Reducing the cost of downtime in retail
There is nothing more frustrating for shoppers than equipment downtime, especially when they are about to check out. Shoppers have an extremely low tolerance for delays, most becoming frustrated after just two and a half minutes waiting in a queue. For many retailers losing a vital piece of equipment is very costly.
UK retailers on average lose 52 trading hours a year from point of sale downtime. This alone is a worrying figure, but when all costs are considered (utility bills, idle staff and potential customer abandonment) it is estimated that point of sale downtime can cost up to £3,675 a minute. Over the course of a year, that is a total potential cost of £11,466,000, just from point of sale downtime.
This cost is staggering and although it may only reach that amount in the most extreme circumstances, the point remains that when an extra minute of unnecessary downtime can cost in excess of £3,000, not fixing equipment quickly can have a huge impact on a retailer’s bottom line. Equipment suppliers and MSPs have a responsibility to their customers to reduce the cost of downtime as much as possible. So how this be achieved?
Why is speeding up processes difficult?
In the future, the Internet of Things promises to be able to reduce equipment downtime by predicting when equipment is going to fail, in advance of it doing so. For now, however an engineer is still required onsite for most fixes. The only effective way of reducing the cost of downtime is to find ways of getting engineers onsite quicker with the right parts to complete the fix.
This sounds simple, but requires precise resource management to get right and remain in a profitable position. Response times to call-outs could almost certainly be sped up for example, by hiring extra engineers. But to have engineers sit idle waiting for work during quiet periods just so response times are quicker isn’t profitable either. Staffing costs are often a business’s largest, so it’s important to maximise each engineer’s time.
Just hiring extra engineers would not necessarily result in lower downtimes either. Issues with onsite equipment are rarely fixable with basic maintenance; spare parts are needed. Having an engineer arrive to complete a fix only to find they don’t have the right parts is the worst possible outcome. Not only is the equipment still broken, but that engineer will have to return at a later date, all the while, the cost of downtime is creeping up. For this reason many companies opt for a straight swap out replacing the defective unit with a completely new one.
What can I do to get engineers onsite quicker?
As a starting point it is worth investigating a flexible resource model for engineers. As discussed above, hiring more engineers just to have them sit idle is not an effective way of reducing response times to jobs, however, having access to extra engineers when they are needed can be very valuable. This is where a flexible model can prove to be beneficial.
With retail equipment failure, the number of jobs you have at any given time is rarely predictable. You may expect some spikes around Christmas for example, but exactly how much extra demand you will face and how this translates the number of extra engineers you need is still incredibly difficult to predict.
Fortunately, most basic repairs can now be completed according to a script and that means it is very possible to outsource this activity. Using an outsourced model, you can scale up and scale back very quickly, paying just for what you need. This can be a very valuable solution for getting someone onsite quickly.
Locating parts faster
Once you have a flexible engineer model in place, you can focus more on how you locate replacement stock in order to reduce response times as much as possible. Getting access to the right equipment is often where engineers have the most trouble completing a job quickly. If an Oxford based engineer has a job in Oxford, but has to travel to Swindon to pick up the part they need, they will be delayed.
The preferred model for many is to have an engineer pick up all the parts they need in the morning and then complete their jobs for the day. This can offer quick response times, but is frustrating if equipment fails early in the morning after stock has been picked up. The customer then has a potentially agonising day long wait for the replacement machinery.
The best solution is to strategically locate parts all around the country. The Oxford based engineer picks up parts from Oxford, the Swindon based engineers pick up parts from Swindon and so on. By using this model, lead times on calls can be dramatically reduced; jobs can even be completed in the same day if logged in the morning.
With costs of downtime being so high, being able to offer your customers the quickest possible response to issues is a big competitive advantage. Finding ways to improve is a continuous challenge, but by focusing on the basic principles of having a flexible resource and stock in the right places, response times can be greatly reduced.