It’s easy to take your cash register for granted. You’ve probably had one since you opened your store. But this everyday business tool has the potential to do more than just hold an amount of cash. And there’s more than one way to use it. 

In this article, we’ll look at ways to get more out of your cash register and how to train your employees on it.

We’ll also cover the differences between a cash register and POS system and how to know when to upgrade. It’s time to learn how to use a cash register—the right way.

Reintroducing the humble cash register

Learning how to use a cash register is fairly straightforward.

But as your retail business grows, you may need more than one cash register at your checkout area, or you might have several across multiple store locations. Tracking inventory and sales can get complicated, leading to inaccuracies with orders and bookkeeping if something gets overlooked.

Here’s how to use your current cash register.

Deposit cash throughout the day

Depositing cash multiple times during the day, not just at the end of the day, helps protect you against missing any amount of money from employee theft or error.

To avoid having to close (and balance) the till to reopen it with the new amount more than once per day, add a slip or voucher in the cash drawer with the amount taken away for each deposit so it can be balanced properly later when closing. 

Think security first

Close the drawer after each transaction, and keep it locked. Start each day with the same amount in the register and make sure employees know the importance of keeping the till balanced to reflect total sales properly. You’ll need to decide how much shortage or overage calls for a supervisor to review the day’s transactions with staff. 

You’re working with money, so it pays to be careful.

An employee may not think being short $3 at the end of the day is a big deal, but if the cash register totals never add up, something bigger is off in how your employees are ringing customers up.

The cash box isn’t the only thing your business should safeguard. A customer’s credit card data should also be handled properly.

Work in conjunction with your merchant processor to train your employees on how to protect customer privacy and stay PCI compliant. Writing down or recording a card’s CVV number or storing a customer’s credit card number in a computer or notebook could compromise their privacy and cost you hefty fines.

Streamline operations for consistency

Develop procedures for opening and closing your store each day, and make sure opening and closing your cash registers is part of that process. You likely already have many of these in place, but they should be written down in a manual employees can read. (More on training employees below.)

Having set procedures is helpful as you open more locations. Each place will follow the same process, reducing the likelihood that something gets forgotten.

Procedures can be recorded in a printed manual or on a web page. Here’s a great example from Ace Hardware that includes additional details on exactly how they close registers each day.

The more specific your procedures, the better.

Training employees on how to use a cash register

Your employees need to understand every aspect of the checkout process so your customers have a pleasant experience. It’s their last point-of-contact with your brand before they leave the store, and you want it to be a good one.

Developing a consistent training process also saves you time. Here’s how to train your employees to use a cash register.

Start with an employee handbook

When training staff on how to use a cash register, a uniform procedure manual is essential.

Include the following items in your manual and make sure new hires review it.

  • Cash register instructions covering the basics: how to make a sale, entering the price, handling EMV chip cards and debit card transactions, etc. 
  • Procedure for opening and closing the register each day
  • Retail store policy on returns, exchanges, etc.
  • Contact information for technical problems, merchant processing service numbers, and for staff able to answer advanced questions such as entering a layaway or processing a return
  • Process for balancing the cash register and how large a shortage is allowable

Let them practice

Have new employees shadow more experienced staff for a few days so they can see how to use a cash register in action for your business.

But also keep in mind, people often learn best by doing rather than observing.

Hold periodic checkout practices with your team on slower days. Do mock transactions with more complicated scenarios, such as redeeming gift cards or setting up a layaway, to make sure they’re ready for anything.

Teach them good policies to keep customer payment clear

Let staff practice returning cash change amounts, especially if there are occasional till shortages. Both new and experienced staff can feel unsure about counting change,  even when the cash register tells them the right amount.

Have cashiers count the change aloud, just as they would to customers, so they’re familiar—and fast—with this step.

Employees should also make it a habit to repeat the cash amount the customer hands them, especially if it’s large bills. Keeping the bill visible so there’s no confusion reinforces this—you don’t want a customer claiming they handed you a $50 when it was a $20. 

A consistent training process will save you time.

Train employees on how to spot (and stop) fraud

Retail store fraud comes in many forms—employee theft, counterfeit money, and credit card fraud. Make sure all staff lookout for signs of fraud by staying on top of the following.

  • Examining and testing bills $20 and higher to avoid counterfeits
  • Making sure the person’s signature matches the credit card they’re paying with
  • Being more cautious processing credit card payments where the magnetic stripe or chip and pin doesn’t work — a swipe will be safer than keying the card number in
  • Watching to make sure employees are ringing up sales and closing the cash drawer after every transaction
  • Reporting cash register shortages over a set amount to a manager immediately

6 ways to get started on employee training in the next 5 minutes

Here’s a few quick and actionable steps you can take to get everyone on board with how to use a cash register.

  1. Write down the most common register issues such as cash shortages or credit card sales that don’t reconcile at closing
  2. Write out a checklist of possible solutions to the above issues to add to your company’s cash register training manual
  3. Delegate your most experienced staff member to draft a brief cash register manual for new hires detailing company policy, register procedures and steps on how to process returns, credit card transactions, gift cards, layaways, etc.
  4. Schedule mock transaction training days and notify your team
  5. Match junior cashiers with senior cashiers for training and shadowing
  6. Contact your credit card merchant processor and review current regulations to ensure your store’s card transaction procedure is compliant

Employee turnover is normal in the retail business, but setting expectations early can help. Teach cashiers the industry best practices for handling customer payments, and let them know you expect them to follow those procedures.

The difference between a cash register and a point of sale system

Learning how to use a cash register is pretty simple. It’s essentially a calculator with an integrated drawer for collecting money. But its limited function means you’ll need to add other systems to process credit-based payments, inventory and the accounting side of your store’s operations. 

A POS system has the potential to serve as your store’s hub.

Depending on the POS solution you choose, it may calculate total sales, process credit cards, track inventory, manage your customer database and provide a variety of reports, all from one place. Some POS solutions allow you to see what multiple locations are selling to get an accurate, real-time inventory number.

As with any tool offering added functionality, there can be a learning curve for staff. Staff members need to familiarize themselves with a barcode scanner, credit card processing software and the data entry portion of making a sale. Many POS providers include initial training for your employees at no additional fee.

The cost of a quality POS system may be higher than for a basic cash register. However, it’s an investment in improving your business operations and customer interactions on the floor, so it can save (and make) you money over the long term.

Some POS providers even include hardware at no additional cost, so it’s worth doing your research before you choose.

A POS is an investment in improving your business operations.

Mobile point of sale (mPOS)

Taking the traditional POS a step further, the mPOS is typically smaller in size, perfect for on-the-go businesses. Examples include retailers who do business at trade shows, fairs or markets or temporary pop-ups.

But they’re also robust enough for a retail store. In fact, an iPad could work as a mPOS to provide the same features found in a traditional POS system, at a lower cost. 

Smartphone or tablet-based systems also make training staff easier since most people are familiar with how an iPad or tablet works.

Should my small business upgrade to a POS?

Compared to a cash register, a POS system is an investment. But streamlining your store’s sales and operations helps you grow. Wondering if it’s time? Here are some things to consider.

How to know when it’s time

There are a few scenarios where upgrading to a POS system makes sense. Go through a checklist of the items below to see which apply to you now—or could in the near future. 

If two or more of these describe your current situation, you know it’s time to upgrade.

  • If a large portion of your sales are credit card purchases
  • To track a growing number of employees and measure their sales performance
  • If you have a lot of inventory to track
  • If you prefer to look more professional to customers
  • If you sell special order items, where you could benefit from managing vendors and purchase orders from one place
  • If you’d like to grow your customer database and analyze their buying history
  • If you’re opening other store locations

Features to look for

If you’re wondering if a complete point of sale system is worth the money, here are some popular POS features your business could benefit from that you won’t find on a cash register. 

A customer database

Customers are your retail store’s lifeline. Having a database that tracks their spending habits can help you know which of your store’s products are most popular—and profitable.

POS systems can manage email addresses, phone numbers, birthdays and even sizes or preferences. Encouraging employees to add a customer to every sale will help your store’s marketing efforts in the long run. 

Inventory management

A quality POS tracks and updates your inventory as your employees make sales and returns.

If you have more than one cash register or more than one location, having a system that could keep your inventory levels up-to-date avoids confusion with knowing what’s in the warehouse or stockroom.

Purchase order (PO) integration

Having a built-in purchase order module makes reordering inventory simple.

If your business works with customers on custom or special orders, this can save you time and effort. Make the sale, take a deposit, and issue the PO, all in one place.

The features that come with a POS may make the decision to upgrade easy.

Credit card processing

There is strict compliance on capturing and storing a customer’s credit card data. The top POS terminals are designed to comply with privacy and security regulations.

In many cases, POS systems featuring built-in credit card terminals and merchant processing come with lower rates.

Accounting module

A POS system can turn transaction data into a series of important reports. One of the most important functions is the accounting module.

POS software that can run reports on your sales and returns, inventory costs, sales tax collections and the like can save you hundreds of hours in manual bookkeeping.

Cash register vs. POS

Take your electronic cash register use to the next level by integrating it with a POS system. You can manage inventory, analyze customers’ buying habits, examine important financials about your store’s performance and more.

And don’t forget to train employees on how to use both your cash register and POS since they’re the ones who will make the difference with each customer interaction.

Getting the most out of your checkout process lets you focus on customers—not hardware—so you can sell more.

KEEP READING: The Absolute Best Inventory Management System For Your SMB

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