You have probably heard the old adage that “there is no such thing as a free lunch.” It’s just another way of saying that you usually get what you pay for. Not surprisingly, the saying can hold true when it comes to the point of sale systems (POS) that you use in your business, particularly if they aren’t provided by a trusted supplier backing them up.
As you might guess, many “free” POS solutions do not have all the bells and whistles you might want. For example, you may not be able to use handy features such as employee and inventory tracking capabilities. If you run a food service business, you may also find that you cannot utilize extremely helpful tools such as reservation and table management, online ordering, and purchase orders without paying an extra fee.
Be sure to assess whether a free or inexpensive POS system will meet your needs. If you run a small enterprise, a simple system may get the job done. If your business is more complex, you may need to step up and invest in a more complicated POS.
Lack of Customer Service
Maintaining a staff of trained professionals who are standing by to help businesses troubleshoot POS issues requires time and money on the part of service providers. It should not be a surprise that some free POS solutions lack robust customer service. Check with the provider. If support isn’t expressly offered, ask yourself the following:
- Am I tech-savvy enough to do my own troubleshooting?
- Do I have the financial resources to bounce back if my POS goes down during a busy time and it takes me awhile to figure out how to get it back up and running?
- Does the fact that my POS is free make the risk I am taking in terms of the loss of customer service worthwhile?
If the answer to any of them is “no,” you might find that putting out a few dollars for your POS or taking the time to find a trusted provider is well worth the investment.
Lack of Integration
When you pay for a POS, most companies will provide you with built-in integration with third-party software for vital tasks such as accounting, inventory and financial management, customer relations, email and e-commerce. Because POS providers need to spend money in order to connect their systems to these third-party programs, many are not included in a no-cost system.
Only a Partial Package
Many business owners quickly jump at a “free” system only to find out that they still must pay for a part of what they need. Perhaps the software is free while the hardware costs come out of your pocket; maybe you are expected to pay for the software and customer support. Thoroughly review all aspects of any POS solution and its associated agreements before choosing it.
Change is a given when you own a business. That’s why it’s crucial that you understand your free POS solution’s cancelation policy. Often, these packages charge you for terminating the service. Considering that your enterprise might grow beyond a free POS or require modifications for any number of other reasons, choosing a POS simply because it is easy on your budget today might be a mistake if you are required to pay penalties for making changes or canceling it tomorrow. Check with your supplier – some will upgrade or switch out your solution if it no longer meets your needs.
Saving money is an admirable goal for any business owner. But before you elect to get a no-cost POS, take time to assess your needs and those of your customers against the POS and its supplier – often a merchant serves provider – to make sure you are making a wise decision.