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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
I am happy to announce that Arctic Reservations is once again offering SSL encrypted access. This feature was offered a short while ago, but due to complications that prevented some users from accessing the software, we rolled back the SSL option until the larger problems could be fixed. After many tweaks and hours calling others for input, SSL is now available again!
All users can access their primary Arctic Reservations installation via a 256bit SSL certificate. This means that all data sent between your computer and our server is encrypted using todays leading encryption technique. Although the risk of such communications being intercepted is extremely low, it is becoming increasingly important to protect client data.
The need for security is especially important for an upcoming feature that I can only hint at now: “credit card processing.” When handling client credit card information, it is vital to implement such leading encryption tools to prevent fraud and ensure the security of your customer’s personal information. More details about credit card processing will be coming soon, as our first beta testing will begin shortly.
Note that SSL certificate installation required some big changes: we had to rewrite a core set of files and completely reconfigure the server (this is why it took so long to offer this feature). During the upgrade, all installations had to be moved to a new IP address. Although this should not adversely effect software performance, your computer may still try to access the old IP address for 24-48 hours. As a result, you will not be able to access your installation. If this happens to you, please call your support representative and he/she will provide instructions for clearing cached DNS information. During such a large overhaul, other problems may have arisen. If this is the case, please contact support right away… we will be standing by to make any needed corrections.
By default, all accounts allow users to select whether or not to use SSL certificates when they first access the website. Administrators can change settings to either always require an SSL access or never allow SSL access. I strongly encourage administrators to always require SSL certificates.
The overview report has been expanded to include two new options. These new options allow you to view histograms of either reservations or inquires, allowing you to breakdown useful statistics. For example, you can compare how many reservations are booked in the morning with how many are booked in the afternoon. Or you could compare the number of reservations booked in one month with another month. In addition to comparing booking times, you may also compare how many reservations each reservation agent has booked. The same histograms are available for inquiries as well.
These new reports are meant to help provide indicators in terms of when customers are most willing to book reservations as well as when to anticipate the most load on reservation staff.
With time, more histograms and other graphs will be available throughout the Arctic Reservations staff. Today marks the first step in providing useful analytic tools for viewing and interpreting the large amount of data that Arctic Reservations automatically collects. If you have suggests for a specific graph or tool, we’d love to hear it. Just leave a comment on this post.