Don't Sell Them What They Don't Need
Two VARs found out what customer Albert Smyth Co. didn't need, then partnered on the sale of an integrated 60-station POS (point of sale) solution.
You sell POS solutions. You walk into a huge retail outlet with arms full of options for your potential customer. You warm him up with pole displays, wow him with receipt printers, and you're pretty sure the credit card reader and keypad you're about to show him will seal the deal. Suddenly he stops you mid sentence. "I want to be able to do data entry and POS on the same hardware," he says. "I want my checkout line to communicate with my AS/400. I don't want all this other stuff." Are you ready to put your gadgets away, give the man what he wants, and go home with a sale in the bag?
Six years ago, jeweler Albert Smyth Co. (Timonium, MD) wanted to implement a POS system that could send sales data to its AS/400 server without having to invest in designated cash register POS systems and plug-in peripherals.
VAR Computer Applications Specialists, Inc. (CAS) (Laurel, MD) is Albert Smyth's AS/400 and custom software provider. CAS teamed with VAR Computer Lab International (CLI) (Placentia, CA) to provide a solution. CLI equipped the store with 40 of its own 5476-EC3 twinax color terminals and 40 Unitech K2724 keyboards. The keyboard features a built-in credit card reader, eliminating the need for an extra plug-in unit. CAS handled the software installation with a custom solution that allows cashiers to carry out cash and credit POS functions while automatically sending sales information to the AS/400 database.
A Long-Distance Relationship
The sale wasn't a given for CLI, despite its business partnership with CAS. "There was some concern about our geographic location," said Peter Barbrick, technical specialist with CLI. "We overcame the distance barrier by offering a three-year warranty and by convincing them that we could handle their programming needs." To prove it, CLI and CAS gave the solution to Albert Smyth for a free 30-day trial run in January 1996, with no obligation to buy. The store bought its first 40 terminals and keyboards the following month. Since the initial installation, Albert Smyth has added another 20 stations.
Six years later, Barbrick cites strong technical support as a contributing factor to the longstanding partnership. "We're here for them. We have a solid record of little downtime per failed component," he said. "Even though CLI representatives have never made an on-site service call to the store, we give them unlimited access to support. All of it is done over the phone and by FedEx," he said.
Working Through The Challenges
Barbrick said the most challenging stage of the keyboard installation was programming the credit card reader to send only certain information from the customer's card to Albert Smyth's checkout screens, while using other information from the card to process the sale. "There is a lot of information stored on a credit card that isn't wanted on the screen in a checkout line," said Barbrick. "We had to program the keyboard to send only information such as an authorization number and expiration date to the screen," he said. Post-installation hurdles have given CLI more opportunity to bolster its commitment to service. "Not too long ago, Unitech changed its firmware version, and we had to swap close to 20 of their keyboards to update them," Barbrick explained. "We did it at no charge. Ongoing technical support is the key."
It isn't every day that a VAR can capitalize on what a company doesn't need to make a sale, but it worked for CAS and CLI. "We made everything work through one keyboard. They don't need any specialized or networked POS programs with cash drawers, monitors, and receipt printers built into a POS terminal. They've been able to stick with legacy products."Questions about this article? E-mail the author at MattP@corrypub.com.