Customer Loyalty - SMS

SMS Store Management Suite has a new LoyaltyServer available, designed to enhance the customer loyalty offering for customersrunning SMS in a multi store environment. The Loyalty server provides the ability to manage up to 35 separateloyalty rewards programs simultaneously across all stores within a chain.  Points are issued and redeemed within a singleSQL Database that each store accesses in real time.  
The system supports both card based loyalty and card-lessloyalty.  For example a reward can besetup based on single sale criteria, without a card swiped within the sale; thesystem will store the reward and generate a unique single use rewardissuance.  This reward will be printed onthe bottom of the receipt and available for redemption in any store, validatedagainst the central database.

The new Loyalty Server can also be configured to manageinternal Gift Card sales and redemptions.

For more information contact your STCR representative at(607) 757-0181.

The New IBM Self-Checkout

IBM's Latest Self Checkout software update
STCR has recently completed training and is selling and installing IBM'slatest software solution for enhanced self-checkout which IBM calls CHEC (IBMCheckout Environment for Consumer-Service V6.5).  Included in this latest release of thesoftware are the following enhancements: 

·      SeveralCash handling enhancements leading to higher lane availability
·      NewCash Tracking and Reporting enhancements
·      UserInterface enhancements which include the ability to allow a shopper to use anaccessibility mode which makes access to the SCO easier for customers withdisabilities
·      Newicons for each major button which are easily recognizable by all worldwideusers
·      Modifiedthe implementation of the "CLOSED" screen to provide more flexibilityand allows lane to open more quickly
·      CHEC6.5 is the prerequisite software level required to run the new IBM SelfCheckout System 6

Alsoavailable is the above mentioned newly released IBM SCO hardware called System6 which has its own enhancements.

·      Enhancedmodularity
·      Smallerfootprint
·      Availabilityof optional bill and/or coin recycling
·      Standardhigh-capacity coin hopper for easier refills
·      Intuitiveuser experience with follow me LED lighting and 100% above-the-counterconsumer interaction
·      Supports the CHEC accessibility mode
·      Front-end serviceability

STCR Welcomes Elm City Market

Elm City Market basedin New Haven, CT opened its doors to the public this month.  Elm City is a member-owned market that has apassion for local and regional products. The Market was designedwith a mission of creating a highly-efficient,sustainable and healthy grocery store for years to come. The decision to go green was based on ahealthy, efficient store creates an ideal environment for members, shoppers,employees and most importantly, the produce and products contained within.  The end result has been beautifully executed,contributing to the first LEED® ND Platinum certified project in the country.   Throughout construction, nearly 90% of allwaste was diverted from landfills by recycling waste.  The majority of equipment within the store islocal, recycled and refurbished to meet the Market’s quality and energyefficiency standards.

The store has been designed to harbor a strong connectionbetween the indoor and outdoor spaces, encouraging the market and patrons toexpand outdoors, engaging the neighborhood with access from three streets,outdoor café seating, outdoor produce and merchandising.

Finishes are low-VOC, formaldehyde-free, recycled andrenewable and sourced locally where possible.  One such feature element is reclaimedBerkshire barn wood utilized for checkout stands, display cases, accent ceilingwork and signage backdrops.  An abundanceof natural light fills the store while not increasing heat through ahigh-performance window wall system.  Thissaves on lighting and cooling energy, while also creating a vibrant streetscapefor pedestrians.

The electricity, heat and hot water to the store will beprovided by renewable energy via an on-site 400 KW

fuel cell, increasing the store’s delivered energyefficiency from the standard 30% from grid power to 90%.  The refrigeration systems within the Marketare of the highest efficiency possible and selected for their ongoing greenoperation.  The refrigeration equipmentis 30% more efficient than standard, a huge energy saver considering a grocerymarket typically expends 60% of its total energy on refrigeration.  The refrigeration equipment will tie directlyinto an energy recovery system, allowing all waste heat to be re-used withinthe building, not exhausted to the atmosphere.   Additionally the refrigerant from the systemis re-used to preheat the domestic hot water for the Market.  Both measures lower the store’s need fornatural gas heating. The back-up heater is a 96% efficient condensing gas waterheater.

The kitchen exhaust air ties directly into an energyrecovery wheel, allowing the same air for exhaust to be used for the Market’sventilation.   Exhaust and ventilationare controlled via a three zone variable volume system connected to CO2 andtemperature sensors, so the system is only run when necessary.  The Market’s high-efficiency water sourceheat-pumps use approximately 30% less energy for cooling compared to thestandard split system design.

Lighting controls modulate light output in stages usingphoto-eyes located in zones throughout the entire Market. The abundance ofnatural light in the store during the day will allow the Market to save onlighting energy. The lighting systems are also fully dimmable and controlled byoccupancy sensors.  Track lightingthroughout the store is LED. Additionally all refrigerated cases are lit viaLEDs, saving lighting and cooling energy.

The market installed the IBM SurePOS 300 Cash Registers fromSTCR.  IBM’s planet-friendly technology savespower, lowers heat and reduces noise while increasing reliability.

Pin Pad Issues

When experiencing anissue with your PIN pad device, one of the first things a help desk technicianwill have you do is swap the PIN pad with a known working one.   This is one of the easiest ways to pinpointexactly which part is failing.  If theissue follows the PIN pad to a different register, it can easily be determinedthat the problem is with that PIN pad.  Ifit stays at the register, then swapping the PIN pad cable out will determine ifthe issue is with the cable or the register. This way it can easily and accurately ensure the failing element iscorrectly identified, minimizing down time due to improper diagnosis.  Many times the reason a PIN pad is not workingproperly is due to a loose cable connection.  Swapping it out will correct the issue becauseyou reseat the connections, resolving the issue.  

Another suggestion is to have a spare PIN pad and a PIN padcable.  This will not only save timeswapping out the PIN pad, but also will restrict any downtime to the oneaffected lane instead of taking down an additional lane.  Another big advantage of having a spare is ifit is determined to be an issue with the PIN pad or cable, you can use yourspare until a replacement PIN pad or cable is sent to your store, againeliminating costly downtimes.  If youdecide to keep a spare unit available, you should always swap out anyreplacement units once received from the processor with a known working unit toensure the replacement also works.  Thiswill also guarantee the spare unit should work when needed as well.

PCI Update

There is good news forthose of you waiting to hear about where the PCISecurity Standards Council (PCI SSC) stands on P2PE (point-to-pointencryption).  As part of the standardsupdate to 3.1 released on October 14, 2011 the council has updatedits pin transaction security program to include changes that will addressencryption for data other than pin numbers. The changes in this update are effective immediately superseding theversion 3.0 standards.  The full documentis located at the PCI Councils website here:

Appendix A of this document contains the worksheet todetermine eligibility to reduce your PCI scope.

What had not been clearlydefined before has now been defined for manufactures to comply with PCIrequirements for devices and encryption beyond the normal pin pads and pinnumbers.  This new information will applyto mobile devices as well.

Please note there is language that specifically states that the end toend encryption does not take the merchant totally out of scope for PCIcompliance, however this is a very big step forward.


Building a Loyal Small Business Workforce
Successful small businesses use strategies to attract,satisfy and build a loyal, high-performing customer base.  These same strategies can be used to attract,satisfy and build a loyal, high-performing workforce.  Working in tandem, these two dynamics willproduce strong business performance.  Thefollowing five strategies will help you build a loyal workforce.

Make surecompensation plans are competitive.
Small businesses that pay below-market salaries or give theperception of paying below-market salaries risk losing their workers tocompanies that pay more or give the perception of paying more for the same workvalue.

Monster research indicates that salary is the number onefactor that employees consider as they evaluate new job opportunities.  Therefore, small business must align theircompensation plans to be competitive in their market and remove any employee orpotential employee perception that a misalignment exists.

Target the righthire.
Attract and retain workers that will appreciate and valueyour small business company culture.  Monsterresearch shows that about one-third of the workforce prefers working in a smallbusiness culture. 

Top reasons those workers give for valuing a small businesswork environment include: being part of a “family”, feeling more valuable as aworker, being treated as an individual, making a bigger impact and gettingopportunities to learn by doing a variety of roles.  Small businesses can promote these workplacevalues to attract new workers and build employee loyalty.

Communicate a strongand attractive employer brand
Small businesses should build and promote an employee brandthat readily communicates its values to attract the right workers.  Reinforcing such values to current employeeshelps build employee loyalty as well.

Monster research indicates that 68 percent of the workforcewould consider a new job to obtain improved work culture and leadership.  By growing an awareness of your employee brandas one that embraces the values these workers are seeking, a small businesswill attract and keep the right workers who favor similar values.

Continually fill apipeline of prospects
With a vast majority of the workforce ready to pursue a newjob, it is probable that small businesses will lose workers as the economyexpands and new job opportunities grow.  Small businesses need to create a talentpipeline that continuously attracts new talent and the right talent for itsworkforce

Strive to keep your“A” workers
As a small business you are dependent on the key workers whodeliver your business performance. Theseare your “A” players.  These are theworkers whose loyalty is most valuable and perhaps, critical, to your smallbusiness.

Consider your workforce and identify those workers who aredelivering the majority of business value.  Next, ensure that your employee loyaltystrategies—those strategies you design to emotionally engage a worker—arefocused on your “A” team.

Magellan 8500XT Scanner Scale

HighPerformance In-Counter Scanner and Scanner/Scale.  The Magellan 8500Xt scanner/scales are theculmination of recent developments by Datalogic Scanning in high-performancefixed position scanning for the Retail Industry.  No other bar code scanner designed for high volumeretail performs better, has better reliability or has the combination offeatures that translate into a measurable Return on Investment (ROI) than theMagellan 8500Xt products. 

The Magellan 8500Xt scanner/scale inherits the Magellanbrand’s renowned reputation for performance and reliability that has madeMagellan the number one high performance retail scanner brand in the world.  Magellan Scale Technology, Datalogic Scanning’snew factory certified weighing system, virtually eliminates additional costs associatedwith integration.  Scale-settling times(less than 500 milliseconds) are the fastest in the industry, improvingthroughput on priced-by-weight items.  ADual Interval Scale model legally weighs smaller, high-priced items forincreased revenue. 

The Magellan 8500Xt scanner/scale addresses produce shrinkat the POS with the patented All-Weighs® scale platter that allows cashiers to weighlong or bulky produce without touching a non-weighing surface.  Optional Checkpoint® and Sensormatic®integrated EAS antennas reduce shrink at the POS by requiring a good readbefore deactivating an EAS tag.  Datamanagement is essential for managing POS operations.  A new label editing feature enables easypre-formatting of data before delivery to the POS.  Value Added Features are reporting tools thatallow data from the scanner to be used to improve throughput and managemaintenance.  Special EAS reporting featuresprovide immediate feedback and the ability to track EAS tagging compliance on aper-item basis. 

The Magellan 8500Xt scanners/scales are the world’s numberone retail scanner in performance, reliability and high value differentiatedfeatures. 

Decoding Capability
1D / Linear Codes
Autodiscriminates all standard 1Dcodes including GS1 DataBar™ linear codes

Stacked Codes
GS1 DataBar Expanded Stacked
GS1 DataBar Stacked
GS1 DataBar Stacked Omnidirectional

Self-Checkout and Your Customers

Recent news reports seem to indicate a backlashoccurring with some grocers toward the self-checkout.  The primary concern being voiced by thenaysayers has always been the perceived impact it has on the customerservice.  Many grocers who have workedhard to establish a strong customer service culture believe the self-checkouterodes that philosophy and eliminates the important contact needed to buildthose important relationships with their customers.

Unfortunately, this mindset is short-sighted and misses themark on what the self-checkout offers store operations to promote theircustomers' satisfaction.  What theseoperators fail to realize is that offering the self-checkout option enhancesthe experience by giving the customer a choice. Traditional checkouts will always be preferred by certain segments ofthe population.  Other segments willalways select the self-checkout when it's an option.  However, there are other segments of peoplethat appreciate choice simply based on the situation; for instance, dependingon their order size, time of day or night, conventional lanes' customervolume/order sizes, etc.  When thesemoments present themselves many appreciate the opportunity to choose theirpreference producing higher customer satisfaction.

The other important change the self-checkout facilitates instore operations is affording a shift of staff resources from the front end tothe floor.  This is where many importantopportunities for interaction and assistance can be created (or missed); makingcontact, building strong relationships and achieving a very satisfying customerexperience.  By training a knowledgeableself-checkout shopper assistant to monitor, assist and intervene as requiredwith multiple self-checkout lanes, you can create a very positive self-checkoutexperience.  In addition, it allows thefreed up front-end staff to be re-trained and re-allocated to beJohnny-on-the-spot for the customers on the floor needing help findingsomething, making a decision, offering free samples or any other ideas you caninvent to generate customer contact.

Ultimately, the customer appreciates the choice ofself-checkout and the grocer can appreciate the opportunities it creates togenerate new customer service experiences on floor as well as thefront-end.  The self-checkout solutionclearly advances the customer service objectives and will continue to grow as aservice model in many industries and organizations.

EFT Processing

Soon you may be paying more for your EFT processing.
Perhaps you already knowthat October 1, 2011 was the effective date for the Durbin amendment to takeeffect.  This amendment is supposed toreduce your processing costs for debit cards. That was indeed the plan, however since the banks have begun chargingmore fees and stopped supporting rewards programs when customers use theirdebit cards, the customers have begun using more credit cards with a muchhigher fee for processing.

Below is the simplestsummary of the "Durbin Amendment" that can be found on the internet.

Rule #1 – Debit interchange fees are capped at 21 cents per cardtransaction, plus five basis points upon ticket amount, plus one cent for cardissuers who have implemented fraud prevention procedures.

Rule #2 – Debit transactions must be able to be routed through twounaffiliated networks and merchants can designate preferred routing.

Previously implemented rules noted in the Amendment:
• Companies have the right to set a minimum amount ($10.00 or less)for which they will accept credit cards (not debit cards) as payment options.
• Merchants have the option to offer discounts for cash payments, butcannot favor one card over another.

Regulation II - Debit Card Interchange Fees and Routing [R-1404]

Rules summary

PCI Update

PCI is always changingand it is the best practice for any merchant that accepts credit card to bevigilant in their efforts to become and stay PCI compliant.

Card brands and the PCI Council are comfortable with theLevel 1 and 2 Merchants compliance level and are going to start focusing onLevel 3 and 4 Merchants.  85% plus of allbreaches are in level 4 Merchants. 

In 2010 60% of Losses were due to 3 areas:
·       Lost/StolenDevices
·       Maliciousattacks from third party
·       Theft frominsider, employee/friend

It is important that you don’t fall under the misconceptionthat you can be PCI by a simple step or that because you are a small store youdon’t have to comply.  Below are answersto some PCI myths as well as some best practice tips:
1.    PCIapplies to everyone who accepts payment cards even if it just one.
2.    Tokenizationdoes not make you compliant.
3.    Usinga compliant payment application will help facilitate PCI compliance but doesnot make you compliant.
4.    Usinga third party payment process does not exclude you from becomingcompliant.  The merchant needs to ensurethe third party is compliant.  The Physicaland Information Securities still apply.
5.    Evenif you are a “Mom and Pop” you need to be PCI compliant. 85% of breaches are inLevel 4 Merchants.
6.    Completingthe PCI validation is a critical step to reduce the likelihood of a breach butit is only a periodic measurement.  Beingconstantly vigilant is vital. 

Merchant Best Practices
·       Buy and use onlyapproved Pin Entry devices at the POS
·       Buy and use onlyPA-DSS validate payment software at the POS and web shopping cart
·       Do not storesensitive are holder data on PCs or on paper
·       Use Firewalls onNetworks and PCs
·       Make surewireless router is password protected and encrypted
·       Use strongpasswords and change default passwords on hardware and software
·       Check Pindevices regularly to be sure there is no rogue software or skimming  devices installed
·       Create securitypolices and train your employees
·       Follow the PCIstandard

The Magellan™ 1100i

The Magellan™ 1100iomnidirectional presentation scanner is a high performing and versatile data collectiontool for a variety of applications.  It usesDatalogic Scanning’s latest digital imaging technology to provide intuitive andfast reading performance on 1D and 2D bar codes as well as supporting advancedfeatures like image capture and EAS tag deactivation.  A revolutionary External Read Indicator (ERI)allows the Magellan 1100i reader to integrate with other third party RFID or EASsystems for a truly “future-proof” solution. Datalogic’s Illumix™ intelligent illumination technology in the Magellan1100i reader optimizes light levels to automatically capture images and readcodes from mobile phones, PDAs, or computer display screens. Illumix technologyalso provides incredible motion tolerance, far beyond most other 2D scanningsolutions, enabling both sweep and presentation scanning techniques.  The Magellan 1100i reader’s compact size makesit the ideal solution for space-constrained environments. 

With a precise reading area, it is perfect for hands-free orhandheld scanning and helps reduce accidental misreads of items caused by straylaser scan lines - improving productivity and customer satisfaction.  Datalogic Scanning’s patented Green Spot good-readindicator improves user feedback by projecting a visual green spot onto barcodes just read.  The additional visualfeedback makes it easy to use in noisy retail applications.  The Green Spot can also be used to target asingle code from a group of codes or to position a single code inside thereading area.  A comprehensivemulti-interface set and a powerful label-editing feature allows easy integrationinto existing or new host systems.  MagellanValue Added Features such as Diagnostics Reporting, Host Download, plus optionalProductivity Index Reporting™ allow management to use data from the scanner to improvethroughput and manage maintenance.  Inaddition, each scanner supports Remote Management Systems to streamlineoperations and ongoing support across an enterprise.

The Importance of Maintenance

As an Independent Grocerwho is always looking to improve your business and cut costs it can be temptingto see  your annual maintenanceexpense on your POS system as unnecessary expense.  There are many third party service organizationstrolling the market offering plans with a significant cost reduction.  Youneed to consider the reasons it is cheaper:  the technicians are not trained by themanufacturers therefore not as highly skilled; the quality of replacement partsare not equivalent; there will be a reduced service level and dedication toissue resolution.   Using these vendorscan be a costly mistake.  So what valuedoes maintenance have for you?  Below isa breakdown of the three types of maintenance offered by STCR:

  1. Hardware maintenance:
·      Contract Management
·      Asset Management
·      Remote Diagnostics
·      Call Dispatch and Coordination
·      Call Tracking
·      Call Resolution

  1. Software maintenance:
·      Access to software developer support
·      Entitled to software level upgrades

  1. Remote Help Desk Support:
·      24x7x365 access via phone internet and email
·      Remote diagnostics
·      Call tracking
·      Call resolution
·      Remote program upgrades
·      Answering 'how to' questions
·      Software personalization changes
·      Some setup and configuration changes
·      Tax table updates
·      Backup verification
·      Disaster recovery
·      Incident reporting
·      Closed call automatic notification
·      Satisfaction follow up call backs
·      Online Help Desk access for to open new callsand review call history

As you see the list is extensive and the added benefit isthe costs are fixed.  Without thiscoverage you run the risk of costly excessive down times and service bills onan as needed basis, upgrade software license fees, and all the other intangiblecosts of your system not performing properly. Typical to most service organizations, resources are prioritized formaintenance clients.  Don't make themistake and leave your business exposed to these unavoidable situations.  Protect your investment and know you arecovered.  If you have any questionsregarding STCR maintenance offerings speak to one of our knowledgeable SaleRepresentatives (607) 757-0181.

Protecting Your POS Systems

In last month’s newsletter, we talked aboutprotecting your data.  In this pastmonth, many of us lived through Hurricane Irene and then Tropical Storm Lee andmany of us were greatly impacted by the devastation.  While the recovery has begun, it will takequite some time for many people and business to get back to some sort ofnormalcy.  In this article, we willrevisit the simple yet important things that retailers could do to protecttheir POS system and minimize the time to recover in the event of devastation.

UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply), especially the batterybackup side of the UPS, is critical to keeping your POS system runningsmoothly.  During the storm season, thechance of power interruption increases in the form of blackout orbrownout.  Blackout is easier to detectbut brownout may not be easily felt. Power fluctuation can also cause a power surge.  Any one of these power outage scenarios coulddamage your POS system or any electronic devices that are not protected by asurge protector or UPS.  If any of yourPOS system devices are not plugged into an UPS, you should consider purchasingone.  If you have UPS’s and do notremember when they was installed or replaced, you should replace them.  You don’t want to replace your car batteryafter it dies and you don’t want to wait until any part of your POS systemsustains damage before you install or replace your UPS.

Your POS system is equipped with backup devices andmedia.  There may by automatic filebackups but there is always a removable backup device and media in the form ofexternal hard drive, DVD-RW drive and discs. This should be your daily or weekly routine to make sure your system isbacked up to the removable media.  Thiswill allow for the quickest way to restore your system after a hard drivereplacement.  Make sure making removablebackup is part of your operational routine, just like counting cashiers andrunning reports.

Take a moment to inspect the surroundings of your POSequipment.  All electronic equipment willhave vents for cooling.  Take a look tomake sure your POS equipment has room for cooling.  Look at the vents and make sure the ventsclear of dusts and are not blocked. Although your IBM POS systems are designed to withstand the toughestcondition in the retail environment, it is still a good practice to help yoursystem running at peak performance.

In the event of an imminent storm approaching, the logicalthing to do is to move your mission critical equipment out of harm’s way.  If flooding is possible and moving all theequipment out of the store is not workable, one of the things you could do isto move the equipment to the top of the conveyer belt.  However, if flooded, cables, especiallynetwork cables, should be replaced. Remember, the three most important things to do to ensure the leastamount of down time is backup, backup and backup.

PCI Update

Recently updated guidelines foundon the PCI DSS website.

PCI DSS Wireless Guidelines
There is now information pertainingto Bluetooth devices and rogue wireless access points as well as somerecommended methods for testing and detecting rogue wireless access points perthe PCI DSS 2.0 requirements in part 11.1.

PCI DSS Tokenization Guidelines

The guide contains the followingkey principles related to the use of tokenization and its relationship to PCIDSS:

1.    Tokenization solutions do not eliminate the need tomaintain and validate PCI DSS compliance, but they may simplify a merchant’svalidation efforts by reducing the number of system components for which PCIDSS requirements apply.

2.    Verifying the effectiveness of a tokenizationimplementation is necessary and includes confirming that PAN is not retrievablefrom any system component removed from the scope of PCI DSS.

3.    Tokenization systems and processes must be protectedwith strong security controls and monitoring to ensure the continuedeffectiveness of those controls.

4.    Tokenization solutions can vary greatly acrossdifferent implementations, including differences in deployment models,tokenization and de-tokenization methods, technologies, and processes.Merchants considering the use of tokenization should perform a thoroughevaluation and risk analysis to identify and document the uniquecharacteristics of their particular implementation, including all interactionswith payment card data and the particular tokenization systems and processes.

The Datalogic Falcon™ X3

Datalogic Mobile announces the new Falcon™ X3 with Power³ Technology

Power³ technology gives the new Falcon™ X3 from Datalogic Mobile the power and features to tackle applications required by today’s high speed supply chains.

The new Falcon™ X3 provides real time data capture and communication, assuring accurate inventories and maximizing productivity. Available with either laser scanner or 2D imager, the Falcon™ X3 can be configured to match the needs of any department. Both laser and imager come with Datalogic patented Green Spot good read feedback assuring accuracy. Packaged with Windows CE or Windows Mobile 6.5, the Falcon™ X3 integrates seamlessly with WMS and ERP management systems. Plus, the Falcon™ X3’s Summit Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g radio provides maximized coverage, thanks to a unique diversity antenna system.

Attention to ergonomics is seen throughout the Falcon™ X3. The pistol grip version offers an arched handle and ergonomic trigger, making high frequency scanning operations comfortable throughout the day. The numeric and alphanumeric keyboards are set up placing high use keys at the operator’s fingertips, with a universal numeric phone key layout. The crisp QVGA display and backlit keyboard make it easy to work in dark indoor or extremely bright outdoor environments. The Falcon™ X3 is built rugged, resisting numerous drops from 6 feet, while IP64 level sealing protects the unit from dust and liquids.

Datalogic Mobile’s software and service tools complete the new Falcon™ X3 with preloaded and pre-licensed Wavelink® Avalanche™ and Terminal Emulation. This makes the mobile computer ready to go out of the box for rapid deployment and centralized management. Other software tools included are the Datalogic Desktop, Configuration, and Firmware Utilities to customize and update device configuration.



Data Protection

As the technology evolves, additional aspects of our daily lives intertwine with electronic devices. Most people use some form of electronic devices daily and interact with them for just about everything they do. These electronic interactions leave a “footprint” of the person using or interacting with and through these devices. That is why the recent emphasis of businesses to protect personally identifiable information of the consumers. These electronic footprints also represent data that could be analyzed to produce valuable information for just about any purpose. Therefore data protection is vital in this increasing electronic world.

So what do you, as a business owner, need to know about data protection? The basic step is to make a backup of your electronic data. The first question for data backups is what to backup and how often? With the advance of data storage devices, it may seem that we can back up anything and everything. That may be true for home and small businesses. However, as your system collects more data and your businesses increases, it may not be the best way to simply backup everything. A few things you should consider. How do you control the ever increasing data that is being backed up? You might want to take into consideration what information is valuable for your reports and analytics. Take some time to come up with a parameter and build your data backup and protection strategy. Another thing to consider is how to contain the increasing need for data storage. The simplest way is to increase the size and the number of storage device. If you do so at the time when your existing storage space is near capacity, you may not have the time to plan for the best strategy. Take time to plan your data storage need for the next few years and re-evaluate the need periodically. This could provide you with a more efficient system that allows for modular growth.

As your data grows, the managing of the process and data analytics could become more time consuming. When possible, consider automation for every process with a way to audit these processes to ensure completion. You also need to consider is the method for system recovery incase failure. It is a good investment for you to test and verify your data recovery process periodically. This will not only validate your recovery process but also the backup process to ensure that when a real system failure occurs, you already have a proven solution for a quick and hassle free recovery.

As data volumes continue to climb, you need to periodically re-evaluate your strategies for providing data protection throughout their organization. New technologies can deliver higher levels of data protection while saving significant administration time and opportunity for human error. You should not set it and forget it especially if everything is automated. You still need to verify and evaluate your processes to ensure that when you need the information or restoration that your procedure and data are sound and valid.

Incentives to Help Grow Your Business

An incentive encourages a specific course of action by the employees. Use incentives as an effective management and leadership tool. Because of the current economy, you might think that this is a strategy that will break the bank. Sure, money can be involved if you want raises and bonuses as classic incentives. But there are still plenty of ways to incentivize your workers with little or no money involved. Here are some suggestions:

Introduce special holidays. Offer an interesting break from the regular workday if your employees can meet some sort of goal. Casual Friday is cliched and "Hawaiian Shirt Day" is boring. How about "Bring Your Pet to Work Day," "Casino or Bowling Night," "Chili Cook off Day," or something entirely new?

Throw parties. When your team meets a goal, make the last hour or two of the day about hanging out and socializing. Make it into a potluck where everybody brings one food item. This is a great idea to reward your employees without spending a lot of money. If you're willing to spend a small amount of money, pizza is pretty failsafe.

Be receptive. After you've established yourself as someone who uses incentives, watch as your employees come to you to propose their own ideas. If it's a reasonable proposition, take them up on it.

Offer corporate memberships. See what local businesses in the area might be willing to partner with you and give your employees a discount on goods and services. Consider everything from lawn care to sandwich shops. You don't need to chase huge discounts; even a scant 10 percent or 15 percent savings at the register can brighten your employees' day.

Incentives have already been a part of your life whether you realize it or not. Parents give children toys to reward good behavior. Teachers tell students that if they're well-behaved, they can leave class early. An incentive in itself is when you go out of your way to reward excellence in the workplace. Employees will work hard to grab some of that recognition and attention for a job well done. A company that can be productive while having a soundly casual or enjoyable office culture is surely one that's got a lot figured out. Incentives are a great way to figure out what kinds of positive change you can introduce to your workplace.

Signature Capture

Are your customers still signing receipt tape to record their signatures on credit transactions? With the advancement in pin pad technology, the ability to sign for credit transactions electronically is becoming increasingly more popular.

Electronic signature capture offers many benefits to both you and your customers. Capturing signatures electronically rather than having customers sign on paper saves handling time on every single credit transaction. It may seem minute at first, but with the volume of credit transactions increasing rapidly over the past decade, the handling time adds up quickly. Not only does it save time at the checkout on every single credit transaction, but will also save time and effort should a customer dispute a charge. No more wading through boxes of old receipts looking for a single transaction. This saves you and the customer hassle when you are able to quickly resolve a chargeback situation.
Electronic signature capture is also environmentally friendly. With everything going green, why not credit transactions? This produces less waste and also lowers your expenditure on receipt tape. STCR offers signature capture solutions designed for your system. If you are not currently capturing signatures electronically and are interested, contact your STCR sales representative at (607) 757-0181.

SonicWall Firewall Device

SonicWALL firewall devices, do I need one and what are they?

Yes you do need a firewall to protect your network. On the PCI DSS website (see link below) step number 1 in the requirements is:

Install and maintain a firewall configuration to protect cardholder data

“Firewalls are computer devices that control computer traffic allowed into and out of a company’s network, as well as traffic into more sensitive areas within a company’s internal network. A firewall examines all network traffic and blocks those transmissions that do not meet the specified security criteria. All systems must be protected from unauthorized access from the Internet, whether entering the system as e-commerce, employees’ Internet-based access through desktop browsers, or employees’ e-mail access. Often, seemingly insignificant paths to and from the Internet can provide unprotected pathways into key systems. Firewalls are a key protection mechanism for any computer network.”

STCR Business Systems, Inc. sells Sonicwall firewall devices to assist you in meeting this requirement. There are two units that we now support. Please contact us at (607) 757-0181 to find out more about upgrading your Sonicwall.

Basic Access Controls are Key

Who has access to your business systems and what do they have access to?
This is hopefully an easy question to answer. If not, then you have an exposure in your company that needs to be addressed quickly. Controlling the specific authorized access to all end users of the systems that run a business is an important principle that needs constant maintenance and monitoring.

Access control is defined as a system which enables an authority to control access to areas and resources in a given physical facility or computer-based information system. This conveys two important points: first, this tells us the systems need to be physically secured and secondly, they need to be electronically secured. Simple measures such as locking the office door and only providing authorized people with a key is a start. The next step is implementing a simple plan and responsible person to manage and maintain all end user credentials and authorizations to meet some basic goals:
1. Developed role-based access levels - what roles need to perform what system tasks.
2. Create unique credentials for each user assigned to a role - no login sharing!
3. Encourage users to use best practices for password protection:

• Always use strong passwords.
• If passwords must be written down on a piece of paper, store the paper in a secure place and destroy it when it is no longer needed.
• Never share passwords with anyone.
• Use different passwords for all user accounts.
• Change passwords immediately if they may have been compromised.
• Be careful about where passwords are saved on computers. Some dialog boxes, such as those for remote access and other telephone connections, present an option to save or remember a password. Selecting this option poses a potential security threat.

4. Remove credentials for any employees leaving employ immediately.

5. Review user access roles routinely and keep updated appropriately.

Instituting and following these basic guidelines will help secure your business systems, minimizing the exposure and opportunity to issues related to unauthorized access. Be proactive and make sure you have these measures in place before you wish you had.

Things to Consider in Designing A Reward Program

As a POS system service and support provider, we often receive requests from our customers on setting up reward programs. Reward programs could be more effective than other types of promotions because they foster a long-term relationship as compared to coupons or discounts. A good rewards program creates customer loyalty by offering your customers what they need, thus generating value for your customers to keep coming back. Here are some tips on getting the most out of your reward programs.

First, you need to decide the objective of the reward program. Some programs aim to get new customers through referral, others are based on dollars spent or the length of time a customer has been shopping in a store. For retail store that rely on high frequency, you may want to lean toward a program that rewards the number of transactions or dollars spent.

You want the reward program to target the right people, your top 10% frequent shoppers. To know this group, you want to gather information on what they buy, when they buy, how often they buy and what rewards they would value. Data from your POS system along with the right analysis will show you this information. Of course, you do not want to neglect attracting new customers either.

Second, your reward program should offer something that is tangible and a goal that is easy to reach. You should design your data gathering and reporting methodology to get the information from your POS system so you could offer rewards that are meaningful and obtainable to your top customers. When done right, the reward will create excitement among your customers. When they reached the point of redemption, you want to make the redeem process easy.

For any reward program to generate any buzz, you need to reach out to as many customers as possible. Use multiple avenues to spread the word.

Lastly, check out what your competitors are doing. Learn from what they did right and what they missed and work to create your competitive edge.

It is simple for any retailer to offer a reward program. However, with careful planning and the right execution, you could create a reward program that truly generates customer loyalty and attract new customers to help your business grow.

Online Grocery Sales on the Rise

Since the early days of the Internet, companies have tried to capitalize on online shopping. Some have failed, some have held their own. Nielsen, a leading global research and measurement firm, has recently suggested that annual online grocery sales will double to $25 billion by 2014. Currently, online grocery sales are around $12 billion which is up from about $5 billion in 2006.

Nielsen attributes the growth to the increasing number of the Generation Y, who grew up with and are comfortable with technology. Regardless of the comfort that young people have with the latest technology, Nielsen still believes it will take time for consumers to get used to shopping at online grocery stores. This suggests that online grocery shopping has significantly more potential than $25 billion per year possibly turning into a $100 billion plus industry in a decade or more. Some other key factors contributing to the increase are:

1. Convenience - the growing need for convenience has already transformed the grocery industry
2. Increase in Mobile Applications - 63.2 million of Americans have Smart phone, making online grocery shopping easier and quicker
3. Customization - Digital platform allows online grocers to personalize the shopping experience

The bottom line is that online grocery represents a largely unrealized opportunity, but grocers must work to build awareness and establish the value proposition. The process needs to be easy and convenient, and online grocers must educate shoppers about the benefits in simple terms: buying groceries online saves time and money—two considerations that every shopper is looking for.

PCI and Mobile Payments

PCI is again making the news as the group that puts together the PCI requirements (PCI Security Standards Council – PCI SSC) has recently decided to delist all mobile payment solutions. This lumps all forms of mobile payment under one heading, including apps that are encrypted payment specific running on locked-down mobile devices and apps that are more open running on standard mobile phones that have been downloaded and installed without vendor supervision.

Right now since there is no standard, it is up to the individual QSA assessors to decide on what they deem as passing for PCI certification and a location that has been certified in the past may or may not pass now if they are using mobile applications.

Vendors of mobile applications mostly have now backed down with their development and sales program because of this change.

The PCI SSC Council is now evaluating mobile payment applications and their supporting environments with the goal to deliver guidance by the end of 2011.

Invest in Training

The most successful companies have long recognized the value of a well trained staff. Some of the many reasons savvy business owners realize how investing in training will impact the bottom line are:

• Increase job satisfaction and morale among employees
• Increase employee motivation
• Increase efficiencies in processes, resulting in financial gain
• Increase capacity to adopt new technologies and methods
• Increase innovation in strategies and products
• Reduce employee turnover; enhanced company image.

These are just some of the compelling arguments to make ongoing training an organizational goal. Staff training can be on the job where more experienced employees are assigned to train new employees. Cross-training existing employees for various tasks handled by other staff members is also important. This ensures operations are not disrupted when employees leave the company either temporarily or permanently. Sometimes a company does not have the knowledge internally to train staff for various reasons:

• Key person left the company
• Company acquired new technology
• Leverage more feature/function from their current technology.
Regardless of the reason, a prudent owner will recognize the investment value of developing his human resources to actualize increased efficiencies that will ultimately impact the bottom line.

These same principles hold true for independent grocers in this competitive market. As a solutions provider for independent grocers we understand these needs and have developed training programs to assist our customers in this ongoing effort. If you want to make the investment to improve your operation, contact your STCR Sales Representative at (607) 757-0181. They can tell you about what options and programs we can customize to fit your specific needs and then see how it can improve your bottom line.

Are You Ready for Summer

It’s summer time! Schools are out and the temperatures are rising. While most people look forward to  vacations and fun in the sun, a lot of us look forward to staying inside and turning on the AC. Each year the demand of electricity increases with the increase of power-consuming electronic devices. This puts a strain on our power grid and the results are potential power interruption that could affect any electronic device. As the temperatures rise, so does the need to keep your electronic devices operating in cool atmosphere. Here are some good practices to keep your hard-working computers and registers running in optimal condition.

Battery Backup (UPS): If you do not remember when you purchased your current battery backup devices, it is time to replace them. UPS’s are critical equipment to prevent any electrical surge from damaging your electronic devices. A slight electrical disruption could have a big impact on your electronics including networking devices. UPS’s are an inexpensive investment that protects your entire front-end and back-office operation.

System Backup: This is one of the most overlooked tasks in operating a POS system. As with any computerized systems, your POS is not immune to failure. The IBM POS systems have automated backups as well as the ability to provide manual, off-site backup capability. We always recommend that you run manual backup procedures and make removable backups periodically so you are protected from hardware failure.

Systems Environment: The IBM POS system is retail hardened. They are built to withstand the toughest retail environment. Even with that, it is still a good practice to keep the environment of your POS system as clean as possible. Keep in mind not to block air vents around the system and make sure there is sufficient air circulation. Clean vents of built-up dusts and keep in mind the temperature of the room where you place your computers.

These are some of the good practices to do any time of the year. Performing these checks and implementing will help ensure your POS system runs cool all summer long.