POS Quality Assurance

QA process testing typically ensures that stated business requirements are met and that applications behave as the business desires.

Many retail companies have a good point of sale QA process, but it is usually built from an IT viewpoint. While marketing and store operations monitor the end user experience, perhaps the QA process should also consider more of an end user and customer viewpoint.

End user personnel or customers are much more attuned to the application experience and should be involved in the later stages of a QA process. By adding non-IT and end users in the process, they can provide valuable input in the application by identifying any missing details that would enhance the shopping experience.

Review Ease of Use/Clarity
Many of the lab systems used for a QA process are on tables or counters and pushed against the wall. This makes it difficult to see the system as an end user or customer would see it. Initial testing is performed by IT personnel who know how the system was built and who may perform or assist with the QA process. An IT person usually performs steps and presses buttons in a specific order, many times without looking at the computer or device screen prompts because they have seen them so often. They tend to know the expected outcome and pass the test without consideration of the end user.

Take for instance the payment process. IT personnel know how the pin pad device operates and what screens it will show. The actual customer may have a totally different understanding. The clarity of the prompts is very important in providing a seamless customer experience, especially since this is the final point of connection and last impression of the store.

For example, a customer may hesitate to determine whether a chip reader is in use. Many retailers have placed a temporary card in the chip reader slot stating, “Not in Use” so that the customer does not need to ask the cashier and can proceed quickly through the checkout process.

Consider the Time Line
When a new update to a system is created and tested, the data flow through the network is considered and controlled by timeouts to prevent the system from seeming to freeze. This is especially important in customer management and payment authorization applications. However, is the end user experience considered strongly enough?

Testing for the payment authorization process from a customer perspective may include looking for a credit card, reading the screen prompts and understanding them, failing to see the remove card prompt, understanding if the card is inserted properly or if the swipe was successful. The timeouts within the system must allow for these customer nuisances.

During a recent retail store transaction, the retailer’s pin device looked the same whether the swipe was accepted or not. Worse was that this pin pad seemed to have a problem reading the card, requiring multiple swipes. Several times, the cashier physically took the card and swiped it on the side of the monitor, indicating that they were accustomed to the issue. All of this increased the time the customer had to spend at checkout. A thorough QA process may have uncovered this problem and suggested better prompting and training.

Verify Consistency
Another place to consider the end user is the consistency for how the application performs when the end user varies how they actually interact with the device or application – or even when different end users access the device with varying degrees of training.

The pace of technological change and upgrades is fierce, and the mechanics of that experience unfortunately are not easily managed. This is also exacerbated by the lack of standards with each device. What the customer knows works at one store is different elsewhere. Consistency is key in the end user experience.

Monitor Security Requirements
There are many state and federal security laws, along with industry standards, to be considered and the QA process should ensure that all are met. Typically, PCI DSS compliance is the top consideration for updates to a POS system, and rightly so. In addition, the customer experience should also be considered, as many states have created laws to reduce identity theft.

Take the example where the cashier swipes the card on the reader along the side of the monitor. Is this swipe handled in the same manner as the pin pad? Does it have the same encryption processes and safeguards? How do customers view the security of this? Or, in the case where customers or cashiers must swipe a card multiple times, how is the customer perception of the security of this retailer?

Reap the Benefits
Time to market is critical when working with application updates or enhancements and if the end user impact is not part of the point of sale QA process, it may be costly in the long term. Spend the time to review the system from the end user or customer side of the counter. Pull that lab table away from the wall and walk around to the other side. You may find it enlightening.