Arctic Reservations

Arctic Reservations

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To Batch or Not to Batch? That is the Question.

Version 2 introduced a subtle, easily overlooked accounting feature – the ability to track deposits and batches. Previously, Arctic would automatically assume all transactions were settled on the day they were run. This worked well for the most part but sometimes, especially when processing online reservations or online payments, a conflict would arise between the “End of Day Balance” report and the “Batch Report” from the payment gateway. Generally, this was caused because  payment gateways close batches at slightly different times. For Arctic a day runs from midnight to midnight, while the payment gateway may use a different time depending on their business hours or timezone. Sometimes you would find that Arctic was listing additional transactions that were not batched until the following day, or vice versa. This didn’t happen often but it made reconciling batches more time consuming and created small discrepancies in accounting reports.

In Version 2, we added a feature that allows you to tell Arctic which transactions run on any given day made it into your batch from your payment gateway thus ensuring the two reports always match. In light of this new feature, Arctic is, by default, set to batch credit card transactions. However, if you are unaware of this feature, it can cause problems with your financial reports and gift certificate available balances. When set to batch credit card transactions, Arctic will exclude transactions until the batch deposit is recorded, as it does not think the transactions have settled and that you have actually received the funds.

To figure out if you have unsettled transactions, go to the “Invoices” menu and click “Record Deposits”. If you open this page and find a lot of unsettled transactions, please contact us and we will be happy to settle these old transactions for you. You can do them manually but it is generally best to let us settle them for you as this will save you a lot of time and effort.

Going forward there are a few different options available for you for batching transactions depending on your installation configuration and your preferences. If you have Authorize.Net as your payment gateway, you can enable a special API that will batch credit card transactions automatically. If you are using a different gateway you can record your batches manually, or if you prefer you can disable credit card batching entirely. In addition, you can enable batching for manual transactions as well if you want Arctic to have very accurate accounting data.  All of these options are detailed in the “Transaction Batching” guide in your support documentation.

Again, if you find that you have lots of unsettled past transactions, contact support and we will be happy to settle them for you. Also feel free to contact us with any questions regarding batching transactions on your installation. You can email us at support@arcticreservations.com or call us at (601) ARCTIC – 9 or (601)272-8429.

Arctic Natural Disaster Relief

At Arctic, we care about each of our clients and know that without you, we would not be the company we are today. We value the community you have helped us build and want to do all we can to promote the success of each member of that community. We understand  the challenges faced by small businesses and in particular those of  the outdoor tourism industry. The most frustrating of these challenges can be Mother Nature because she is beyond our control but can effect our businesses substantially. This is why we have decided to institute a plan to assist those of our clients who are taking a beating  from Mother Nature. No matter what the calamity may be, drought, wildfires, mudslides, flooding; we want to help those of you who have been negatively impacted by these disasters.

We offer natural disaster relief for those of our clients who have had the majority of their active season interrupted by a natural disaster. The program will give you options to help you through the aftermath of a rough weather year. If your business has been beat up by Mother Nature, please contact us for more information about our relief options to see what we can do for you.

 

Updates Galore!

This week we will be rolling out a rather substantial set of updates for Version 2. The updates include things like the ability to have multiple guest-facing sites, better guide scheduling tools including a combined view for scheduling all upcoming trips, the ability to create evaluations for rental items, the ability to browse evaluation responses per trip type, trip, guide or rental and the ability to create sets of rental items. There are also a lot of other little updates and fixes that will be rolled out as well but these are some of the more substantial features being added during this update.

The ability to have multiple guest-facing sites will allow you to maintain two different guest facing sites that will be governed by the business groups the sites are associated with. Each site will only have access to the trips and rental items contained in the business groups the sites are assigned to. This feature will be especially handy if you have different sites that control or sell different aspects of your business. For example, if you have summer and winter businesses that are run as two separate divisions of your company and have completely different guest facing sites, you will be able to assign those sites to the appropriate business groups making sure the summer site only lists the summer trips and rental items while your winter site only contains the trips and rental items you offer during the winter. Or if you offer horse back riding on one site and multi-day hiking trips on another then you can create guest facing sites for each of these different web sites.

The guide scheduling tools are getting quite a few new useful tools. These tools include the ability to enter “Start Dates” and “End Dates” as well as the ability to enter vacation dates for your guides. These dates will let Arctic know when your guides are available to work and when they are not. If a guide is not available, they will not appear in the list of guides when you are scheduling trips. Also there is a new “Guide” page found under the “Trips” menu that will allow you to schedule your guides on all of your upcoming trips from one page. You will no longer have to go to each and every trip and click the “Schedule Guides” button to schedule your guides. You can use the “Guide” page and schedule your guides for multiple trips all in one place. Both of these features will make managing your guides in Arctic much simpler and easier.

In this update, you will also now be able to create evaluations for rentals. This is particularly useful  for lodging rentals. To create a rental evaluation you follow the same steps for creating a trip evaluation. Once the form is completed you will assign it to your rental business groups by going to the “Settings” page and choosing the appropriate business group from the blue “Business Group” drop down menu at the top of the page. If you have only one business group or plan to use the same evaluation for all of your rentals you will leave it on the “System – Wide Settings” business group. Once the appropriate business group has been selected go to the “Rentals” section of the “Settings” page and click the “Pencil” icon next to “Evaluation”. This will open the “Configure Evaluation” page where you will select the evaluation form you created to use for this rental business group and then click “Save Setting” to save your changes.

We are also adding the ability to browse evaluation responses per trip type, trip, guide and rental. If a trip, guide or rental has an evaluation form associated with it, Arctic will display an “Evaluation Responses” button on either the “View Trip”, “View Person” (for guides) or the “View Item” page. When you click these buttons, Arctic will display the responses specifically associated with the trip, guide or rental, you were viewing when you clicked the “Evaluation Responses” button. You will also be able to see evaluation responses per trip type. To see the evaluation responses related to a particular trip type go to the “Trips” menu and choose “Types”. On the “Browse Trip Types” page, click the new “Wrench” icon as shown here:

Updates 1 - 6-23-14

Note, you will only see the “Evaluation Responses” option in the “Wrench” menu, if the trip type has an evaluation form assigned to it. As you can see there are also other handy tools in the new “Wrench” menu, such as the ability to create trips, find trips, browse the calendar or the ability to delete an existing trip type.  As with the “Evaluation Responses” button when you select the “Evaluation Responses” from the “Wrench” menu the evaluation responses will automatically be filtered for that specific trip type. This is also true of the “Find Trips” and the “Browse Calendar” options also found in the “Wrench” menu.

Finally, the last big new feature being added in this update is the sets of rental items feature. This new feature will allow you to create sets of rental gear that can be rented all together as one item. Arctic will track the inventory associated with each item included in the set to be sure you do not over extend your inventory. This works particularly well for things like camping gear packages that included a backpack, tent, sleeping bag and camp mat. With the rental item sets you will be able to make a single item called “Camping Gear” that will include all of the individual rental items and Arctic will allocate the appropriate number of each item in the set each time someone rents “Camping Gear”. If you would like to use this feature, you must turn it on by going to the “Settings” page under “Rentals” and clicking the “Pencil” icon next to “Enable Rental Item Sets”. Once the feature is turned on you will see a new tab on your “Create/Edit Rental Item” pages that will be called “Set Items”. This is where you will add the rental items that should be included in the Rental Item Set.

Updates 2 - 6-23-14

We will be adding support documentation for all of these features in the coming days but if you have any questions or encounter any issues using the new features, please feel free to contact technical support. You can email us at support@arcticreservations.com or call (601) ARCTIC 9 (that’s 601-272-8429).

The Inside Scoop on International Transactions

Ok, so many of you have had this come up at least once. You have an international customer who tries to either book or pay their invoice online and their cards are declined. This may have even happened when you try to process the transaction through the back end making life really frustrating for you and your international guests especially when you can’t figure out why and you are 90% positive you have been told that Arctic is internationally friendly, capable of handling international phone numbers and addresses. So you start thinking you were bamboozled and Arctic isn’t internationally friendly. It’s an Isolationist who only likes US citizens and is screwing up your business with your international guests. All of which is accompanied by a choice selection of expletives, weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth. Can I get an amen?

Well, I am here to set the record straight. Arctic is not the evil villain of this story. Your payment gateway is the one who is thwarting your international transactions. Arctic is, in fact, capable of accepting international addresses and phone numbers. Arctic provides the gateway with all of the information needed to verify the card. The problem, when processing international payments, is that your gateway fraud protection settings are most likely set to reject transactions where the address and zip code cannot be verified.

“Wait a minute!” you shout with brow furrowed in frustration, “I entered the correct billing address for the card into Arctic, so what’s the deal? Why is the card still being declined?”

The other side of the problem is that certain regions don’t allow or support address verification. Germany and Australia tend to be common culprits.  Most gateways can work with some international regions, but there is just nothing to do for the countries that either for legal reasons (consumer protection) or technological reasons (different credit card infrastructure) can not validate addresses. So, when you have address verification as a requirement for your fraud protection settings on your gateway, the unverifiable addresses will be declined every time.

To fix this issue, you should contact  your payment gateway provider and discuss changing your fraud protection settings to allow for transactions where the address doesn’t match or can’t be verified. You may be able to negotiate a little higher rate for those instances where this happens, as is the case with international transactions, and a lower rate for the instances where they are able to successfully verify the address for the card being used. Once you have your fraud protection settings adjusted with your payment gateway provider, your international transactions should start going through without a hitch and you will once again be merrily singing, “It’s a Small World After All”. :)

 

 

 

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Arctic announces on-site consultation service!

That’s right folks, you heard it here first. Arctic Reservations is offering a brand new service to all of our clients: on-site consultations. Inspired by the success of our annual Arctic Summit and feedback from a handful of outfitters, we now offer the ability to work with Arctic’s team in-person and on-premises.

Having worked with several dozen outfitters across North America, we are excited to take the knowledge we have gained and apply it to new companies and new challenges. We believe that strategic use of technology can streamline office processes and help grow your business through marketing and online sales. All this enables you to focus on what you love most — providing amazing experiences for your guests. Our on-site consultations are designed to help you realize this goal.

Our new on-site consultations are beneficial for a range of needs, whether your are new outfitter setting up and configuring a new Arctic installation or a seasoned Arctic user seeking to implement new features and functionality such as online reservations. This service can also be used to help you hone your existing setup to further capitalize on Arctic’s many benefits and features with the aim of increasing efficiency and improving customer service. On-site consultations provide the opportunity for you and your staff to work one-on-one with an Arctic team member. This close collaboration allows for in-depth training, sharing of best practices and targeted feedback about the unique challenges that your business faces. We will also be able to gain a first-hand of your business and infrastructure and be able to offer our insight and guidance regarding putting Arctic to work for your needs in the most beneficial way possible.

Each on-site consultation will be built around your goals. All we need from you is an idea of your desired outcomes for the consultation (for example, staff training, setup assistance, etc.) and when you would like us to come. We will help you determine a realistic duration to achieve the goals and provide an estimate of costs for the on-site consultation. Should you accept the proposed consultation, an Arctic team member will make travel arrangements to visit your office and spend time in the area working with you and your staff to achieve the goals.

If you are interested in an on-site consultation with one of the talented and amazing Arctic techs, feel free to call us at 601-ARCTIC-9 (that’s 601-272-8429) or email us at support@arcticreservations.com and we will be happy to provide you with an estimate.

New Feature: Check-In View

We recently launched a new feature for tracking guest arrivals, whether they have a rental or a reservation. For outfitters with many simultaneous activities or large groups arriving, the check-in view provides a clear and concise location to see all upcoming activities, review status information and record when guests arrive.

Check-In View

The system is well suited to both tablets and computers. Each open copy of the check-in report stays synchronized, so if a group checks in with one employee, all other employees will be able to see that the group has arrived and is ready. This enables staff to establish multiple check-in “counters” within the office or at the put-in location. Each staff member can keep tabs on who has arrived and when trips are ready to launch by monitoring when all reservations have been marked as checked in.

In addition to providing a streamlined tool to track arrivals and begin trips or rentals, the check-in view highlights important notes for activities as well, such as missing waivers or any outstanding balance. This way, during the check-in process, staff members can collect any missing requirements and information from guests before the trip begins.

And the whole setup is highly customizable, as with many features in Arctic. The check-in view can include custom columns, activity notes and even be broken down by activity information, such as pickup location.

Overall, we hope this new tool will simplify guest arrival for busy day-trip outfitters and rental operations, making it easier to quickly check in guests and ensure that all information has been received and processed for each guest.

If you want to enable the check-in view on your installation, contact support.

Transitioning with Zen: Upgrading to Version 2

Alright everyone, break out your yoga mats, assume the lotus position, close your eyes and take a deep breath. (Ahhhh……) Now while we are cool, calm and collected, let’s talk about transitioning to Version 2.

Step 1: The Test Installation: Let Everyone Take a Spin

Upgrading is exciting because of all of the new features that have been added to Version 2 but it is not something that should be taken on lightly. While many of  the day to day operations are the same, there are several little tweaks that can throw you off your groove and have you longing for the comfort and familiarity of Version 1. The Test Installations are perfect for introducing you and your reservationists to the new look and feel of Version 2.

Realizing that several of you want to upgrade during your slow seasons so you are working with a diminished staff, it would still be good, if your lead reservationists, at the very least, were given a chance to look over the new system. Since Arctic is web based, your team could easily take Version 2 for a spin in the leisure of their own homes or maybe just spend an odd day at the office getting acquainted with the system. You can even have a “Version 2 Upgrade Party”, where you bring your staff in, just for a day or two, to play with the Test Installation. All of the existing log on’s for you and your staff will continue to work in the Test Installation, so no extra configuration is needed on your part to allow your staff access to the new version. I cannot emphasize enough how important this is to maintaining your Zen when upgrading to Version 2.

If you upgrade without allowing your staff to familiarize themselves with the new system, you could find yourself and your staff in a potentially stressful and frustrating situation post upgrade. As an owner, while you are concerned with the day to day operations and how they function, many of you are more interested in the new administrative features available in Version 2, like the business groups, customized forms and reports, being able to track inventory, etc.; so you spend your time looking at how to set up these great new features and creating a game plan for implementing them for your business. However, it’s easy to overlook of the day to day responsibilities like taking reservations in the system, so you are unaware how  the few tweaks to the reservation and rental creation process are going to affect your reservationists. Things like how to merge invoices, how to create a group-mode reservation properly in the new system, how to add a rental to a reservation, how to find rental availability, etc. are all features that have been revised in Version 2 and are all things that can disrupt daily operations and create stress for you and your staff if not properly anticipated. Giving your reservationists the opportunity to get acquainted with the Version 2 will ensure your staff are confident and ready for answering calls and questions from guests and will lead to a smoother transition to Version 2

Bottom line: Save yourself and your staff some stress and give everyone a turn to play with the Test Installation. You won’t regret it.

Step 2: The “?” is your Friend

Even though, it is only a Test Installation, you can still ask questions about it and contact Support. You can even access Guide Documents to help you get acquainted with the new system. To use these in Version 2 you will see a “?” in the blue tool bar as shown here:

Support Menu

Make sure everyone knows how to access the Support Menu and the Guide Documents and knows they can ask questions as they explore Version 2.

Step 3: Make a Game Plan

Another benefit to the Test Installation is that it gives you a great way to tell what is going to need to be adjusted or created to get everything working smoothly after the upgrade to Version 2. The Test Installation will have import notes that will point out any problem areas with the data transfer that is going to happen during the move from Version 1 to Version 2. Look over all of these notes as some of these notes will have to be addressed after the upgrade. Also look over the Transitioning Guide that we send and the Getting Started Guide in the Support Documentation. As you explore the Test Installation, make notes and send us feedback on anything that looks funny or different. A lot of times, there are things we can do, such as adapting our import scripts to address your specific needs during the final upgrade. But we can’t do that if we don’t know about the problems before the upgrade so be sure to communicate with us. Remember, the “?” is your friend. :)

All of these things are the tools you will need to create a good game plan for the final upgrade. Make a list of the things that will need to be adjusted and/or created to get you up and running after the upgrade and prioritize it. Having a plan like this will keep you from feeling overwhelmed.

The upgrade is a two part process. The first part is importing all of your data into Version 2 and the second part is getting all of that data squared away and settled nicely; and don’t worry, Nathan and I will be there to help you get everything settled.

Also as part of your game plan, make a list of the new features you want to take advantage of in Version 2 and prioritize it as well.

Step 4: Stabilize First, then Re-structure.

Many of you are excited about upgrading to Version 2 for all of the great new features that you will have access to and they are all amazing, but trying to add them all right after you upgrade, is not a good idea. During the upgrade there will be some upheaval and adjustments that need to be made to your data to make it fit into Version 2 perfectly. There will also be things that will need to be edited or created to get you back to a stable working environment where you and your staff have all of the tools you need to run your business on a day to day basis. Trying to implement new features simultaneously is not a good idea. This will only add to the stress of upgrading. Remember, your business functioned the way it was set up in Version 1 and with the few tweaks and creations you need to do to get your data squared away, it will also do so in Version 2 as is. Take time to get acquainted with the new system before trying to add the new features. For most companies, a couple of weeks will suffice to get everything tidied up from the upgrade and get you and your staff comfortable with the new system. The amount of time it takes to get stabilized and comfortable with the system will be directly proportionate to the amount of time you and your staff spent looking over the Test Installation and preparing a game plan for the tweaks and modifications that will be involved in the final upgrade. (Have I mentioned how important playing with the Test Installation is? :) )

Once the transition has stabilized, then using your game plan as a guide, start adding the new features you want to take advantage of. Do this slowly and take them on one at a time. With many of the new features there are going to be things you need to consider before making the changes because you have existing reservations in the system. For instance, if you are going to start using the add-ons feature for your trips, you will need to be aware that you will have to make adjustments to your existing reservations once you implement this feature. Having a plan for how you want to accomplish this so that you know you won’t loose any data or miss anyone is going to be key to making the process a smooth one. Also approaching this slowly, one trip type at a time, provides a staggered way to learn about and experiment with the new features, without requiring manually reviewing all upcoming reservations.

Again, remember the setup you achieved in Version 1 will continue to function post-transition, so it is not imperative to implement all of the new features available in Version 2 at once, especially, if you are running out of time before your reservation season really starts to kick in. If you don’t get everything added before you get too busy, you can still work to add these features slowly as you have time or you can put them on hold until business slows down again.

Step 5: Take a Break and Breath; It will all be O.K.

Following the advice in Steps 1 – 4 will definitely help you maintain your Zen during the upgrade process but there are still going to be times when you feel overwhelmed. When that happens, take a break and breathe. When you are more centered, come back at it and don’t forget, Nathan and I are here to guide you through the process. We are happy to walk you through demonstrations on the Test Installations before you upgrade and to offer advice and guidance on how to go about getting settled into Version 2. With some planning and communication, you will find that the upgrade process goes smoothly and with a minimal amount of stress. However, if you approach the upgrade lightly without really preparing for it, it can be very stressful and frustrating. Version 2 is amazing and you and your staff will love it, but, as with any new relationship, you have to get to know it for that to happen.

 

Six Months In

We launched Arctic Reservations version 2 a little over six months ago, and it’s been an amazing six months. We were thrilled to welcome a number of new outfitters into the Arctic community at launch time, and they eagerly took to the new version. With their feedback and support, we refined and polished the software.

Version 2 was our chance to reflect on the first seven years of Arctic and redesign the product from the ground up to be more flexible, more powerful and easier to use. For guests, version 2 introduced a fully redesigned checkout process for online bookings that has greatly increased conversions by further simplify the online shopping experience. In addition, we tried to create a more versatile platform so we could quickly adapt to new needs and implement new features.

Already, outfitters have used version 2 to process almost $5 million in transactions and have provided over 50,000 guests with amazing adventures and experiences. We’ve broadened the horizons in terms of outfitter diversity, adding campgrounds, hotels, aquariums, sea kayaking, zip lines and more. And in the midst of this busy season, we have launched a number of new features for version 2. Since launch, we have introduced the following features:

  • Arctic Retail – a full featured point-of-sale terminal, as well as management options for tracking vendors, purchase orders, and more
  • Gift certificates – with the ability to issue and track gift certificates and customer balance
  • Package management – an extremely versatile package management tool where you simply define what qualifies as a package, and then Arctic looks through your calendar to find all possible packages… no need to define each individually
  • Two new report builders – use a spreadsheet interface to layout and format reports like rosters, trip summaries and more, as well as a pivot table interface to aggregate and analyze data for trends
  • E-Check payments – accept electronic checks and ACH transfers online
  • Powerful new programming interface – to help integrate Arctic with other products, we’ve added an API that allows developers to connect, manipulate and update data in Arctic Reservations (see our open source implementation)

These features just scratch the surface of what is possible in version 2. Currently, we are testing new features and will be rolling out many new ideas over the coming months. And we look forward to helping more of our version 1 customers transition to the new version during their off-season.

Thank you to everyone who has helped make Arctic Reservations version 2 such a success. We can’t wait to share what’s next.

Version 2

For the last 18 months, we have been hard at working reimagining the features and functionality of the ideal reservation and customer relations management system. Based on over seven years of experience working with outdoor adventure companies, we wanted to create a new version of Arctic Reservations that truly addresses the needs of adventure outfitters. There are many challenges to managing scheduling and inventory in the industry, such as sharing inventory across trips and rentals, managing permits and compliance, running multi-location businesses, filing waivers, communicating with guests, etc. Arctic Reservations has long been a leading tool for the industry, but we thought we could do it even better.

Version 2 represents that labor come to life. We have worked to create a new version from the ground up that is even easier to use, but able to rise to the complex challenges that many outfitters have to tackle on a day-to-day basis. The new version introduces many powerful features, including:

  • Manage independent business units through one installation. Finances and configurations are kept separate, while reports and data can be run across the whole organization. User accounts can be specific to one business group, meaning reservationist will be able to easily manage the reservations relevant to their focus.
  • Customize forms and reports to add and remove fields as you see fit. It is possible to tailor Arctic Reservations to your exact business needs.
  • Remarkable new design editors. Customize the look and feel of the guest-facing website and emails in seconds – no coding needed.
  • A powerful new inventory engine that allows you to manage and allocate your limited resources across all sectors of your business: tours, rentals, lodging, retail and more. In addition, rental inventory can now be shared with trip inventory, so that you can better manage your scarce resources.
  • Accept online rentals of rooms and equipment.
  • A full retail POS interface and e-commerce store (coming Spring 2013).
  • And much more…We can’t wait to share the hundreds of new features. Email or call to setup a guided tour.

Today we have started setting up the first version 2 installations for some new and for some existing customers. Over the coming weeks, we will be revising the software, creating a public demonstration installation and working to transition more of our existing customers over the new version.

If you are interested in learning more, please contact us to schedule a guided tour.

Decrease Paperwork with Electronic Waivers

With an increasing number of guests completing their registration forms online these days, many outfitters have been similarly seeking to move waivers and agreements into an automated electronic format. Arctic Reservations has long offered the ability to get guests to complete their trip waivers online, but we have often recommended using this in conjunction with paper waivers. Due to increased demand for electronic waivers, we have been in contact with some of the large industry insurers to discuss the exclusive reliance on electronic waivers. We are happy to announce that you can now greatly simplify the paperwork and compliance demands by taking advantage of the new e-waiver module in Arctic Reservations.

The e-waiver module offers the following safeguards:

  • The program complies with the requirements of the U.S. Federal ESIGN act, and most state regulatory requirements (please contact us regarding your specific state).
  • Each electronic signature is stored in an encrypted, date-stamped format that is uniquely linked to the original customer.
  • The system can handle waivers for minors, as well as allow users to opt for a traditional paper waiver at any time.
  • All completed waivers are securely stored and are fully retrievable for at least seven years.
Implementing this new module can be a great benefit to office efficiency, as it decreases paperwork, decreases storage space and allows you to expedite trip starts.
Existing customers who are interested in exclusively using electronic waivers should speak with a support representative to learn more about the e-waiver module and the necessary implementation steps.