There are any number of places in the checkout process where a bottleneck can occur. The most common of these is when the neck of an actual bottle jams in the grocery store conveyor belt. The second most common hindrance to a smooth customer exit is payment time. Most tender types have their drawbacks:

  • Cash is often considered the quickest, and often times it can be. But for every Type A who’s already figured out the exact total with tax and counts it out exactly before needing to hand the money over, there’s somebody else who seems flustered by the whole process, pulling crumpled bills out of their pockets and counting through handfuls of pennies and nickels. Or the cashier has to count change back to finalize the deal.
  • Checks take time to write out, and they are almost always written out by someone who is over 70 and doesn’t trust these newfangled card machines.
  • Credit and Debit Cards are probably the speediest way to pay in modern times. No one’s counting anything and network bandwidth is quick, so it’s a short wait to approval. But there’s still a signature or PIN to contend with, and in places like full service restaurants where the check vollies back and forth between register and table the process can be frustrating.
  • Mobile Payments should, by the very nature of their mobility, be quick and effortless. Unfortunately, bottlenecks do often occur, most often when a smartphone owner incredulously asks, “What do you mean, you don’t take Apple Pay?” and fishes through his wallet looking for some other form of payment while muttering, “I’m sorry, I thought it was 2015.”
  • A Pound of Flesh, while still legal tender in certain areas of Scotland, is cost prohibitive when you consider the operating expenses for a refrigerated POS.
Photo by Mark Hodson (Flickr)

Photo by Mark Hodson (Flickr)

So, then. How do you combat the unwanted delays and side effects of each of these tender types? Mostly, with good old fashioned technological ingenuity. The only two exceptions are the flesh–because that was a joke–and checks, which you should just stop accepting, because if I’m ever in your store and stuck behind someone paying by check I’ll probably never go there again. I’ve come a long way since 1973. You can, too. And while you’re mimeographing your “No Checks” signs to hang, consider the ways other payment types get a computational boost.

  • Cash moves at a pretty constant rate–there’s no hardware that will make it go from the customer’s hands to your till any faster–so it’s up to the software to find a way to speed things up. Mobile businesses will often price things inclusive of tax and at whole dollar prices to make payment easier. With Kounta’s Fast Cash button, you can skip right past the whole POS rigamarole of entering the payment so it can calculate change. Just take the money, hit the button and the sale finalizes immediately: the receipt prints and the drawer pops open. In cases where the math is a little more complicated, a smart interface can still move things along by providing buttons with possible amounts the customer might pay with. If the total is $12.50, you’ll see the option to enter $15, $20, or $50 dollars along with the number pad. Little things like this add up.
  • Credit and Debit Cards need to work around increasingly robust security steps for authorization, and every layer of protection adds a step–and time–to the process. In Australia, the payment company Tyro uses contactless card readers to work with Visa’s Paywave and Mastercard’s Pay Pass. Their Tap-and-Go terminals have an average transaction time of three seconds. Even when it comes to swiping or inserting an EMV credit card and entering a PIN or signature, the mere fact of integrating payments into the POS speeds things up. If you’re using a standalone terminal, you’ve got to enter the total, and then the security code, then wait for authorization, then for a receipt to print, then for the person to sign it (and do some math if there’s a tip involved). The modern process of having it all within the POS streamlines things considerably.
  • Mobile Payments at the POS benefit from the same contactless Jedi hand wave process to quickly send money from point A to point B. And biometric payments, like Apple Pay’s use of its Touch ID fingerprint sensor, offer added a security at a fraction of the time. Mobile payments also extends out to apps designed specifically to buy stuff: think the Amazon app, or Beat the Q for placing food orders. In both cases, payment can be a quick and painless process for the customer and the merchant.

There’s a twofold benefit to speedy payments. The first is simple logic: the faster you process people through, the more people you can serve in a day, which means more revenue. The second is just as important, and that is the paradox of the retail consumer. The faster you can welcome, serve, and then get rid of them, the more they will want to visit you. It’s like when you ignore a cat and instantly become the one the cat is going to gravitate towards. I’m not saying to ignore your customers, of course, but often the best way to show them you love them is to scoot them out the door as quickly as possible.