Arctic Reservations

Arctic Reservations

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Email List Integration: More Fun than a Barrel of Monkeys……

Well, more useful anyway. :)

Are you tired of having to keep up with the new clients who have subscribed to your email list, entering them in both Arctic and your email marketing provider? Then you will be delighted to learn that Arctic, coupled with Mailchimp, can do this tedious and annoying task for you. By using the Email List Integration feature in Arctic, you can keep your Arctic contacts and your email marketing lists in sync. When a guest is added to Arctic and subscribed to your list, Arcticwill send her/his email information to Mailchimp to ensure that they are part of your email list (but don’t worry, it will only add them if they are not already on the list). This process also works in reverse, if you use a subscription widget on your website where guests can subscribe to your email marketing list, Mailchimp will send new subscriber information to Arctic. If the email address is associated with an existing customer in your Arctic database, Arctic will update his/her email subscription information. If the email address is not associated with an existing record in your customer database, Arctic will not add the email address as a customer record since these entries are most often just email addresses and do not include names or other pertinent information. This also ensures that your Arctic database is only filled with guests who are either solid customers or solid inquiries and is not polluted with entries for those people who are only tangentially interested. The same works for un-subscriptions. If a guest unsubscribes from your email list, Mailchimp will send this information to Arctic as well which will then unsubscribe the guest from the “Email List”. If you select “No” in the drop down menu for the “Email List” field for a guest who was previously subscribed, Arctic will also send this un-subscription information to Mailchimp.

When setting up the mail integration between Arctic and Mailchimp, it is a simple process. However, Arctic and Mailchimp will only manage future mailing list data, all past mailing list information will not be transmitted. To sync Arctic and Mailchimp initially, we recommend that you run a filter of your Arctic database that will pull all of the guests currently subscribed and then import the results into Mailchimp. Again Mailchimp, will only import new email addresses to avoid duplication. This will ensure that your Mailchimp database has all of your current Arctic information and the integration can start keeping Arctic and Mailchimp in sync.

To set up email list integration, go to the “Settings” page under “Integration”. There you will be able to link your existing Mailchimp account or set up a new Mailchimp account to link to your Arctic installation.

If you are settting up a new Mailchimp account you can easily import your marketing database from your old mail marketing service into Mailchimp. Once you have imported your existing mail marketing list into Mailchimp, then import the list of existing Arctic customers who are currently subscribed to your mail marketing list. Once you have this completed, Arctic and Mailchimp will start automatically managing the new list subscriptions and unsubscriptions and you can rest assured that your marketing list is up to date. For more information, on setting up Email List Integration or for an example of the filter for exporting your current Arctic guests who are subscribed to your email list, see the “Email List Integration” chapter of the support documentation and as always if you have additional questions or run into any hiccups getting the mail integration feature set up, feel free to contact support and we will be happy to help.

The New Improved Create Request Form

So here I am sitting, staring at the computer, waiting for my muse to inspire a witty and fantastic post to tell all of you about the updates on the “Create Request” form. I sit………. and I wait……….. and I wait……….and I sit………………You get the idea. Apparently she has taken an extended vacation because I just am drawing a blank or only coming up with things that are more lame than my usual fare. For instance, I was going to use a sports analogy but got bogged down in the details (The Pitcher throws the puck to the Quarterback who tackles the Goalie who wins the game. Something like that anyway…….)  Then there was the Underwear Gnome knockoff (Step 1. Problem. Step 2. “?” Create Request? Step 3. Solution!). There was also the very un-perky cafe barista scenario; but that got over frothed and foamed all over the place (Incredibly messy, BTW. Have you ever tried to clean milk froth out of a keyboard? Trust me.It isn’t pretty.) I even tried popular TV and movie analogies ranging from the Mentalist and the Big Bang Theory to the Wizard of Oz (If I only had a brain….) and Star Wars (Luke, I am your Tech Support…..). All of which never even made it off the keyboard.

To be honest, I am at a loss to come up with a way to make this post witty and fun. The muse is definitely broken. I guess I don’t pay her enough. Sooo, you will just have to deal with the dry, bland and straight to the point post. It’s going to be like eating brussel sprouts. It’s not pleasant; but you know they’re good for you, so hold your nose, chew quickly and it will all be over before you know it……..


In an effort to increase efficiency in the support process, we have recently updated the “Create Request” form on your installations. The “Create Request” form will help prompt you to provide the details we need to be able to quickly assess the situation or issue you are experiencing so we can get you back up and running as quickly as possible.

The newest addition to the “Create Request” form is a field called “Relevant Entry”.


Relevant Entry

There are two parts to this field. The first part is the drop down portion. Here you can choose a category for the problem you are experiencing or for the question you have. You can choose from Invoice, Person, Rental, Reservation, Trip or Report. These categories communicate the nature of the problem or of your question which is extremely helpful especially if there isn’t a corresponding activity or invoice number for the problem or question you have.

Part two of the “Relevant Entry field is the “#”. If the issue involves a specific activity or invoice and you can provide the activity number or invoice number in the “#” box. These numbers give us an immediate starting place for our investigations into the issue at hand. Having a starting point or an example that we can look at gives us a huge leg up in tracking down glitches and bugs. Now, if you can provide both a category and a reference number, that is even better. :)

Details

The “Details” field is an “oldie but a goodie” as they say. (Ever wonder who “they” are? Hmm…topic for another day, I suppose.)  In the “Details” field, providing us with as much information about the issue or problem as possible is extremely helpful. You can use this field to paste the text of any errors you are getting that are preventing you from saving a change or progressing to the next step in any process. Or if you are getting an error about the content of an email template you are creating, you can copy and paste the content of the email template into the “Details” field. This gives us a chance to look at exactly what you have so we can help find the reason for the errors. Especially because small things can be the culprit when it comes to email templates; a missing curly bracket, an extra space, etc. can all wreak havoc. Having the text you have for us to look at really helps track those pesky details down.

Attachments

Last but certainly not least is the attachments field. As they say (may “they” forever live in infamy), a picture is worth a thousand words. Screenshots are also incredibly helpful again because it allows us to see what you are seeing. You can also attach any other relevant documents like invoices. Again being able to “see” what’s up is key to solving many of the mysteries that are baffling the mind and defying logic or rather just being really annoying when you are already busy. :)


Ok. It’s over. Phew, I didn’t think we were going to make it there for a minute. Hopefully, next time I can coax the muse to come back to work and the witticisms will flow freely from the keyboard once again. :p

You’ve Got Mail

One of the most powerful features in Arctic and, until now recently, one of the least documented is the email feature. Emails are, in many cases, your most prolific points of contact with your guests and, in some cases, are the only forms of communication you may have with a guest prior to their arrival for their trip or activity. With this in mind, Arctic has you covered from creating templates and designs to customizing email senders, scheduling triggered emails and tracking external emails.

In the latest update to our support documentation, we added the Email Chapter, which explain how to set up email senders, how to create awesome email designs that will reflect your company’s style, and provide some great tips to stay “CAN SPAM” compliant so your important emails reach your guests. We have even added some helpful sections for some of the commonly used advanced coding techniques, like the popular and useful “IF” statements, as well as SmartContent formatting tips. All of these tools will help you create awesome personalized and informative emails for each of your guests.

Now that we have given you the tools, don’t forget to infuse your emails with your own style and “brand”. No matter what type of company you are, you all have your own lingo and style, so don’t be too hum drum with those emails. Make them reflect who you are as an adventure company. If you are running “Deliverance” style rafting trips complete with banjo music or if you are a snow cat company offering killer snow to shred, make sure your emails reflect that. Your emails should help get your guests excited about their adventure with you and when successful, help add to your mystique to make the experience truly unforgettable. Remember, your guests are coming for an adventure, so while you need to convey important information in your emails don’t forget to have some fun too. Your guests won’t forget it and will truly appreciate your efforts.

If you need any help creating your email designs or templates, don’t hesitate to contact support. We are always ready to help.

Keep Business Running Smoothly with a Back Up Gateway Provider

In light of the recent Authorize.Net outages and disruptions of payment processing capabilities, we would like to suggest that you consider a back up gateway provider. Arctic has the ability to support multiple payment gateways for the same installation. Having multiple payment gateways set up would allow you to select your back up gateway when your primary gateway or “default” gateway is having a service issue ensuring that you can continue to run your businesses smoothly and without hassle to you and your guests. Stripe is a good potential back up gateway provider as they do not have any associated monthly fees, so you would not be paying additional fees to have the safety and security of a secondary payment gateway. However, you could choose from any of the other supported gateway providers. These are Bluepay, Moneris and Payware.

To use a back up gateway, you would be able to keep your primary gateway as the default gateway and then when a service issue arises with your primary gateway manually choose to run transactions through your back up gateway. You could do this per transaction by selecting your back up gateway from the “Gateway” drop down menu as shown here:
Choosing a Gateway

Or you can make your back up gateway the default gateway for the day by going to the “Settings” page under “Credit Card Processing” and clicking the “Pencil” icon next to “Default Payment Gateway”. On the “Configure Default Gateway” page, choose your back up gateway from the “Gateway” drop down menu as shown here:

Default Gateway

Once the back up gateway has been selected click “Save Setting” to save your changes. If you set the back up as the new default gateway be sure you remember to change the default back to your primary once the service issue is resolved.

One thing to keep in mind when using your back up gateway, the other gateway providers besides Authorize.net do not offer automatic batching like Authorize.Net does. If you have your Authorize.Net gateway set up to batch credit card transactions automatically, you will have to manually record the transactions processed through your back up gateway to ensure that your End of Day Balance reports correctly reflect all of the business processed through your back up gateway. For more information on recording deposits see Section 13.12 of the Invoices Chapter.

The benefits to having a backup gateway provider are that you will be able to seamlessly continue processing payments through Arctic not only via the back end but your online guests will not notice an interruption either. This will keep the experience of your online guests top notch and eliminate the extra work generated by phone calls from customers who are unable to make payments or complete their reservations online. As always if you have any questions or concerns about setting up a back up payment gateway, feel free to contact support and we will be happy to help.

 

The Mystery of the Vanishing Refund Option

Many of you have reported a strange and perplexing phenomenon akin to paranormal activity and the great unsolved mysteries of our time, like the lost city of Atlantis or the strange disappearance of Flight 19. You have all experienced it even if you haven’t noticed it. Your refund option has disappeared without a trace. You have searched, you have reloaded the page, but each time you click the “gear” icon, the refund option has failed to appear. Adding to the strange, mysterious and uber-frustrating aspects of its disappearance is that this only happens occasionally. It just vanishes without a trace on one invoice but on others it’s still where it has always been. So you wonder and then you email support and ask, “Is Arctic broken?” “Am I missing something?” “WTF?”

Never fear, you actually haven’t entered the Twilight Zone nor have you been plunged into a parallel universe or taken a trip through the Bermuda Triangle and of the biggest relief, Arctic isn’t broken or just toying with you. The refund option has vanished because the original credit card payment is older than 120 days. (I know, booorrrinng, right? It would be cooler if we could blame its random and unexplained disappearance on the paranormal but sadly, this doesn’t qualify for the X-files.)

When an original credit card transaction is older than 120 days, the original transaction details can no longer be used to process a refund. You have to re-enter the card number to issue a refund and to do this you must perform an Unlinked Refund. Depending on your gateway provider, you may also have to get authorization from the provider prior to processing the Unlinked Refund and be sure your gateway is configured to process Unlinked/Blind Refunds, as is the case for Authorize.Net users. In other cases, you can process an Unlinked Refund without the extra steps or settings. In any case, if you are uncertain what your gateway provider requires to process an Unlinked Refund, you should contact them first before attempting to process the refund just to be sure everything is configured correctly and you have any necessary authorization.

There are step by step instructions on how to process an Unlinked Refund in Section 13.9 of the Invoice Chapter. This section will explain not only how to process a normal refund but also how to process an Unlinked Refund. There are other instances where you might want to use an Unlinked Refund besides the case described above, where the original transaction is older than 120 days. You also use the the Unlinked Refund option to issue a refund by check or cash (where the refund does not need to be linked to a specific payment), or if the guest wants you to process the refund to a different card than the original payment.

Now you know the mundane truth behind the vanishing refund option, but there are still plenty of unexplained phenomenon in the world for us to wonder and hypothesize about, like the inexplicable gravitational pull of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. And while we can’t help unlock all of the unsolved mysteries in the world, feel free to contact support if you encounter strange and mysterious occurrences in Arctic or even if you just need assistance processing an Unlinked Refund and we will be happy to help. :)

Building on Arctic – The API

Today’s blog post will be a somewhat nerdy diversion from the usual topics, touching on a very powerful feature available to outfitters that want to do something unique or powerful using the information stored in Arctic Reservations. This is achieved through the Arctic API (which stands for application programming interface). The Arctic API allows another computer program, or a website, to connect to Arctic Reservations in order to share information between the two programs. Although this might seem like a simple idea, it provides a phenomenal range of possible uses.

Originally, the API was designed to allow extracting live trip availability information. This allowed building custom trip listing or calendar pages that reflected trip availability. But since launching version 2, the API has been expanded substantially to allow a number of additional powerful features.

We even use the API internally for a number of newly deployed features. For example, the new calendar booking interface is built completely off the API. All the code associated with the calendar booking interface is included in our Github repository as an example for those outfitters that want to build their own custom booking interfaces.

Other uses of the API that we have seen include:

  • Our billing system uses the API to create and issue invoices, and record automatic payments details.
  • The API allows extracting accounting information, and has been used to automatically update a separate accounting system.
  • Contact forms on the main outfitter website can be tightly integrated with Arctic to automatically generate customer records and inquiries based on the provided information. (The Github repository includes a complete example of how this works.)
  • User authentication can be built around the API, as it supports OAuth 2. This allows staff to use their Arctic credentials to login to other services, simplifying login management.

The API is not for everyone, and often requires having a knowledgable developer. But for the ambitious outfitters who want to achieve truly custom features or very powerful automation beyond the built in features of Arctic. We are happy to help suggest ways the API can be used to achieve certain features as well (although we can not provide support debugging code).

For those interested in learning more about the API, we recommend checking our Github repository, which includes a comprehensive PHP framework for interacting with the Arctic API. In addition, it includes a number of examples, both trivial demonstrations as well as more real-world use cases.

Reports, Reports & More Reports

Some of you are winding down from the winter season and some of your are gearing up for the upcoming summer season and some of you are just pausing long enough to wrap up one season before plunging into the next. In any case, one thing you all have in common is the need for reports. Whether you need reports to help you gather the information to provide to the forestry department or you want to know how your business did last season or you need to adjust your trip rosters so that you have all the information you need to prepare for your guests, Arctic has you covered.

The “Reports” feature within Arctic recently underwent a pretty significant re-organization. We made the “Browse Reports” page more navigable and made all of the different reporting options available from one location. Now, when you access the “Browse Reports” page, you will see each type of report you can create and run within Arctic assigned to its own tab.

Browse Reports
You can access formatted lists which include reports like trip rosters, trip summaries, rental summaries, etc; filter reports with custom sets of filters and columns for the various “Browse” pages, allowing you to select, view and export specific information; financial reports like the “End of Day Balance” and “Financial Summary” reports; pivot tables, which can be used to gain insights about referral sources, daily guest counts, sales by business group and much more; and finally other reports which are Gantt-style reports for rental item usage and guide allocations.

Along with the reorganization of the “Browse Reports” page, we have added several new tools for allowing you to control report formatting as well as the ability to “Star” reports so the reports you use often will be readily accessible.

The report formatting tools allow you to control the PDF layout of your reports, including page orientation, font size and more. All of the report layout settings are accessible on the “Settings” page under “Reports”.

“Starring” reports puts these reports in the “Reports” section of the “Navigation” menu on the left of your screen. This is a great way to keep the reports you use often at your finger tips for quick and easy access.

Star

You can find out more about the types of reports available to you as well as information on how to build the reports you need along with “Starring” them and controlling their formatting in the Reports Chapter of the support documentation.

As always, feel free to contact support if you are having trouble generating a particular report or are unsure of the best report option to use to get the information you need and we will be happy to help.

It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s a Calendar!

Ok, so the title of the post is lame but the new calendar booking interface is sooo not lame. In the recent round of updates (did you catch our “Bird Song“?), Arctic introduced the ability to offer a calendar booking interface in place of the traditional “list” style interface we have always sported.

Isn’t it just fabulous?

Of course, as expected with new Arctic gadgets, we give you lots of control, you can choose the “List” format, the “Calendar” format or even mix and match the interfaces to use what works best for the type of trip being offered. By default, Arctic is set to automatically select the interface that will be ideal for the trips being viewed but you can override this selection and choose a preference if you wish.

Note: If your installation predates January 2015 then your default booking interface will be set to the “Trip List” since this used to be the only option.

For more details on how to rock the new calendar interface, check out the new “Booking Interface” guide in your handy dandy documentation. It will give you all the pertinent info to get the most out of the new booking interface options, and as always if you get lost or into trouble just shoot us an email. We’re better than Mighty Mouse.

Twitter Too? No Way!

Yes way! Not only do we have a blog but being a true a child of the 21st century, we also have a twitter feed. 😛 And guess what? It comes right to your Dashboard.

Twitter Dashboard

What do you suppose do we do with our little blue bird? We definitely don’t use it for nefarious purposes, although, that would be fun. We use our little bird to keep you, our beloved clients, in the know about important updates, newsletter publications and major occurrences, like last year’s Authorize.net outtages.

Our little bird will be tweeting away for the next several weeks as we roll out lots of new updates. (Is anyone else excited about this? I am.) There are tons of new updates that will be announced via our twitter feed so make sure you don’t miss any of the excitement and stay tuned for our bird song.

Dude, Arctic has a blog?

Ok. So I was very surprised and disheartened to find out many of you had no idea that Arctic has a blog which means all of our fun, witty, irreverent and pertinent posts are not being read. How could this be? I mean, I am not vain but I seriously don’t like talking to an empty room. I like an audience and a captive one is preferred. (It means you can’t leave. 😛 )

The solution? We bring the blog to you. Thus the creation of The Fix. Don’t worry you won’t be bombarded by useless and unwanted information. We will keep the posts relevant to the things that have been asked about or updates you need to know about.

Each edition of The Fix will have the most recent post, a few references to past posts so you can catch up easily if you missed a previous edition and a place for you to send us your questions or suggestions for future posts.

Now, you are in the know. Arctic does indeed have a blog and now a newsletter to boot. 😉