Once upon a time, I was a sales manager at a retail store, and as a result, trained many employees to run cash registers. I’ve rung up my share of customers as well, including celebrities like Sheryl Crow, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Bo Derek.
So I’m aware of the importance and challenges of the retail checkout experience. What appears a straightforward process actually involves many complexities.
Adopting some key strategies will support your cashiers to execute smooth point-of-sale (POS) transactions. Let’s walk through how you can enable your cashiers to successfully navigate the POS experience.
Why is it important to be a good cashier?
The cashier role is a linchpin of retail stores. Having a well-trained cashier makes a big difference to a business even if you possess the best POS system. Here’s why.
- Cashiers handle the monetary transactions as part of the sales process. So if POS transactions aren’t processed correctly, it impacts the store’s profitability.
- Cashiers make a significant impact on customer retention. As the last employee a customer interacts with before leaving the store, a cashier creates a lasting impression that can encourage patrons to return.
- Cashiers stop fraud. They must deal with an array of people walking into the store, and a few are nefarious individuals. They may try to make an expensive purchase with a stolen credit card. Cashiers can catch these situations by employing steps such as checking ID and matching credit card signatures.
7 cashier training tips for your small business
Given the importance of the cashier in retail operations, here are seven strategies to ensure your cashiers successfully deliver an efficient and accurate POS experience.
1. Create a supportive environment
If you’re responsible for managing the cashiers, set them up for success by establishing a supportive and welcoming environment. Introduce a new cashier to the rest of the team, and if a badge or uniform is required, provide that as soon as possible. This helps the new employee to feel like part of the team.
Provide the new cashier with an employee handbook and an onboarding checklist immediately so they can begin learning about the company, their benefits, and other key information.
Then check in with the new cashier often during the first few weeks on the job. Ask them for feedback to see how the onboarding process can be improved. As part of the feedback process, deliver positive and supportive input to encourage them to do their best.
Tips for creating a supportive environment:
Providing the right kind of learning environment not only helps the cashier succeed, it also translates into business success in terms of higher employee morale and better customer service. Here are suggestions to create that supportive environment.
- Set realistic goals: It takes time for new employees to learn the POS system, store policies and processes, and to get hands-on experience at the register before ringing up clients on their own. A good average is around 40 hours. If your store is small and the POS system is simple, it may take less time. On the flip side, it could take more time if your business has many policies to learn, a complex POS system, a large and varied assortment of products, or runs many types of promotions. So gauge what’s reasonable for your business with the goal of giving your new cashier reasonable time to learn and practice before being on their own.
- Establish expectations: Every employee wants to do good work, but if expectations are not set from the start, what an employee thinks is a job well done may not meet store standards. To avoid misalignment and frustration, spell out the expectations clearly, perhaps in an employee handbook. Review the most important items in person with the cashier, such as cash handling standards or a dress code. By ensuring you're on the same page as your cashier, you not only avoid the need for admonishment but also strengthen a positive environment where everyone works together to succeed.
2. Coach customer relationship skills
Cashiers are the last employee seen by customers, so it’s vital to train cashiers on customer relationship skills. Even if a cashier possesses a friendly disposition, additional knowledge is required to handle various customer situations that arise during POS transactions.
For example, a cashier might have to address an angry customer. What should be done here? Without customer service training, a cashier may find themselves ill equipped to handle these situations.
Areas to touch on include the amount of flexibility afforded customers who don’t follow store policies, such as time limits on returns, and the company’s expectations on customer engagement, such as greeting every patron before ringing up items.
This guidance instills confidence in the cashier and makes for positive customer interactions.
Tips for coaching customer relationship skills:
Here are suggestions to coach your team on customer service skills.
- Tackling challenging customers: Create steps to address difficult customer scenarios. These can range from training cashiers on active listener skills to defuse the situation to knowing when to call a supervisor to intercede. A customer once complained and yelled at me for 45 minutes while I listened patiently. At the end of the conversation, he praised me for treating him so wonderfully. Having the right skills in difficult situations will pay dividends for the cashier and the customer.
- Use role-playing: Perform role-playing exercises to help cashiers practice customer service skills in a safe environment. This process aligns the cashier to the expectations of the company as well as helps the cashier build up their customer relationship muscle.
3. Enable POS familiarity
A cashier must be competent with a POS system to ensure accurate and efficient sales transactions. To achieve this objective, allow the cashier to gain familiarity with the POS equipment and software before being asked to work the register in front of customers.
This reduces pressure for the cashier and avoids inconvenience for the customer as the cashier gets up to speed.
Walk the cashier through the POS system. Have them examine the various components such as how to look up customer information or initiate a return. They should also become familiar with equipment such as how to use the barcode scanner and replace the receipt paper.
In addition, cover common troubleshooting scenarios as part of the cashier training. For instance, if an item was entered incorrectly, the cashier should know how to void that item.
Tips for enabling POS familiarity:
Use these tips to help cashiers familiarize themselves with the POS system and processes.
- Use materials from the vendor: The POS vendor possesses training materials to get a cashier up and running. Have the cashier go over that content before jumping into hands-on learning. Just be sure to tailor the vendor’s training to the needs of your cashier role. For instance, if there are administrative tasks performed through the POS that the cashier won’t do, remove those pieces from the training content.
- Employ simulations: Allow the cashier to practice using the POS system with simulated transactions first. This approach enables cashiers to not only learn the system but also how to use it in the most efficient manner without the pressure of doing so in front of customers.
4. Walk through scenarios
As part of a cashier’s training, give them a list of scenarios to practice to help the cashier feel confident in their ability to handle a diverse range of situations.
Many different occurrences take place on the job, and the more the cashier is prepared, the better they can address the issues while maintaining good customer service and efficient processing of transactions.
For example, what if the barcode scanner stops working? How do you process a refund? How are various payment methods — such as checks, mobile payments, and gift cards -- handled? What are the procedures for moving cash from the register to the in-store safe?
As a cashier practices what to do in each scenario, they also deepen their knowledge of the POS system. So while it may take more time to walk cashiers through a number of situations during the onboarding process, it will pay dividends for your staff.
Tips for walking through scenarios:
Because cashiers face many situations on the job, here are some that you’ll want to cover.
- Practice handling cash: For cash transactions, a mistake can be costly. So when walking through practicing cash transactions, include tips like announcing aloud the amount that was given to avoid disputes about the denomination provided, and counting the change back to the customer. It’s also recommended when giving change to hand the coins first, then bills on top so the coins don’t slide off.
- Train not to rely on the barcode scanner: There will be times when the cashier cannot rely on the barcode scanner. Perhaps the equipment can’t scan an item or stops working entirely. To ensure the transaction continues smoothly, teach cashiers how to work around the issue. What numbers do they input into the POS system to ensure the item was correctly recorded? What about in a situation where a manager authorizes a special discount? Addressing these kinds of scenarios in training will prepare the cashier for real-world situations.
5. Train on fraud
Sooner or later a business must deal with fraud. That’s why cashiers must be trained to look out for the warning signs of fraud and know what to do.
Cashiers must know how to check for counterfeit bills with each cash payment. They must understand PCI compliance standards for credit card transactions.
They have to be able to spot a fraudulent return. When they come across such a fraudulent situation, they then must follow the appropriate protocols to deal with it. All of these conditions have to be part of a cashier’s training.
Tips for training on fraud:
Follow these suggestions to implement fraud prevention into a cashier’s responsibilities.
- Apply efficient fraud detection methods: Employ straightforward, simple procedures to check for and address fraud to allow the cashier to maintain efficient processing of each transaction. This can be as simple as using a special pen to check for counterfeit bills when a customer pays with bills over a certain denomination.
- Create a process to address fraud: When a cashier spots a fraud situation, there should be a process to address it in a manner that doesn’t spook shoppers. It could be the use of code words to a senior staff member who then deals with the issue so that the cashier can continue processing other transactions.
6. Provide tools
Cashiers are required to retain a ton of knowledge about the store. They not only must learn the POS system, they must be acquainted with store policies, sales and marketing promotions, and the merchandise.
Help your cashiers by providing tools. At the POS, give cashiers key references such as a list of the latest promotions.
Many POS systems will automatically adjust prices based on a sales event or other pricing strategy, but if a customer has a question about the promotion, a reference list allows a cashier to quickly answer the question.
As part of the onboarding process, these tools can include training materials and a checklist of the POS competencies expected of cashiers by the end of their training period. That checklist can include mastery of the POS system and procedures like issuing and redeeming gift cards and handling price adjustments.
Tips for providing tools:
Here are a few important items to include in a cashier’s training toolkit.
- Furnish store policies: One of the tools needed by a new cashier is a document of store policies. The cashier must know what to do when a customer attempts a return without a receipt, what kinds of payment options are allowed, and even the store dress code. These and other store policies should be provided so new cashiers can get up to speed quickly.
- Assist with PLUs: Even if your POS uses a barcode scanner, in some retail environments such as a grocery store, many products lack a barcode. Provide your cashier with a list of common price look-up codes (PLU) or PLUs for items that don’t come with a barcode, like fruit and vegetables, so that the cashier can manually enter the codes without delaying the transaction.
7. Real-world training
Once a cashier understands the POS system, store policies and procedures, and what to do in various situations, it’s time to put the cashier in front of real customers.
To start, have the new cashier shadow a veteran employee. By observing a colleague execute transactions with customers, the cashier can pick up nuances and tips not easily replicable in mock training scenarios.
After the cashier feels comfortable in a real-world setting with actual customers, they can then start processing transactions by themselves.
They will require some monitoring and coaching in the beginning to reinforce what they learned in training, but over time, they will be in a position to efficiently and accurately process transactions while bolstering positive customer relationships.
Tips for real-world training:
To help your new staff member master the information acquired during training and successfully perform transactions with real customers, adopt these cashier tips.
- Provide a shadow: The cashier may have spent time watching a veteran, but that veteran should also switch places and observe the new employee. A seasoned staff member standing beside the cashier provides a safety net so that the cashier can learn without fear of making a mistake. This also frees up the new cashier to practice customer service skills rather than being too absorbed in the task of processing the transaction.
- Start during off-hours: When a new cashier is starting, they are slow to process transactions. To ensure the customer experience isn’t adversely affected, have the new cashier practice cash register training during slow periods. This way, the likelihood of a line of customers forming is low. It also takes pressure off the new cashier, and gives them breaks between customer transactions to pace their learning.
A last word about cashier training
Because the cashier impacts the customer experience and the handling of sales so directly, investing in a strong cashier onboarding and training process is essential for retail stores to succeed.
Not only does a good checkout experience create a positive experience for customers, that experience can translate into the customer recommending your store to others, leading to customer acquisition.
Moreover, once a cashier has mastered the responsibilities around POS transactions, they can expand their cashier skills into sales techniques by recommending products and upsells during the checkout.
By combining all the elements in this guide, you’ll have a comprehensive solution that will enable your cashiers to perform well.