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Friday, January 28, 2011

The Mobile Cashier: Mobile Payments Enhancing Service Levels

The mobile world is exploding like crazy and the possibilities seem endless at this point.  Our phones are much much more than we ever anticipated, and often times it seems we are seeing the reality of those Jetson or "Back To The Future" things.  I still keep my eye out for the car that will fold up into a briefcase.  And I definitely want the skateboard that flies.

Anyway, as consumers, paying for things in all honesty has always been a hassle.  Standing in lines that move slowly and getting fidgety while you watch the person at the register fumbling through what appears to be their entire life in a bag to find their credit card or coupon.  Having to write checks to the repair man who then has to go back and process the check.  The world of wireless, mobile devices, and systems is beginning to break down these barriers creating new opportunities and improving service levels.  There are some really great things happening on mobile pay services both in stores and mobile businesses.

Visit the Starbucks Website
Starbucks has been extemely successful and always plagued with lines while you stand listening to the order of the "double skinny something something that I can't pronounce".  With an app for iPhones and tied in with their customers' Starbucks Card, customers are able to order and pay right on their phone which generates a barcode  the customer scans at a scanner at the counter.  Not only does this make things more convenient for the customer, wide adoption makes perfect business sense since it automates the cashiering position and reduces rings freeing that time up for fulfilling orders.

Visit the Square, Inc. Website
Contractors and on-location business representative have always had challenges in regards to billing and often had to experience lag times in actually getting paid.  Today's smartphones are providing a solution . . . take payments on smartphones.  Square, Inc. is becoming an emerging leader on this front.  With an account and iPhone, iPad, or Android phone; Square, Inc. provides the user with a free credit reader that plugs into the headphone jack.  The reader works in conjunction with the free app and produces sales tracking, an emailed receipt to the customer, and a lot more.  The system uses widely trusted VeriSign for account security.  Again, improving service and business efficiencies while not adding costs for new equipment (unless your field personnel don't already use iPhones or Android Phones).

In the retail world, in-store mobile ringing processes are emerging and being experimented across many sectors.  Stores have experimented using existing scanning equipment to scan orders, provide a card or slip to the customer, and the customer simply presents the slip/card to the cashier and pays.  Some stores are even experimenting with custom in-house apps for mobile devices (i.e. iPod Touches connected to credit card readers) to ring certain purchases which then connects and processes the information through internal networks.  All of which speeds the processes of finalizing the customer's purchase decisions improving the level of service and freeing up resources to improve the customer experience throughout the store.  It will definitely be interesting to see the register lines of the future.

If you are already using mobile payment systems, what have your experiences been?  Has it truly improved service levels and improved your efficiencies?  Were their barriers to startup and training?  What has been the customer reaction in terms of acceptance or objections?
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