Credit Card Processing Q & A

As October 1st approaches, industry buzzwords like “EMV”, “Chip & Pin”, and “liability shift” are coming up more and more. With that in mind, we wanted to take a moment to update you on credit card processing within Ascend.

What the heck is happening in the United States on October 1, 2015?
Today, the liability for fraudulent card-present transactions generally falls on the issuing bank or payment processor. In October, the liability will shift to the “party that is least EMV compliant.” So, if a customer has a Chip & Pin or Chip & Sign capable card, and a charge is processed as Swipe & Sign, the merchant will be held liable if the charge is deemed fraudulent.

Will new cards be issued to all consumers before the deadline?
No. Credit card companies have begun phasing-in chip-capable cards within the last year and will continue to do so as cards expire in the future. It will likely be years before all existing Swipe & Sign cards are completely removed from circulation.  A recent story on NPR stated an estimated 30% of consumers currently have at least one card with a chip.

Am I going to be able to integrate with a payment processor other than Chase Paymentech?
No. Our current priority is ensuring all retailers who currently integrate Chase Paymentech with Ascend are EMV-capable before October. We are using this opportunity to review options for expanding our selection of integrated processors, but there are no changes planned at this time.

Am I going to have to buy new equipment to accommodate this change?
If you want to be EMV-compliant by October 1st, yes. We are currently reviewing several options and hope to finalize the supported device(s) in the upcoming weeks. Security, price point, features and adaptability (future-proofing) are all being taken into consideration. We’ll communicate pricing as soon as we can so you can budget accordingly.

If you’re not concerned about the liability shift, no. Your current hardware will continue to work. Eventually, we will retire support for the existing hardware and you will have to replace it.

When will I be able to process mobile payments like Apple Pay?
We haven’t set a date for this. Our primary focus is getting up to speed with the EMV requirements before October. We are reviewing options for NFC payments (like Apple pay) and Signature Capture, but those solutions will likely be released after Ascend is EMV-capable. We are making sure that the device we select will support these functions.

Are there any changes planned for Ascend retailers who operate outside of the United States?
No. We are reviewing options for chip support in Canada, but there is no date set for this.

Stay tuned to the blog for more updates on this topic. Next week, we’ll get back to highlighting new features in our upcoming Spring 2015 release.

Ease Up

Whether you’re taking care of a warranty item for a customer or receiving orders, the Spring 2015 version of Ascend RMS is about to make your job easier. Interested in learning how? Read on. Just want the know how? Go watch our videos.

Bookkeepers Rejoice: The updated purchase order receiving process is sure to have your bookkeeper jumping for joy. Not only will receiving merchandise be easier, but spotting incorrect vendor charges or even fraudulent invoices will help you save money. Enjoy:

  • A new option to prompt for packing slip and invoice numbers
  • A new report that allows you to search for receiving sessions by date, vendor, packing slip, invoice number, or purchase order number
  • Session Items and Session Total information displayed during receiving
  • The History button now allows you to view detailed information on previous sessions and view or edit packing slip/invoice numbers. You can even export this data to PDF, CSV, or XLSX

Warranty Wonder: A damaged or defective item can ruin your customer’s day, but it doesn’t have to ruin yours. Updates to our  warranty process help you quickly offer an exchange or refund for a customer, while giving you an easy way to track work order statuses. Take advantage of:

  • The freedom to view and edit notes throughout the process
  • The ability to update warranty status at any time
  • User-controlled inventory adjustments can be entered as needed
  • A consolidated report that provides a one-stop-shop for viewing and managing warranty items

Make Life Easy: There’s much more packed into the Spring 2015 version of Ascend, so it’s no surprise we had to start taking advantage of some newer tech to bring you all this awesomeness. Make sure your computer is updated and ready for the cleaner, faster, more powerful Ascend by downloading version 4.5.2 of the Microsoft .NET Framework.

Need some help? We’ve got you covered. For step-by-step instructions on updating your PCs, just click here for Windows 7 workstations or over here for Windows 8.

Decked Out Desktop

Our march towards the release of the Spring 2015 version of Ascend continues and this week we’re focusing on the updates we’ve made to the desktop. While we touched on a few of the customization options in last week’s blog, there were a few important additions we didn’t mention.

Desktop on Lock: We’ve recently implemented a small, but effective way to make sure your sales and transactions remain hidden from prying eyes. Instead of requiring a manual logout, users can now be logged out of the program from the desktop after a specific time of inactivity. But don’t worry, the automatic logout function is only active while on the desktop to ensure product searches and order screens stay visible while in use. Safely:

  • Manage retail workstations using the automatic logout feature found in Options
  • Set workstation specific logout times based on use or in-store location
  • Select the desired amount of “inactive” time before being automatically logged out
  • Disable automatic logouts for workstations that aren’t located in a public place

New Shortcuts: The updated interface of the Spring 2015 release also gave us a chance to make a few additions to the desktop shortcuts you see upon logging into Ascend. We’ve included about a dozen new tiles to help make regular tasks easier and faster. And remember: tiles can be hidden, reordered, resized, and even recolored to fit your needs. Some of the new tiles joining the club are:

  • Work Orders Due which takes you directly to the Work Order screen
  • Remote Assistance which allows you to quickly connect with our Support Team for one-on-one troubleshooting
  • Order Supplies which launches your web browser for reordering hardware and supplies
  • Inventory Adjustment which allows you to make inventory tweaks right from the desktop

Context is Key: With so many customization options for the new desktop, we wanted to give you a quick and easy way to make your design choices. So, we’ve built a new context menu that you can access by right clicking on your desktop. Quickly:

  • Reset the desktop to its default layout
  • Choose from three different tile sizes: Small, Wide, and Large
  • Hide unneeded tiles
  • Choose from five different tile colors for easy recognition
  • Show previously hidden tiles

Get Ready: The Spring 2015 version of Ascend will be available for download to Early Release retailers next week before heading to all retailers in early March, so make sure to keep checking back for more tips on how to use its newest features. You can also prepare your system now by upgrading to version 2.12 which brought customer groups, an updated category mapper, and a new Sales Item comments field.

Think Spring

We’re about two weeks from releasing the Spring 2015 version of Ascend RMS to early release retailers and the entire team is excited to share all of the improvements we’ve baked into this year’s first update. But we know that not everyone gets excited for change, so we’ll be previewing some of the tweaks right here for the next few weeks to help you familiarize yourself with the updates before installing them on your workstations.

Rest in Peace Version 2.13: The first thing you’ll probably notice is a small, but important change we’ve made to the naming formula. Instead of jumping to Ascend v.2.13 come March, we’re simplifying our naming formula to a clear [Season] + [Year] version description. Not only is this friendlier name easier to remember, but it’ll give you a quick way to make sure your system is up-to-date.

Colors! Colors Everywhere: Your trusty desktop has also gotten an update. Customize your layout, change tile color, and resize to your heart’s content. And since layouts are user specific, each team member can have their own setup!

  • Updated interface provides a clean and modern look
  • User specific layouts allow team members to customize their desktop view to fit their role
  • Adjustable tile sizes and color options give you an easy way to characterize functions. You can even hide tiles you don’t need

Awesome Icons: We’ve also updated all the other icons used throughout your system. An updated palette and easy-to-read icons provides a quick way to help you spot program functions. Here’s a peek:

Which is your favorite?

Stay Tuned: There are many more exciting updates coming with the Spring 2015 version of Ascend RMS, so make sure to come back every week to read about ways that’ll help you hit the ground running come March. And don’t forget to visit our video library to find short videos to help you make the most out of your system.

Accuracy Matters

An accurate inventory is at the core of any successful retailer. Not only does it help minimize your costs by allowing you to make smart purchasing decisions, but it provides useful data that enables you to shape, refine, and grow your business. With the right equipment, proper procedures, and regular attention you can make sure that your inventory is always up-to-date and accurate.

Save Yourself: Sales volume, business strategies, locations, and product assortments all affect inventory on a daily basis, so it’s vital to keep it accurate to ensure that:

  • The correct amount of product is ordered, saving you money
  • The correct product is identified at receiving, saving you time
  • Products are special ordered only as needed, saving you space
  • You have the data to expand sales opportunities through quotes, layaways, special orders, and special orders

It’s the Simple Things: Keeping a healthy inventory doesn’t have to be a pain, it’s just a matter of keeping your eye on the small tasks that can make a big difference. For optimum system performance:

  • Create new products in your database before you need to order them. It makes receiving a breeze and gives you more time to catch any mistakes
  • Enter accurate product information before a product is added to the sales floor to ensure you don’t hit snags during checkout
  • Set reorder levels for products that you never want to run out off
  • Regularly verify in-stock product quantities

Upgrade: Do you have outdated hardware holding you back from maintaining a healthy and accurate inventory? Arm your staff with the Motorola MC2180 – a more powerful inventory scanner that will help reduce count times and streamline your inventory practices. Updated features include an extended battery life, more room for your product files, and a color display.

If you have an MC1000 you’re looking to replace, get your order to us before February 28th to take advantage of our current promotional trade-in values and save up to $300 towards the purchase of an MC2180. Just dial 877 875 8663 or send a quick email to our sales team at sales@ascendrms.com.

Ascend What?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably already know that Ascend Analytics received a major overhaul earlier this week. Not only does it look fresh-to-death, but it puts more of your data to work.

Basically: it’s beautiful, more powerful, and easier to use.

And yet we still get calls from many retailers who either aren’t sure what the web application can do for them or have never even tried logging in. To help fix that, we’re putting together a short overview that might encourage you to get up and running with your data in this week’s post.

Why You Should Care: One of the most frequent questions we receive is simply “How can Ascend Analytics make my business successful?” Fair question. And the answer is multilayered because of the wide range of opportunities it opens up. Ascend Analytics enables you to:

  • Set goals for key drivers of business success allowing you to measure small victories and efficiently work towards larger ones with your entire team
  • Access your business information from a web connection giving you the flexibility to review data from the back office or while you’re getting ready from the comfort of your own home
  • Pull the entire team together and show how individuals are contributing giving you data managers and owners everywhere crave
  • Spend less time finding results and more time creating them by displaying results and trends quickly and accurately at-a-glance

Is It Really That Good?: Yes. Ascend Analytics provides high-level summaries and drills the details of your business to make opportunities clear and visually apparent. And since the information displayed in Analytics is updated overnight through Ascend, you’re always sure to have up-to-date information without even having to be on location. View:

  • Sales trends, sales/hour worked, units/transaction, average transaction size
  • Current inventory status and historical trends expressed as days-in-stock, dollars, and units. You can even track special order lead times
  • Detailed reports of your service business, including labor dollars, work order performance, mechanic productivity, and add-on dollars sold
  • Individual team member performance details
  • Income and expenses to ensure a more positive cash flow and net income

Ok, But There Has to Be a Catch: Not really. Ascend Analytics is the hassle-free way to monitor your business, whether you have a 13 store chain or run a single location.

  • Analytics works with single or multiple retail locations and reports reflect results of all locations combined and/or individually
  • Security settings allow different permission levels to share information with managers and employees
  • Training and support is provided to ensure your full utilization of every aspect Ascend Analytics has to offer

Get Started: If you aren’t currently set up with Ascend Analytics, view the Analytics Pre-Install Checklist to find out how to get up and running. If you’re a store manager or owner, view the Workspace Tour (for Managers) for an overview of your Analytics workspace. If you’re a sales person, mechanic, or other store team member, view the Workspace Tour (for Team Members). Want to view some of the changes? Click here to watch a short video describing some of the updates included with our January release.

Your Data, Your Way

It’s a new year and Ascend Analytics has a new look! But we know you’re more interested in the numbers than a fancy new color scheme, so we’ve worked hard to make it easier for you to have quick, complete access to your data – without the fuss.

Reporting Done Right: Bringing all of your data together in a way that makes sense, while eliminating unnecessary clicks. Enjoy:

  • Smart toggles in standard displays that allow you to switch between chart and grid presentations of your data, while remembering your view choices for future visits
  • Compact displays that use a grid presentation to show week-, month-, and year-to-date values right below your graphs to give you the information you need at-a-glance without the need to visit a different page
  • Convenient displays of variances in-line within grid views for speedy comparisons
  • Budget values and variances in the Daily Sales Summary and Category Health Summary reports
  • .xlsx file types for files exported to Microsoft Excel

Updated Interface: New icons and graphics give your reports a clean, modern look. Changes include:

  • Standard displays that now show previous, current, and goal values in three separate colors for easy viewing
  • Store goals and totals that are now highlighted on the Team tab for quick analysis
  • A display of two decimal places when a number is not a whole number for more accurate reporting

Check Out the Updates: These changes go live for all of our retailers on Monday, January 19, so if you haven’t checked out the improvements yet, head over to analytics.ascendrms.com and start growing your business today. Want to take a quick peek at some of the changes? Watch this short video now to learn more.

Tackle the Shelves

Many of our dealers are right in the middle of full store inventories, so this week we’re highlighting some helpful tips that might save you some time (and a few headaches) while your team tackles the shelves.

Count Everything: A physical, full store inventory count should be completed once a year. Every salable product is counted, regardless of location. You should also:

  • Close your store for the length of the inventory to avoid discrepancies
  • Clearly define small areas for scanning since physical inventory counts are performed by store section, not category
  • Avoid processing sales, layaways, or work orders once you’ve started
  • Prepare multiple scanners for use throughout the day.  Don’t have enough for the entire team? Email our Sales Team at sales@ascendrms.com to schedule a rental or go to the Integration drop-down menu from the Ascend Desktop, hover over Ascend and click on Order Hardware and Supplies to place an order today

Use the Software: Ascend provides many software solutions to help make your inventory count go as quickly and painlessly as possible. Some of the advantages include:

  • Our proprietary companion app, which allows the MC2180 inventory scanner to wirelessly verify inventory details such as stock, product name, and database match. Made specifically to work with Ascend RMS, Ascend Scan 3.0 takes some of the guess work out of inventory counts and gives you more time to focus on your task
  • Ascend’s Remove Duplicate Products utility, which can resolve duplicate SKUs and UPCs ahead of time, helps ensure that each product in your store is labeled uniquely. This minimizes time spent addressing product issues during your actual inventory
  • Custom reports, like Ascend’s Sales by Day of Week, which can help you determine the best day for closing
  • The Aged Inventory by Date report which allows you to reduce your inventory as much as possible by eliminating the need to reorder products that simply aren’t moving off the shelves

Keep an Eye on the Blog: We’re working hard to arm you with help documents that get you out of any sticky situation you might find yourself in, so make sure you’re following our blog for updates. This week, we’re focusing on those pesky “bad beeps” you might hear while scanning certain products. Watch this short video to learn how to handle products that just won’t scan.

The More You Know

Ascend version 2.12 included many big improvements when it was released a month ago, but a few small features may have gone unnoticed. To make sure that you’re getting the most out of Ascend, we’re highlighting a few more smaller additions in this weeks post.

Individuality, Rewarded: User-specific grid views are now available within the Category Mapper and Work Orders Due screens. Easily:

  • Organize work order and product information to reduce the amount of time needed to view what’s important to you
  • Customize work order and product headers by rearranging, sorting, or hiding any columns such as Brand, SKU, Customer Name and Date Due
  • Create user-specific layouts that follow users from one workstation to another

Best Fit: Expanded category drop-down menus make it easier to display category names regardless of length.

  • View entire category names with many useful reports like In-Store Products, Inventory by Category Retail, and Reconciled Inventory
  • Take advantage of the extra space while linking products within Database Explorer

Detail Oriented: Work Order Details has also received a few improvements that give users more control. Quickly:

  • View and edit Work Order Details within the Work Order window without having to manually save the transaction
  • Return to the Work Order window without having to modify  any Work Order Details if you’ve accidently clicked on the WO Detail icon. Just click ‘Cancel’!

Best System, Best Support, Best Team: Besides improving our software, we’re constantly looking for ways to help make your business perform to its potential. So, whether your find yourself in need of more receipt paper, an updated scanner, or a new PC give us a call to take advantage of top notch support and competitive warranty offerings.

Email our Sales Team at sales@ascendrms.com or go to the Integration drop-down menu from the Ascend Desktop, hover over Ascend and click on Order Hardware and Supplies to place an order today.

Join Us for Camp

Are you getting ready for your first full-store inventory, have new employees that could use some training, or just want a refresher course to start the new year off right? Then join Ascend Inventory Specialist Kristina Florin as she hosts 2015’s first interactive Inventory Boot Camp sessions!

Hands-on Training with an Inventory Pro: Each camp is a two-day hands-on training event where you will prepare an actual store for end-of-year inventory.

Videos and help documents can push you along, but there is no substitute for hands-on experience. Scan and count inventory using wireless scanners, then reconcile actual product lists before cleaning up real inventory discrepancies. Never let a cycle count or full store inventory stump you or your team again.

The cost is $699 per person and it includes all meals, 2 full training days, one-on-one support with Ascend experts, and all the knowledge you need to help your team back home.  After the camp you’ll also be eligible for discounts on renting wireless scanners to help with your own store’s inventory. See below for all sessions currently available.

And remember: space is limited, so sign-up today by calling Ascend Support at 877 875 8663 or by sending an email to help@ascendrms.com to reserve your spot!

Available sessions:

Charlotte, NC Session 1 – January 19th and 20th
Charlotte, NC Session 2 – January 21st and 22nd
Phoenix, AZ – January 26th and 27th