If you are a retailer with more than one retail outlet, chances are you are using some combination of EPOS software and retail hardware to manage your business. Both seem to be completely different beasts to manage over the lifetime of the products.
When it comes to outsourcing the maintenance of your retail hardware, it seems everyone has a different view and it’s hard to decipher fact from fiction when it comes to what you actually need. This makes it extremely difficult to evaluate that retail service contract purchase. There are so many factors to consider that it grinds many retailers into freeze-mode which can mean the retailer just moves on and ignores their retail maintenance needs all together, or stays with a provider that is not delivering on what the retailers visualises their hardware maintenance promise.
TRC has been providing retail hardware maintenance services to over 3,000 outlets in Ireland and over 6,000 locations in the UK for many years. Here is what we have discovered about why buying a maintenance service contract can be so tricky:
1. Easier to Stick with Original EPOS System Supplier – but is it the right choice?
Many retailers tend to stick with their original supplier of their EPOS system for their retail hardware maintenance for two main reasons:
a) The retailer feels that splitting the hardware and the software support may have a detrimental impact. The truth is, in the majority of cases, the supplier of the EPOS system is not truly equipped to offer national coverage and service levels that will exceed or even meet the retailers’ expectations. When a till point goes down due to a hardware failure, it is painful for the retailer. This is one of the most tangible images of your business not making money; the queues lengthen and customers abandon purchases. When evaluating if your current EPOS supplier can truly handle your maintenance needs, retailers should ask about:
- Locations and coverage of engineers,
- Location of the spare parts depots,
- Guaranteed call out times, and
- Experience of the engineers in retail hardware as opposed to general PC and I.T. support.
b) A lot of retailers are not aware that there are companies out there that specialise in retail hardware maintenance, are probably better equipped, and can offer better value for money than their current EPOS system provider.
2. Skillsets – Does the Provider have Experienced Retail Maintenance Staff On-Site for You?
Unfortunately, the image of an engineer on-site with the phone to his ear getting instructions from someone back at the office is all too familiar a sight for most retailers in a sticky retail hardware maintenance situation. EPOS hardware maintenance should be performed by an experienced specialist. Without completing authorised training courses and gaining years of experience on-site, the retailer may be paying for a junior staff member to learn his trade at the retailers’ expense.
3. Limited Understanding of How Long Retail Hardware Lasts & How Maintenance Requirements to Sustain it.
The lifespan of retail hardware is dependent on the retail environment; think temperatures and dust. All properly maintained hardware should last between four and eight years. Ask you maintenance supplier to analyze your retail environment and they can give you a lifespan estimate. Most retail hardware suppliers will understand that you are trying to get a total cost of ownership and will provide you with an accurate figure.
Inferior retail hardware quality can come back to haunt retailers in this scenario. Buying cheap retail hardware at the time of purchase from some spurious brand from Taiwan may have seemed a great idea at the time. But very often, these units are cheap because job lots of parts were purchased at the time and later are very often not available. Ask you maintenance provider what the date is for your machine’s parts being discontinued. This does go back to the purchase when this question should have been asked.
4. It’s a Brand New EPOS System. Surely, I Don’t Need to Worry about it Breaking Down!
Taking out a retail maintenance hardware contract is a damage imitation exercise. Retail management systems are critical to the processing of goods, money and information in the retail business. Downtime of the retail EPOS system can be measured in some circumstances in the hundreds or even the thousands. This does not cover the cost of the repair.
Yes, brand new equipment should fail less than eight year old equipment. That’s why some companies will discount maintenance in the first year and then the price tapers up as the average time between failures shortens. Some companies will average the cost and the retailer can negotiate a fixed three-year contract in order to bring certainty of long-term pricing for budgetary considerations.
The manufacturer warranty will normally cover parts and labour for between 60 days and a year from manufacturing date. This is a return to manufacturer or international distributor. It does not cover the wages and time of the engineer dispatched to the site, the cost for transport and fuel, or parking to get to the site. If the unit cannot be fixed, most contracts will replace or loan a unit of similar or better but this is also not covered.
5. Confusing Terms & Conditions – What’s Included and What’s Not?
We all dislike long contracts which seem to be written to protect one party rather than the customer. However, this is a significant spend and time needs to be taken to completely understand the terms and conditions. Significant things to check when reviewing the terms and conditions of a retail maintenance services contract are: hours of coverage and the clear definition of “emergency or critical incident” to make sure their definition is the same as yours.
6. Unclear on What to Budget for Retail Maintenance Services
You likely budgeted for the purchase of hardware but are unclear about what to invest in its maintenance. Retail hardware maintenance services come in different flavours. Your supplier will work closely with you to make sure the service level agreement (SLA) is tailored to meet your individual requirements. If you need 24-7 coverage with a two-hour on site attendance clause, then you won’t mind paying for it. But your supplier should discuss whether you are happy with an eight-hour on site response or even next business day. This obviously has and effect on the prices. Please check with your suppliers but a guide would be from 10% to 18% of replacement cost for a SLA that covers attendance parts and replacements.
What has TRC Done to Help Make it Easier for Retailers to Purchase Retail Hardware Maintenance Services?
TRC understands that evaluating and purchasing retail hardware maintenance services can be a frustrating and confusing process. Here are five things TRC has done to make this purchase easier for retailers:
- Calculation grid on cost of lifecycle: We will tell you if we can maintain on a yearly basis or if we can bring more certainty to your budgets by contracting for multiple years, sometimes up to five years.
- Clarity around response times: TRC will walk you through exactly what is included and what is not in our retail maintenance services contract.
- Detailed information about what the manufacturer provides and what they don’t: TRC is very experienced with a wide-range of EPOS systems and we know what warranties and guarantees are provided by the manufacturer.
- Help with understanding the hardware maintenance lifecycle: TRC works with retailers to understand the hardware maintenance lifecycle right at purchase time and then throughout the lifetime of your EPOS products.
- Dedicated Account Manager: Our dedicated, experienced Account Managers are there for retailers every step of the way to help you make the best decisions for your retail business. We will work in your best interests with a can do attitude. We won’t get tied up in bureaucracy or red tape. If you need service even if it is different from what is contracted we provide it and let the admin catch up later.
3 Final Tips on a Positive Retail Maintenance Services Relationship
With any purchase you make to help your retail operation, it’s hard to imagine factoring in the budget from the outset for what you do with hardware when it breaks down. For our retailers, in every high street in Ireland and the U.K. , they have learned important lessons they live by:
- Ensure your supplier has local engineers to support you – buying a big contract from a multi-national doesn’t mean they know how to serve you locally and respond quickly.
- Document everything you have with respect to hardware and check it quarterly to ensure it still exists.
- Talk to your vendor regularly and establish a good relationship so that when you need extra support and service, your provider is ready to respond.