Customer Support Pays Off
POS VAR finds customer support leads directly to new sales and boosts his company's revenue by 15%.
Customer support is a big issue. It sounds very basic, but it's true," says David McCue, president of All Long Island Cash Register (Islandia, NY), a POS VAR. "In this business, you'd better look forward to working closely with your customers and servicing them in any way you can. That's how you'll land your next sale," says Brian McCue, David's son, who serves as vice president of the company's POS division.
In 1986, McCue bought the company, which sold and serviced electronic cash registers (ECRs) to retail and hospitality customers. He'd worked in sales and service for many years and was looking to purchase a business of his own. McCue's son, Brian, joined the company after graduating from college. He helped the company adopt PC-based point of sale (POS) systems for the hospitality market while still maintaining its large base of ECR customers.
"The way you sell more POS systems is by becoming more efficient at installing them" says Brian McCue. To that end, the company focuses on a limited number of hardware products and one software package for the hospitality market. With only seven employees - three of them in service - efficiency is a must. All Long Island Cash Register installs most systems in three days. "It used to take us two weeks," says Brian McCue. The McCues have found that, regardless of the product line, service and support are essential to their business. The emphasis on service is paying off. All Long Island Cash Register expects a 15% growth rate this year.
Selling Service By The Piece Or As A Whole
"You have to offer support. It helps develop a confidence level with your customers that you will, in fact, be there for them when they have a hardware or software problem," says David McCue. It's been his experience that customers need service much less often than they think they will.
All Long Island Cash Register offers its customers the option of purchasing a service contract or paying by the hour for service calls. According to McCue, only about 35% of his customers opt to use a service contract. These POS customers, such as hospitals he says, are the type that typically build equipment maintenance into their operating budgets. Very few of his ECR customers use a service contract. "It's simply not cost effective for those customers, given the cost of ECRs today," he says.
Providing Around-The-Clock Service
All Long Island Cash Register offers its customers 24-hour, seven-day-a-week support. "We strive for a two hour response time, even for on-site maintenance calls," says Brian McCue, who normally carries the after-hours service beeper. Since the company only works in the greater New York City/Long Island area, the two hour time limit is not a problem.
McCue explains that when a customer calls during business hours (8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.), the person answering the phone determines if the problem is hardware- or software-related.
Software - Software calls are routed in-house to technical support staff trained to handle software problems. "Since we deal almost exclusively with Digital Dining hospitality software, our staff is well-trained on that product," says Brian McCue. Most problems can be handled over the phone. Support staff also use a modem to access the customer's software and fix the problem online. Customers are not charged for software-related calls during normal business hours.
Hardware - Brian McCue explains these calls fall into two categories: ECR and POS systems. All Long Island Cash Register provides different levels of after- hours service for both.
ECRs - ECR service is available only during normal business hours. "If we can't fix an ECR problem on-site, we give customers a loaner. We take their unit in for repairs and it's back to them in two or three days," explains Brian McCue.
POS systems - Customers calling after 5 p.m. are charged for emergency service if they are not under a service contract. "Customers with a new installation (under 90 days) are not charged," says Brian McCue. He admits that Island POS used to consider customers "new" - and service them after-hours for free - for the first year. "We found that most new customers are calling for the first two months, and very little after that," McCue says. He also discovered that some customers took advantage of the free year of after-hour service.
Gauging Customer Satisfaction
David McCue says he calls his customers to see if their service problem was solved. "It's another way to stay in touch with my customer," he says. He makes it a point to always follow up with customers who have multiple terminals and those who had what he considers "severe" maintenance problems. "Some customers require more hand holding than others," McCue says. He calls those customers even after a routine service call.
Employees Are Key To Service Success
Three employees work in the service department. "These three employees do our installations and training," says David McCue. All three employees have been with the company for two years or more and have prior training or experience. "Ideally, service employees also have some industry experience, such as restaurant management," says McCue. All three service employees are cross trained to repair both ECRs and PC-based POS systems. "We won't teach them the basics, such as soldering, but we will teach them the way we want things done - the All Long Island Cash Register way," McCue explains.
Brian McCue points out that the company strongly recommends its employees take advantage of vendor-sponsored training, including week-long workshops out of town. "It's good for employees to get out, learn about the products, and talk to other support staff," he says. For All Long Island Cash Register, these training opportunities are investments in its employees.
Service technicians are either paid overtime or receive compensatory time off, depending on the job and the hours worked. For example, employees working at an installation site until 10:30 p.m. usually opt for compensatory time off. Those working until 7 p.m. on a service call, generally are paid overtime, explains Brian McCue.
How Service Pays Off
While for some service may be a necessary evil, both David and Brian McCue say service has definitely boosted their sales. David McCue cites one specific example involving their customer, a Mexican restaurant with sit-down and take-out service. The customer was using two different systems, one older and one from All Long Island Cash Register. One of the older terminals failed. "That particular vendor does not offer loaners. We swapped it out for one from a different vendor and had the customer up and running in less than one hour," says McCue. The failed terminal was repaired by the vendor more than one week later. As a result, when the restaurant opened a second location, All All Long Island Cash Register was hired to provide its entire POS system. "The ability to bail out your customers makes a difference. You do what you need to do to get them back in business," says McCue.
Customers Can Return The Favor
Your customers can also help you, says Brian McCue. Recently, All Long Island Cash Register and another VAR were competing for an installation. That potential customer was undecided on which VAR to choose. The decision came down to service. Brian McCue says this is typical. "When you put four or five POS systems next to each other, they all do the same things, for the most part," he says. "We told that potential customer to call our customers and ask about our service." Customers were called; however, most were too busy to talk. Brian McCue got on the phone, called these same customers and explained how important their "testimonials" would be for this sale. "Within 10 minutes, our customers called the prospect back to verify our ability to provide service," says McCue. That sealed the deal for All Long Island Cash Register, which ended up with the sale. "When we respond quickly to our customers, they help us out when we need it. Service almost always lands our sales," he says.