What Local Governments Should Consider When Procuring a Point of Sale Cashiering Solution

Many city, county, and state governments are in the market for integrated point of sale (POS) cashiering solutions. It’s a trend we at CityBase are excited to see. It represents one way that local governments are working to unify common interactions that constituents have with various public sector departments — improving the government experience for residents and revenue management for government staff.

 

Why should governments procure integrated cashiering?  

Integrated, cloud-based POS cashiering software enables a cashier to take payments for multiple departments, while sending that payment data back to both the individual departments and the city or county’s general ledger. That means that a person trying to pay a bill, tax, or fee doesn’t need to bounce from one department to the next in order to find the right person to pay. It also means that if they have several of those payments to make — like a water bill and a parking ticket — they can use shopping cart functionality to satisfy all their obligations in a single checkout experience. 

We’re working with some of our city and county clients to implement new point of sale cashiering systems. In the process, we’ve learned a lot! Here are some of our insights from the field.

 

We asked CityBase experts from across the organization:

What should state and local governments consider as they’re procuring a point of sale cashiering solution?

 

Jason Maeder, Vice President of Product

We have seen local governments wanting to replace what they currently have, which can lead to short-term decisions. The look and feel of the application is important, but cities and counties should look for solutions that provide a better overall user experience to their constituents and staff. The point of sale solution can interact with web payments and/or kiosks to allow the ultimate flexibility and accessibility in government payment solutions.  

Imagine starting a payment online and completing it at a kiosk in cash after you get off work.  The simplicity of combining all payment channels benefits the finance department, as well, with a consolidation of payment research, reporting, and reconciliation in a single location.

 

Nathan Fenton, Director of Operations

It’s important to stay open to reimagining current processes — especially to streamline back-office operations and reconciliation. It’s common to get entrenched in a current process if it’s technically working, even if it’s cumbersome. Oftentimes these processes were developed because of limitations of existing technology, so replacing that technology is the perfect time to reevaluate. Having an openness toward change can foster important insights and improvements, regardless of what a city actually decides to change. 

Evaluate each step to determine why it’s done, and why it’s done the way it is. Does it still need to be done at all? What value does it hold to the organization or business unit? Can a workaround be streamlined? Can a paper process be digitized?

 

Namrita Mathew, Senior Project Manager

I worked with one county that initially wanted to have decentralized, individual cashiering for each department, before pivoting to centralized cashiering. To make the shift, they needed to focus on change management.

In this example, everyone had their own way of accepting payments in their own individual offices. Central cashiering was able to optimize a lot of these processes they were doing individually. They needed to change from the current state to the future state. Here are some strategies that worked for them:

  • Have clear communication and clear understanding of pain points that are being addressed with the new solution.
  • Support all your different stakeholders. Guiding them along through the implementation process can help mitigate any issues and improve user adoption for go-live. 
  • Consider security surrounding cash handling. Centralized cashiering helps by reducing the number of people handling money across government buildings.
  • Think through revenue management and reporting. Central cashiering should include a central revenue management system, one that reflects all payments across the government, with permission levels that let the right people see transactions for the right departments. 

 

Matt Johnson, Lead Solutions Engineer

  • PCI compliance. On-site hardware can bring you into PCI scope if the card readers transmit card data on your network. Work with a vendor that minimizes PCI scope by using cellular networks for handling card transactions.
  • Up-time. People are coming in person to pay. If the system is down, it is very, very frustrating and costly to the constituents.
  • Customer service. Can you rely on your vendor for easy customer service and fast hardware replacement timelines?
  • Service fees in a single dip. If you charge a service fee, it is a separate transaction. Not many POS readers support processing the fee as a single “dip” of the card. Having a POS solution (like CityBase’s) that supports a single-dip transaction promotes customer convenience, and also optics. “Why are you charging my card twice?” becomes a common question to deal with when cashiers need to swipe customer cards once for the debt and again for the service fee, which tends to frustrate customers.
  • Remote access. Especially in these trying times, having the ability to access systems remotely is key to the success of any software implementation. That includes remote access to the POS software so you can look up customer obligations, as well as to a secure environment to collect payment information.

 

Madeline Allen, Senior Account Manager

Here are few questions cities and counties can ask themselves to help evaluate the right solution for their needs:

  • Transaction volume. What is your long term game plan for in-person payments? Are people moving to other payment methods like web and mobile? 
  • Cash-handling. Is there a way to reduce or replace cash handling by introducing self-service kiosks to route walk-in customers who pay in cash? This could help decrease liability surrounding cashier cash-handling. 
  • Integrations. How can you leverage integrations across multiple payment channels to ensure smooth implementation and scalability?
  • Centralization. Identify early on whether you will use decentralized or centralized cashiering. Can you take payments cross-departmentally, and create processes to easily add on additional departments and debt types?

 

Devin MacDonald, Design Manager

The point of sale software is obviously important, but so is the customer experience when interacting with cashiers. Ask yourself:

  • What kind of physical space will this technology be in? 
  • How many different types of payment (credit cards, check, and cash) will be taken? 
  • How will you effectively move the customer through the space so the process is as seamless as possible for them? 

Think about the best customer experience you’ve had while making a payment in person. How can you emulate this?

Additionally, consider the underlying data. If the point of sale system is being implemented across different departments or agencies, each one will probably identify a customer differently in their source system. Some will identify customers by name, some by account number, and others might have a completely unique identifier that no other department or agency uses. 

A customer might not know what those pieces of information are when they reach a cashier. How can you transform the underlying data structure so a customer’s debt can be found easily across multiple departments with one unique identifier?

At the end of the day, you have to put yourself in the customer’s shoes. How can you model the entire experience in a way that is as painless as possible for them?

 

Patrick Morris, Solution Engineering Manager

Local governments should aim to improve ease of use for their cashiers. How can you reduce the amount of time (and frustration) for a cashier to look up a debt, create or modify an order, and check out customers?

Some things we found when shadowing cashiers:

  • Scrolling through a list of debt types was really time consuming. We implemented “fuzzy search” functionality. Like with Google, cashiers can begin typing in the name of a debt or department for it to automatically bring up relevant results. Any string of words will pull up the item you’re looking for.
  • Minimizing the amount of screens a cashier needs to click through can drastically reduce the amount of time it takes them to check out a customer. Cashiers can build an order much faster with a streamlined, more intuitive click-through path.
  • Cashiers need to easily do things beyond straightforward checkouts, like putting orders on hold, bringing them back live, or voiding a recent transaction. Software should solve for these common use cases to improve the user experience of cashiers and their customers.

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