Office Depot Integrates CRM, Payment Into A Printer

A self-service printer that accepts payment cards is not extraordinary, but Office Depot is taking the next step by enabling customers to use their loyalty cards, gift cards, coupons and tax IDs.

With the business clientele, the ability for self-service systems to award points for purchases is important, but not necessarily as important as allowing customized screens delivering different options for employees of different companies, said Jay Eisenberg, a senior marketing director for the $14.5 billion 1,713-store office supply chain. The trick was in how to identify the customer given that the printer was initially only outfitted with a magstripe reader.

PCI rules forbid using a credit card number to act as a customer identification number, so that option was out. The chain's giftcards used similar magstripes to payment cards, so that wasn't a problem. But the challenge was how to get the AutoPay printer to recognize coupons and loyalty cards, which only had barcodes.

The Xerox printers had screens and keyboards so customers could always, at a prompt, pull their loyalty card out and key in the lengthy set of numbers. But how many would bother? The chain then programmed the system to give the customer the option of keying in their home phone number instead of the loyalty number, on the rationale that they would already have that number memorized.

For coupons, though, the numbers must be entered manually, said Mark Ferrara, an Office Depot senior director for operations. But he said he wasn't that concerned about the effort because, unlike grocery stores, it's unlikely for any customer to be able to use more than one coupon on any single trip. "Most are not combinable," Ferrara said.

The chain is considering future upgrades to allow for the barcode scanning of coupons and CRM cards, along with screen customization for various businesses, Ferrara said. But the current version "automatically estimates the cost of the job, verifies there are sufficient funds on the card, applies Office Depot Worklife Rewards loyalty points, and prints a receipt when the job is complete," Office Depot said.

AutoPay works on the chain's Xerox WorkCentre 5655 and 7655 color muli-function printers, which the chain promotes as providing customers the ability to print color, black and white, and pay all on a single machine. The rollout integrated Xerox Secure Access Unified ID system card readers and Equitrac software for secure payments from the device.

The package "provides an innovative service for Office Depot's network of retail stores by turning (multi-function printers) into point-of-sale systems," said George Hill, an Office Depot senior vice president.