E-mail Triggers, Booking Agents and more

We have rolled out a number of exciting new features in Arctic Reservations over the last several months. We want to briefly highlight some of these new features here:

  • Automatic e-mail triggers – Send invoice reminders, launch reminders and launch follow-up e-mails automatically by creating and configuring custom e-mail triggers. With extensive configuration options, you can custom tailor and send e-mails to specific customers at certain times. Alternatively, automatic e-mails can be saved to the outbox for a quick manual confirmation before sending. This reduces time spent on invoice reminders or launch notifications for office staff, and helps boost customer relations by staying in touch with guests.
  • Booking agent support – Booking agents can now book reservations through the online system. Commissions can be tracked automatically in Arctic for easy reconciliation.
  • Keyword manager – Review, edit and delete the list of keywords being used within Arctic, as well as getting quick access to the customers associated with each keyword.

The above list highlights just a few of the many ongoing changes and improvements we have been working on. In the last year, over 572 updates have been pushed into the live version of the software. With a list of new features in development, we are excited about what’s next and will be highlighting it here soon.

New Module: Complete Reservation

This post is one of a series, highlighting old new features (these are additions to the software that have been made in the last few months, but were never described on the blog). For more information, view the original post.

In the past, one of the most time consuming tasks for reservation staff of rafting and adventure companies has been collecting and entering guest information, either into reports or into their reservation system. This is especially true for overnight trips, where a substantial amount of information is required. Often, the process would require printing forms, postage, waiting for a response and then deciphering the guest’s handwriting to type the information into the reservation system.

A new module for Arctic Reservations, called Complete Reservation, helps cut down on waiting time to collect such vital guest information and, more importantly, saves your reservation staff time in terms of having to enter that information. Once a guest has booked a reservation, the staff simply sends them an e-mail containing all the trip details and the invoice. The e-mail will include a personalized invitation URL, that will allow the guest to visit the company’s website and fill in all their guest information.

All this works through the My Module functionality of Arctic Reservations, which allows you to integrate Arctic with your company website. Through an extensively customizable template system, the website will match the design of the rest of your site. In addition to booking new reservations and sharing photos, this website can be used by guests to access trip details, download invoices and liability agreements and enter all needed personal/group details.

Details entered automatically appear in the appropriate customer record, and a notification appears on the home page log, allowing you to review the details and ensure that all information is correct.

The information collected can range from basic details (contact information), to extensive food preferences and emergency contact information. And the module can be configured to collect different information for different trips.

Of course, due to the variety of group types (families, couples, groups of friends), the module seeks to accommodate all configurations. For families, most details entered are common to all guests (such as contact information). While, for a group of friends, each person can fill in their own details. And the primary contact can view who still needs to enter their information, and even send them a personalized link to the website as well.

This new module will help increase efficiency and help ensure all guest details are accurately collected, while freeing up office staff to pursue new reservations, instead of spending time collecting data. If you are interested in trying this new module or adding it to your installation, contact a sales representative.

Season Three

As it is now entering peak season time for many rafting companies, it is exciting to announce that this is the third season that Arctic Reservations has helped different rafting and adventure companies manage their reservations, trips, customers and billing. And although the blog has been quiet recently, the software has been anything been static. There have been new features and new reports introduced, as well as new modules developed and many improvements to the interface for the software.

But the blog has been neglected, so over the coming few weeks, I will aim to write posts highlighting many of these (already older) new features.

With our third season underway, I would also like to personally thank our existing clients for their feedback. It has all helped craft Arctic Reservations into – at least in my opinion – an exceptional reservation management program. And, in addition, there are still many ideas yet to be implemented, giving us a clear development road-map for the software for the coming seasons. It will be exciting to see what comes next…

If you haven’t tried out Arctic Reservations, let me encourage you to take a look through our demonstration version.

New Security Features

A number of new security features have recently been added to Arctic Reservations, to ensure that all data is kept secure and to help prevent malicious login attempts. This effort to increase security is due to the recently released credit card module. Since Arctic Reservations now handles important financial information for customers, it has become increasingly important to protect that data.

The first big change is an invisible one. The site now does more logging of activity and login attempts, to help identify unusual behavior or brute force attempts to gain access to the website. The software continually reviews this data using a number of strategies (including access frequency, etc), and will block access to certain users based on the perceived threat. This effectively prevents a brute force attack, where a hacker tries to gain access to the software by guessing passwords.

The second change involves offering a number of new options for controlling how users login to the system. Now below the login form is a link to show advanced options. These advanced options control how long a user will remain logged in, whether the session can transfer IP addresses and whether data should be cleared on browser exit. In addition, administrators can set defaults for each of these options from the settings page. When these new options were added, we lowered the default login duration and enabled IP address specific login, both of which help to boost security. More details on these options can be found in the new FAQ category.

Remember that security is also a huge responsibility of the end user. We can continue to add more and more security features, but if you pick “password” as your password, they will do no good. So just as a reminder, remember to pick a secure password and don’t provide your password to anyone (not even Arctic Reservations support). Some tips for secure passwords include:

  • It should not be a dictionary word.
  • You should include a number or symbol in your password.
  • Don’t use anything that can easily be guess about you (e.g., your zip code, your birthday, your address).
  • It should be at least seven characters long.

New Module: Credit Card Processing

Our credit card processing module has recently undergone extensive beta testing and I am happy to announce that it has passed all the tests with flying colors! One customer has now been using the module and have processed almost 300 transactions.

The credit card module allows you to seamlessly process credit card transactions within the Arctic Reservations software. This means that when processing a payment, you never have to leave Arctic Reservations. Just type in the card information and instantly get approval information from your processing bank. Upon approval, Arctic Reservations will automatically add a payment item to the invoice. And of course, when processing follow up transactions, you can easily access saved credit card information for the particular customer. And finally, the software offers extensive tracking and reporting information, as well as the necessary transaction tools to run refunds and void transactions that have not been settled.

Of course, this has all been implemented with thorough security precautions. All transactions must go through 256 bit SSL encryption and data is properly and securely stored on the server. Finally, extensive logging is performed to make sure only authorized users access the transaction information.

Currently, the credit card module has been setup to work with SkipJack as a payment gateway. This means that SkipJack will provide merchant services and act as a middleman between transactions performed within Arctic Reservations and your bank. Eventually, we will consider supporting additional payment gateways, but we judged SkipJack to be a good starting point as they offer low cost gateway services as well as reliable service.

Credit Card Processing Sample

Reservation Details Face Lift

The reservation details page has received a design revamp. It now puts more focus on the essential data and provides a handy side bar with access to common commands and other important details. The new design embodies many of the principles that were used when creating the launch page that was implemented a few months ago. This update should ease access to reservation details. Below you can see an image of the new page.

E-mail Features

Arctic Reservations new template based e-mail system (which still is in beta) has been implemented throughout the site. The e-mail system allows for highly customizable HTML templates for sending e-mails… that means your e-mails can include graphics, custom attachments and many more features. In addition, the new e-mail system allows you to easily create the template in your favorite e-mail client and simply e-mail it to a special address. Then the site does the rest, turning your design into a template where content will later be added.

Now, in addition to marketing e-mails, you can now use the new e-mail features in other parts of the site, such as when sending an invoice. And all e-mails sent will be logged for fifteen days, allowing you to view previously sent messages and resend message if they did not go through. The sent e-mail log can be accessed from the “E-mail” button on the left menu.

Previously, the template based e-mail system was going to include tools for mass messaging customers. We are sorry to say that this feature has been removed. If the site was to include tools for mass messaging, we would run the risk of our e-mails being blocked by large internet service providers. We decided that it is more important that individual e-mails consistently get through (such as launch invoices and photo site invitations), rather then offering a mass message feature. Currently, customer information can already easily be exported and imported into third party e-mail messaging systems.

New Module: Guide Scheduling

A new module for Arctic Reservations has been released. The new guide scheduling module allows for easy management of guides to ensure proper scheduling. The new tool allows guides to be assigned to work on certain trips. Then, overall summaries as well as individual guide schedules can easily be printed. In addition, the module can enforce mandatory “off days” (days in between trips) to make sure a guide is not over schedule, especially on multi day trips where guides must be involved in turnaround activities. Finally, you can also easily specify a preferred guest to guide ratio, which the site will help you keep by highlighting trips with too few guides.

This is just one of many modules available with Arctic Reservations. Such modules can easily be added on to an account to expand functionality, depending on the needs of your outfitter. The guide module can be seen when using the demo of Arctic Reservations. Existing customers may add the module by contacting sales.

Mail Merge Support

When creating a new inquiry, Arctic Reservations has always included the ability to send out a hard copy letter (as well as an e-mail) to the customer. This offers a great way to create personalized content, which can be sent to the customer helping ensure a reservation down the road.

But the system has been limited, as the actual letters had to be designed in Arctic Reservations and were downloaded as static PDF documents for printing. This meant that there was little ability to customize the letter based on a specific question the customer asked.

Today, that has been fixed. In addition to PDF letters, you can create letters that work as a mail merge instead. When you run the end of day report, you will get mail merge files for those new letters. Then, just download the mail merge file and import it into your favorite word processor (e.g., Microsoft Word). This way, you can use the familiar interface of your favorite word processor to prepare your letter template and also make little changes before printing the individual letters.

To use the new feature, just go to the “Manage” menu and select “Letters”. Then either edit an existing letter or create a new letter and just check the mail merge box at the top. In the next end of day report, you will be provided mail merge files (with the extension “csv”). By default, the files open in Excel, but you can also select them as a mail merge data source in Microsoft Word (or your preferred word processor).

Reservation Summary

A new report is now available for all Arctic Reservation customers. The reservation summary report allows you to prepare a table showing all launches over a certain period of time. For each launch, there are lists of the individual reservations with details on the primary guest, the number of guests and deposit information. This summary is easy to print (just clicking print in the browser should give you a high quality, nice looking printout). Whether printed or viewed on the computer, the list gives a nice overview of coming season and can offer a great quick reference to upcoming availability.

You can provide a variety of different search parameters when preparing the reservation summary, such as what trip types to include and what date range to include. In addition, the reservation summary can be customized for some outfitters to include pool dates in case a particular launch is overbooked and more permits need to be purchased.

And of course, the reservation summary has full support for sublaunches. Sublaunches and their reservations will be enumerated separately on the summary.

Want to try preparing a reservation summary? Current customers can access it through the “Reports” menu. If you are not yet a customer, sign up for a demo to try out the handy reservation summary.