Company: Amber Systems Technology (AST)
2017 Revenue Growth Rate: 25%
2018 projected revenue growth rate: 35%-plus
Phone: (925) 417-0762
Verticals: Hospitality, Restaurant, Retail, Wholesale
Since its inception in 2004, Amber Systems Technologies (AST) has focused on providing small to midsize retailers with customized point of sale (POS) and other complementary solutions. The ISV had success selling its flagship product, Vigore POS, to merchants both directly and through a VAR (value-added reseller) network, but it wasn’t until Amber Systems became more consultative with customers and gained a deeper understanding of its clients’ business pain points that it started experiencing consistent double-digit growth — along with a few years of triple-digit growth.
A case in point is a recent customer win with a Los Angeles-based Japanese Noodle and BBQ restaurant chain with 400+ employees and 12 locations. The restaurateur is a unique combination of quick serve and fine dining and was the first Japanese restaurant to offer drive-through service. “They’re a very busy business that does about $3 million a month in debit and credit payments,” says Naveen Kumar, owner of AST. “They were referred to our company by an agent looking for EMV and mobile solutions.”
Consultation Uncovers Multiple Payment, Compliance Challenges
The general manager of the restaurant chain contacted the ISV on a Friday evening inquiring about a chip card and mobile POS solution. By the following Monday, AST’s team met with the restaurateur at its headquarters and asked several probing questions to fully understand their challenges.
“They were using a Windows-based POS system from a well-known vendor,” recalls Kumar. “The POS offered no centralized reporting capabilities, no mobile ordering for the restaurant’s drive-through locations, no menu board display system, no centralized gift card capabilities and no EMV-compliant tipping capability. Additionally, the GM shared that he was unable to track daily sales activities at each location. In fact, because store managers had to manually submit sales data, reports were often a month behind. Topping the list of problems was that the system was unreliable and would sometimes fail during the busiest periods, leaving the client unable to accept debit or credit payments for days at a time before a VAR finally showed up to fix it.”
Linux-Based POS and EMV-Compliant Payment Processing Saves the Day
After gaining a deeper understanding of the client’s restaurant, drive-through, and quick serve workflows, AST recommended a comprehensive solution that included:
- Vigore POS — “Building our POS solution on a Linux platform has given us a significant advantage,” says Kumar. “The Linux OS is leaner than Windows, it’s more secure and it’s easier to integrate with mobile POS solutions since many of them are Android-based, which is similar to Linux.” AST integrated its POS with the merchant’s Drive Through Display system and added kiosks in the quick serve area of the restaurant, which were also integrated with the POS software, receipt printers, and scales for food items sold by weight.
- KIOSK — One of the most challenging aspects of the implementation was learning the various workflows in the kitchen. “We had to spend hours in the kitchen watching the staff and observing which food items were joined with others and which ones could not be included with others,” says Suzanne Chen, director at AST. “We were even able to add EMV-compliant tip adjustments with the help of our payment processing partner, North American Bancard, which is a feature the restaurant didn’t have previously.”
- Aura 3.0 — AST’s Cloud-based analytics application and web tool, which provides users with a comprehensive view, comparison and export data of their business operations, including in-depth hourly sales monitoring, sales history, employee time-clock tracking, customer loyalty, menu and inventory management plus much more.
- 4G Failover — To ensure better POS and payment processing uptime, the ISV added a 4G cellular backup network to each of the restaurateur’s locations. “If their main internet connection goes offline, the system automatically connects to the 4G network and it automatically reconnects to the main internet source once it becomes available again,” says Chen.
- Mobile Self-Service App – AST also implemented its integrated mobile app (available on Google and Apple app stores) for the restauranteur, which includes online ordering and payment capabilities.
- EMV Tip Adjust – A dynamic feature that enables customers to add a tip to their receipt after a purchase, with an EMV chipped card, in the same was they have done with magstripe cards. Resulting in a seamless payment experience for the customer, while providing the added liability protection that a merchant requires nowadays.
The Final Results
AST set up the solution at the restauranteur’s headquarters and trained managers on how to use the software, which made for a smooth rollout. “They’ve been very happy with the new system,” says Chen. “Not only do they now have 99.9% uptime, but managers no longer have to manually upload sales spreadsheets to headquarters. The data is automatically synced with the centralized cloud database, so the merchant has up-to-the-minute results on all its key metrics.”
“The POS landscape is more complex than it was 10 years ago,” says Chen. “As POS evolves and technology changes, we’re faced with a growing challenge to help our customers understand their needs. Many come to us with a lot of great ideas, but without a full understanding of what can help them improve their business. Increasingly, we have to consider it our job to act as consultants, not just technology integrators.”
“Our ultimate concern is equipping the merchant as best as possible to create a smooth payment experience,” said Jim Parkinson, chief information officer at North American Bancard. “We see tremendous value in the EMV experience and are able to add tip adjust due to the security of EMV.”
While shifting to a consultative sales practice was a product of the company’s commitment to custom developed POS solutions, it was nonetheless less risky for AST. “We have to be firm about what we can offer and what we can make our software do, and we have to know when to walk away if we can’t meet a prospect’s requirements. Knowing when to make that call requires several thorough conversations and a lot of questions and answers with the prospect.” With that said, Chen admits that her company’s custom sales approach — and the custom developed software that backs it up — usually result in the sale. “We’ve had very few instances where we lost a sale or lost a customer due to any limitations in our software. That’s an inherent advantage of being an ISV — we have complete discretion and control of our offering.”