Gas stations process a high volume of daily transactions and rarely are those purchases solely at the fueling pumps. Gas stations are anchored to convenience stores which offer on-the-go items, alcohol and tobacco products, a selection of sandwiches and other meals at the deli counter, and so much more. Some gas station businesses include car washes and bare-bones automotive repair services like tire patches, oil changes, and tune-ups. If your gas station also serves as a truck stop, then that is just one more layer to your business that will need POS support. On top of all of this, many gas stations also offer a customer loyalty rewards program, which means that keeping track of every customer and every transaction can become all the more vital.
All this is to say that running a gas station can be complicated. With such a wide variety of items and services for sale, finding a point of sale system that is specific to this industry and that can meet the needs of your complex gas station business can be challenging.
If you own a gas station, the ideal POS system for you will be one that has been designed for your unique industry. In this article, we will go over the crucial features to look for in a POS system so that every function of your operations, from fuel pump integration to cash management to secure transactions to accurate accounting reports, will be met with the best solution available.
By far, the most effective form of research you can do while shopping around for a gas station POS system with the best fuel integration is to take advantage of free trials. When you use a free trial, you can experience first-hand whether or not a particular POS system can meet the complex needs of your business. But while you invest your time and effort trying out one POS after the next, there are many feature aspects to keep in mind, including:
• Ease of Use
• Customer Service
• Back Office Integration
• Multiple Locations
• Training Requirements
• Customer Support
• Employee Management & Access Levels
• Price Book
• Deli & Restaurant Management
EASE OF USE
Perhaps the most foundational aspect that can either make or break the success of your business, you need a POS system that has been designed with an easy user interface for your daily operations. The interface functionality should be fast and intuitive for both your employees and your customers, especially at the pump where they won't have immediate access to employees to help them.
Take note, does the user interface delay employees during transactions? How long does the POS system take to process different forms of payment? And do the particular features and functions of the POS system demand more training time for your employees? Does your staff make errors while using the system? If so, this could be an indication that the user interface itself has not been built user-friendly and easy to use.
If your customers don't feel that they are being served quickly and accurately at your gas station, whether at the fueling pump or the deli counter, then their frustration could lead them to patronize another gas station. Friendly and effective customer service is imperative for the success of any business, and your gas station is no different.
As you try out different POS systems, take notice of how well your employees are able to serve your customers via the POS. Have customer complaints increased since installing the new system? What is the refund process and are your customers satisfied when all is said and done? Your POS system should be the best tool you have in your effort to provide excellent customer service. In addition to this concept, the POS should seamlessly integrate with your customer loyalty rewards program. If it doesn't, then move on to the next POS system on your list to try out.
Now we're getting down to brass tacks. Not all POS systems on the market have been designed with this specific feature in mind, so you can exclude a bulk of the POS systems out there from your hunt for the best. However, of those POS systems that do include fuel integration, you're still going to need to pinpoint the software that offers the easiest POS integration with your fuel pumps.
A helpful rule of thumb to bear in mind is that the more complex your fueling stations, the more comprehensive and elaborate your POS system needs to be. How many tanks and pumps must be integrated into the POS systems, and how many gas station locations for that matter? The answers to these questions matter. Ultimately, all revenue needs to make its way to your accounting reports, which means that your POS system should be able to handle multiple locations. Cash is another complication that the POS system must be able to manage, since customers will always have the option of pre-paying for their gas with cash inside the store. Further, your POS system needs to be able to track gallons dispensed and also gas prices that fluctuate daily.
Most gas station convenience stores sell lottery programs, but depending on which programs you run at your store, you likely already have lottery management software in place. This means that your POS system needs to be able to integrate with your pre-existing lottery management software and also easily meet vendor requirements for these lottery programs.
When it comes to lottery integration, be sure to thoroughly investigate the POS system that you're considering investing in. You might not be able to explore the real-life functionality of how the POS system pays out winners, so you'll need to do this research legwork on your own. You can directly ask the POS system sales representatives if their system will support the various lottery programs you have, does the system make it easy to pay out winners, and does the system make collecting commissions easy as well?
BACK OFFICE INTEGRATION
At the end of the day--and the end of the year, literally--every transaction that occurs in your store will need to be handed over to your accountant in report form, and these reports must also include current and accurate inventory. Fuel inventory included, since current in-stock gas volume will always be considered a financial asset.
You likely already have accounting and payroll software in place on the back end at your gas station, but you must now make sure that your front-end POS system will feed information into it easily in an automated fashion. As you investigate the POS system, ask yourself, does the POS system track employee hours and how easily will you be able to reconcile those hours within your payroll software? If you manage multiple locations, which we'll look at next, will the POS system merge all of your locations on the back end in a concise, clear, and sensical manner that will make your life easier and not harder?
If you have multiple gas station locations, you will want to integrate all businesses into the same POS system, which means that you'll need a cloud-based POS system. Without a cloud-based POS system, fast internet, and real-time reconciliations, you will never be able to stay on top of how your business is doing across the board.
Check out the internet requirements for the POS system you're considering and also how many gas station locations it can handle. Is the system providing fast and accurate transactions for all of your locations? Can you keep a bird's eye view on this activity from your office computer? Will the POS system track, manage, and report on the various streams of revenue per location as we mentioned at the beginning of this article in the event that each of your locations also offers a service station, car wash, restaurant, and lottery sales.
Not all POS system software comes with hardware included. You will likely have to purchase the POS hardware, including monitors, laptops, registers, tablets, and other devices in order to become operational. So, it's important to have a clear understanding of what hardware you will need. Will you have to purchase additional hardware for the new POS system? Will your pre-existing hardware be compatible? Secondly, before you will be able to fully deploy, you'll need to be certain that the operating systems are all compatible. Will you be using iOS, Android, Windows, or another operating system?
Once you're in the free trial phase of your investigation, take close note of whether or not your hardware is working optimally. Are you experiencing problems, technical difficulties, delays, and periods of down-system errors? Another important area to remain mindful of is how often will the POS system need to be updated? Will those updates be manual or automatic, and how long will they take?
No matter what POS system you deploy at your gas station, your employees will have to be trained in order to properly use the system. Your time is valuable and so is theirs. The last thing you need is to invest in a complicated system that causes your employees to make unnecessary errors because it's unnecessarily complicated.
When it comes to training requirements, you are not going to be able to read on the POS system box any reliable information about this area. The only way to find out if the POS system is truly user-friendly is by trying it out with a free trial. Once you do, you can solicit your employees' feedback in terms of how quickly they were able to learn the ins and outs, and confidently use the system. If after the trial period, some of your employees are still confused or making errors that only management-level staff can correct, then that might not be the right POS system for your gas station.
Not to be confused with customer service, customer support is another vital area that your POS system must be able to easily provide to you, the customer. Customer support, in this instance, has directly to do with you being able to access help from the POS system service representatives, if and when you run into a problem you can't figure out on your own.
Customer feedback and reviews should be available online. How is the POS system rated by other users? Are there more compliments than complaints? When you start a live chat online via their website, how long does it take a real customer support representative to respond? And if you call with a question, can you speak with someone right away, or are you first transferred and bounced around to different extension lines? Outside of contacting a real representative, does the POS system website offer resources to help you help yourself, such as useful FAQs, guides, self-help articles & blogs, tech forums, and other communities that can answer questions and troubleshoot complicated and unusual difficulties? Resources like these can make all the difference in the world once you're locked into a new POS system.
EMPLOYEE MANAGEMENT & ACCESS LEVELS
The fact of the matter is that different employees have different roles and responsibilities at your gas station, and it wouldn't be appropriate for all of them to have the same level of access to the POS system. Some information needs to be viewed exclusively by managers and when it comes to overrides, if the POS system allowed lower-level clerks to perform their own overrides, then the risk of theft would increase.
What all of this means in terms of choosing the best POS system for your gas station is that you need to be able to set permissions easily and tailor your own employee access systems. Ask yourself, is it easy to create and modify manager accounts? Are managers able to use the system effectively for access dependent operations? Can you switch settings easily on a per-employee or per-position basis? You will definitely need certain operations to remain guarded with respect to who can access them.
If you're already in business, then you already have all of your pricebooks set up. You have fueling pricebooks, convenience store pricebooks, deli & restaurant pricebooks, and the pricebooks go on, which means that you need a comprehensive POS system that can handle your multiple pricebooks. But you don't want to have to input these pre-existing pricebooks from scratch just because you've invested in a new POS system.
Does your inventory management software already have a pricebook and can it be imported? You also need to know how easily you can modify your pricebook within the POS system. Further, will you be able to update your pricebooks at multiple locations in a convenient way? If this type of system integration isn't simple and straightforward, then move on to the next POS system you're trying out.
DELI & RESTAURANT MANAGEMENT
If you have a deli restaurant located within your gas station convenience store, then the POS system used there must be associated with the overarching POS system. Likely, this relationship is already in place, however, you will need to make a decision if you bring in a new POS system for your entire gas station. Can the new POS system be installed for your deli restaurant in such a way that the user interface is tailored specifically for that counter?
If the POS system doesn't make it easier to manage your deli restaurant within your gas station and it doesn't integrate into your accounting on the back end in a straightforward manner, then you'll need to move on to the next POS system you're trying out.
Additional POS system features to look out for include:
• Compliance with ATEX regulations
• Shorten transaction times
• Convenient, real-time inventory management
As we covered in this article, gas station owners face many operational complexities that their POS system must be able to easily and accurately handle. These days, most gas stations sell far more than gas, and offer fueling stations, convenience store retail items, and casual dining options, and if you also offer a customer loyalty rewards program, your daily transactions could become even more complicated especially when redeemable rewards points start to pile up.
But gas station owners no longer have to use multiple POS software solutions to manage their overall business. You can now effortlessly run your gas station business, combining retailing, food service, and pump control, using one single POS system solution.
FasTrax POS is a fully customizable POS system that includes the comprehensive features your complex gas station business needs in order to save you time, money, and integration headaches.