Staffing the Point-of-Sale Function

September 19th 2019

by Carolee Colter, Consultant – Columinate

Once retail stores reach a point where it no longer works to have every buyer maintain the prices for their own products in the point-of-sale (POS) system, the question arises—how shall we staff the POS function? Who will enter and manage items and prices to keep the POS system current so that the front-end staff can quickly and accurately check out customers and the departments can track their margins? Should the POS and IT (Information Technology) functions be combined in one person?

Jen Christopher

For insight, I interviewed my colleague Jen Christopher. Jen is an Information Technology and Point-of-Sale consultant. She works with organizations to help them understand and get the best out of their technology. This includes all kinds of organizations but especially food co-ops and independent natural food retailers.

Should POS and IT be the same person?
In smaller retails, the POS and IT positions may be held by the same person, but that doesn’t mean the two roles are a good fit for each other. POS work is detail-oriented. It’s essentially data entry and many will find that boring. IT, on the other hand, is proactive and involves troubleshooting and maintenance. It’s rare to find both sets of characteristics in one person. Larger stores can usually afford to have two separate positions.

What would you look for in a potential internal POS staff candidate?
The biggest challenge is that the work can be boring and repetitive and requires rigorous attention to detail. You might be able to cultivate these qualities on staff. For example, a cashier who notices things that don’t operate as they should, who writes down items that don’t scan, who understands how the system works on their end, could be a good candidate for a POS staff position. I like to administer a test to candidates. It’s Excel-based and demonstrates the ability to follow detailed instructions and catch discrepancies.

Other indicators that an employee might be good for the POS job: A produce staff person who enters the produce prices, understands the system and knows how to ask for what they need. Or a receiver who frequently catches things that are off, and is willing to bring up problems even though it means more work for them. POS work could mean a move away from physical work, which they might not enjoy.

Another qualification to look for is a flexible schedule to accommodate inventories.

How available would you expect a POS staff person to be?
If a sale isn’t working properly, you might expect a POS staffer to take a call at home. But if they’re expected to come in and troubleshoot if the system crashes, regardless of the time of day or night, you’d likely be paying them more and their role would begin to look more like that of an IT staff person.

What are the main duties of the POS staff?
In one scenario, the POS staff person comes in, enters data and leaves. In another scenario, they play a more proactive role. They create reports beyond what’s available in the system. They use existing reports to answer questions, for example, year-over-year sales. They might create movement reports but probably not margin reports (those would be provided by finance.) They might process inventory numbers (though sometimes inventory companies will do that.)

Who should handle taking items on and off sale?
For monthly or bi-weekly flyer programs, POS staff handles the prices when the flyers go into and out of effect. If there’s a one-day discount on a produce item, that would usually be handled within that department. But if the sale is for members only, that would typically go to POS staff.

What about fresh departments?
Unlike center store departments, they may enter their own prices. Their items change so quickly that to restrict that process to a POS staff could cause bottlenecks. For example, prepared foods may change their recipes and need to change their POS entries accordingly. However, it should be the POS department’s responsibility to check in with these departments. Right before quarterly inventory would be a perfect time. As for produce, it’s best to give them complete control over their own department’s entries. The only time the POS staff would be involved is right before inventory.

When POS departments have enough staff to break out in a separate department on employee surveys, they seem to consistently score below the organizational average for satisfaction. They always seem pissed off.
Well, partly it’s “Your lack of planning doesn’t constitute an emergency on my part.” POS staff is the line of defense against errors that affect profitability and customer satisfaction. Unless good processes are in place, buyers may ask for items or sales to be added or changed at the last minute–even when the ordering process took place several days beforehand. It takes cooperation from other staff, giving advance notice of new products and sales. Even letting POS staffers know that a big order is due on a given day would be helpful.

Let’s hear it for cooperation between departments! Thank you, Jen, for your wisdom.

If you have questions for Jen, you can contact here at https://columinate.coop/consultants/jen-christopher/

Carolee Colter is a consultant at Columinate and specializes in Human Resources for boards & managers. Find out more at https://columinate.coop/consultants/carolee-colter/ .