Now, POS platforms serve as links to a customer's loyalty and behavioral history across all channels. As a result, POS has evolved into a critical customer interaction infrastructure, powering everything from mobile interfaces to self-service devices and social network connections.
Many retailers still operate the same POS system they were using five or even ten years ago, leading to slower transactions and increased risk of fraud and theft, resulting in lost profits.
With customer experience tied closely to online connectivity, network outages can make carefully cultivated customer loyalty evaporate quickly. Retailers that can operate as cash-only businesses during network downtime are mostly a relic of the past. Because so many systems at today's retail locations depend on connectivity to function, outages mean that sales simply cannot be completed until connectivity is fully restored. Unfortunately for retailers, this makes customers likely to leave the store – and less likely to bring their business back.
An Accenture global customer satisfaction report found that poor customer service quality, rather than price, is the leading cause of customer churn.
In addition, figures from Bain & Company indicate that reducing the customer defection rate can increase a retailer's profits by anywhere from 5% to 95%, and Adobe Digital Index data suggests that converting 1% of non-loyal customers to returning customers can increase a retailer's revenues by up to $39 million.
While it's impossible to guarantee 24/7 uptime, the following best practices and guidelines can eliminate many of these issues. Limiting unplanned downtime makes it easier to monitor the holistic health of your platform.
With so many diverse variables impacting POS platforms' health and performance across a complex IT infrastructure, retailers need across-the-board visibility. More importantly, they need that visibility centralized into a single location and organized to make sense of it.
One major fast-food retailer we work with uses Splunk to monitor the platform's entirety in real-time. In one example we've seen, a retailer uses Splunk to generate a list of devices at each store with "stuck" offline credit card files. The files are then retrieved and processed, ensuring a smooth experience for all parties.
One of the primary challenges of incident management for retailers is that infrastructure tends to be large and distributed. When something goes wrong, it can be challenging to mount a rapid response.
Meeting this challenge requires adoption of an incident management structure that provides seamless communication tools and takes advantage of collaborative, shared workflows. This way, a large team of admins spread out over a wide area can communicate effectively when resolving problems.
Automated monitoring systems can also help alleviate these challenges. Critical use cases include verifying successful software deployments and sending automated alerts when a store has a prolonged internet outage, enabling support to reach out proactively to restore connectivity.
Proactive monitoring vastly decreases the time it takes to resolve issues. These systems facilitate a structure that allows automated remediation of issues, proactive monitoring of network health and the environmental conditions, alerting administrators to problems, or even repairing common issues proactively and automatically.
The ability to achieve remote access, monitoring, and remediation serves to bolster network resiliency and keep critical infrastructure at retail locations online and operational while simplifying network management and control.
It's safe to say that there will never be total eradication of the threat of downtime. But modern monitoring and incident management solutions play a crucial role in helping retailers large and small avoid becoming the next headline about a significant service failure.
Any sufficiently complex system will eventually fail, and organizations are judged not because they failed but by how they responded to the situation. Implementing modern monitoring and incident management solutions can play a crucial role in helping retailers navigate complex systems and respond when issues arise.
Connect with Chris Antonelli on: LinkedIn
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