It’s Spring Somewhere

Our sidewalks are freshly powdered with snow in Waterloo, but that shouldn’t keep you from enjoying the bright, blossoming updates we’ve packed into the Spring 2015 version of Ascend. And what else could go better with your new software than some updated hardware?

We can provide your business with everything it needs to get off the ground or to stay above the clouds. Whether it’s receipt paper, label printers, scanners, or PCs, the Ascend Team has you covered. And we didn’t forget about the “best support” part: all Dell PC purchases include 3 Year Gold Support – which means you’re covered if you ever have any hardware related issues with your purchase. No need to worry about extended outages during peak season. If Dell can’t fix it over the phone, they’ll have someone onsite the next business day – as easy as that!

Purchase something other than a PC? The Ascend Peripheral Guarantee covers the manufactures warranty on all other items. If your hardware should go bad within your warranty period just give us a ring and we’ll send you a replacement unit – no questions asked. All we need is the defective unit and you end up with a brand new item plus a fresh warranty.

Spending $500 or more? We’ll finance your purchase and give you 0% interest! It’s really a no-brainer, so give us a call at 877 875 8663 or order using your Ascend system by clicking on Integration > Ascend > Order Hardware and Supplies from the desktop. If you have the latest version of Ascend (hint, hint) just click on the new “Order Supplies” icon.

And Don’t Forget to Update: The Spring 2015 version of Ascend has been in the wild for a week, but a few retailers still haven’t made the jump.

Not sure if you’re running the latest version? Just check the bottom of your Ascend application window (yep, that line with your shop name).  Does it say “Software: 2.12″ or below? Then you’re missing out on an updated interface, Batch Transfers, Receiving updates, a new warranty workflow and much more!

Update to start running a better business today, then watch our overview video or read the release notes if you want to learn more. Still stumped? Give us a call at 877 875 8663 to speak with a member from our Support Team.

Look Who’s Here!

The Spring 2015 version of Ascend RMS is ready for the new season. Start taking advantage of all the new features we’ve been working on by downloading it now. From icons to Warranty Items to Receiving and more, our team has been working hard to bring you the first release of the year! The facelift might come as a shock, but you won’t have to look far to find more helpful tweaks and time-saving updates.

Not sure what’s included? Read on for a short list highlighting some of the major changes or click here to check out the release notes. You can also watch a quick video overview of the changes by clicking here.

 Note Worthy Updates:

  • An updated palette and easy-to-read icons provide a quick way to help you spot program functions. You can also resize, recolor, and rearrange all you want because the new desktop is completely user specific. You can even hide icons you rarely use!
  • Automatic log outs now provide a small, but effective way to make sure your sales and transactions remain hidden from prying eyes. Instead of requiring a manual log out, users can now be logged out of the program from the desktop after a specific time of inactivity.
  • Transfers also got an update that allows you to quickly move items from one of your locations to another in batch. Simply scan your products, dock your scanner, pick your transfer destination, and Ascend does the rest.
  • The new warranty workflow puts more power back in your hands. Easily view and edit notes throughout the process, then use a single report to view and mange all warranty items.
  • Receiving merchandise will also be a lot easier with Session Totals. And the History button now allows you to view detailed information on previous sessions and view or edit packing slip/invoice numbers. You’ll even have a new report that allows you to search for receiving sessions by date, vendor, packing slip, invoice number, or purchase order number.
  • Easily create new users or edit existing permissions with the new Copy User Permissions option.
  • Honestly, there are several more improvements that you deserve to be taking advantage of. So – what are you waiting for?

Update Today: The Spring 2015 version of Ascend RMS is now available to all retailers, so update today! Want more information on these and all other changes? Click here to view the release notes or here for a complete list of short video tutorials on Ascend University.

 

Almost There

We’re just days away from releasing the Spring 2015 version of Ascend. This week we’re highlighting a few more changes you’ll soon be able to take advantage of at a workstation near you.

Checkout Champ: It’s not just the icons that have been updated on the Sales screen. An improved layout and new functions will enhance your experience at the point of sale. Enjoy:

  • Unique icons for payment types – giving you a faster way to find what you need
  • An updated Sales Summary section which clearly displays Subtotal, Tax, Payments, and Amount Due. Shipping charges can also be entered and viewed in this section
  • A new icon in the Customer Panel to help you quickly identify customers that have a Trek Credit Card

Streamlined Statuses: We’ve made improvements to Work Order Status management.  The status field in Work Order Details is no longer a free for all. This version allows you to:

  • Manage Work Order statuses and display order
  • Limit management to Users with the System Tools permission
  • Update the Status List from Options or right within Work Order Details

e(-z)Commerce: Online sales are an increasingly important part of any business, so we couldn’t leave eCommerce untouched . Easily:

  • Assign the proper status to eCommerce sales at anytime without the need to do it in a particular order
  • Recognize all new eCommerce sales at a glance with the new “Channel” column in the Sales folder of Database Explorer

Stay Tuned: The Spring 2015 version of Ascend is less than a week away. Keep your eyes on this blog and on the Ascend Customer Network for ways to help make the most out of all the changes. Need a more visual way to stay informed? Check out our video library to watch short tutorials that are sure to make you an Ascend Pro in no time!

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.