NCR Silver Review
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NCR Silver is a cloud-based iPad POS system from 150 year-old electronics giant NCR Corporation, the first point-of-sale company in the world. This software sets itself apart in a handful of ways and should be a serious consideration for small to medium-size business owners.
For some, the sheer size of NCR can be enough to dissuade them. Nowadays, we tend to gravitate towards the struggling, quirky startup rather than the (seemingly) soulless corporation. And NCR is a corporation in the traditional sense – a message that comes across both in its impersonal site-design and its slightly puzzling name (we haven’t yet been able to locate either bronze or gold). Oh, and I should probably mention its six billion in annual revenue too.
Yet being the child of a rich parent does have its benefits. As a developer of various other POS systems – Aloha, which has been made specifically for restaurants, and Counterpoint, aimed at retailers – NCR is able to bring a level of know-how to the table that its competitors simply can’t match. This out-in-the-trenches experience genuinely shows in some of its features, such as the huge array of integration options. NCR has also set itself apart as a company that responds quickly to new feature requests and market demands. Both of these attributes are made possible because of its size.
Staying on the same positive note, recent additions to NCR Silver’s subscription-based services have also added a little more of the personal flavor that many thought was lacking. They now include, for example, full 24/7 live support and a range of less-than-mainstream integration options…considered BitCoin, anyone?
All subscriptions come with a 14-day free trial, but beyond that NCR’s got a pretty unique pricing model, as far as software-as-a-service subscriptions go. There aren’t a range of plans that add or subtract POS features based on what level you choose. There are two options, the second one aimed specifically at restaurants.
- The flagship plan, at $59 a month includes live, 24/7 support. Only one device is covered, however. For each additional iPad or iPhone you’ll be charged $0.10 per sale with a cap of $29 per month.
- The second plan, at $129 a month, includes all the options of the standard version plus some restaurant-specific features. These include, but are not limited to, cross-device order communication, seat assignments and takeout management.
There’s also an additional “Silver Care Plus” package for a one-off payment of $299. All that’s really involved is access to a “Silver Guru” (I know, names aren’t a strong point with these guys) who’ll help you get started. Though with the 24/7 care I can’t really see the point.
What’s great about the additional device pricing model is that there are plenty of small businesses that don’t need a second register full time (usually only as a back-up at peak times). In that case, paying a per-register fee isn’t worth it for how little use it would get. To have this kind of pricing flexibility is an attractive proposition.
Web-Based or Locally-Installed:
NCR Silver is a hybrid setup; the iPad app handles all the register specific tasks, with limited admin functionality. But for full control of your POS–detailed inventory tasks, employee time, customer rewards, reports etc.–you’ll need to access it through the web.
The hybrid architecture means that there’s a good amount of offline protection, and you can easily set up “offline credit” to accept payments during a connectivity outage. You do this at your own financial risk, because the system will queue up the charge for authorization, which happens long after your customer has left the building. Nonetheless, this puts NCR in a fairly small group of developers that offer this feature.
It’s also worth noting that a big problem with the offline mode has been fixed. It previously only worked if the connection went down while the user was already logged in. If you hadn’t opened the register and logged in before the outage, you were stuck. Now, anyone with manager access can log an individual in during an outage.
NCR Silver is surprisingly versatile for what it is, and could easily work with a variety of businesses. It’s the RuPaul of POS, changing its identity with ease and effectiveness. With features like remote kitchen printing, item modifiers, split payments, and tipping, it could easily fit in at a quick-serve style cafe or coffee shop. But with its inventory management, support for item variations (like size and color), and easy handling of returns, retails shops of all flavors would find a lot to like here, too.
If you’re a restaurant-owner then you’ll want to go with the restaurant-specific option. It’s becoming more the norm for POS software providers to offer a unique version, usually built on the standard one.
Specific Size of Business:
NCR Silver is aimed squarely at small to medium sized businesses—anything bigger and it would compete with NCR’s Aloha or Counterpoint. Until fairly recently, Silver didn’t even have the ability to manage multiple stores under a single account. Even with this added feature, its prime audience remains unchanged, and NCR is wise to keep its focus where it is. Small business owners don’t normally get the kind of attention NCR is offering, and many will be happy to know that their POS system is not sharing support resources with larger companies who can afford better service.
Ease of Use:
NCR built its reputation by easing the pain of handling cash transactions. In 1884, direct customer marketing was still a relatively basic field. It was tough to build a business, and most of the tools available weren’t easy to use. It would have been easy, then, for NCR to develop something quick and basic on the iPad, throw the heft of its name behind the venture, and boast at how far the company had come.
NCR Silver stands on its own, though; it’s well designed, with an intuitive interface that gives most tasks an almost weightless feel. I was able to accomplish nearly every task involved in setting up a store – adding inventory and customers, for example – without the slightest bit of assistance or forethought. This is how I do most things in my life–on my own and without a plan–so I felt right at home within NCR’s web interface.
Even mass imports were self-explanatory, using the CSV template NCR provides. The CSV is easy to find: click on “Import Items” and you’re presented with instructions on how to do it and a link to the template.
I only ran into a bit of trouble when setting up a customer rewards program. It wasn’t that the options for rewards were so complicated, rather that the on-screen definitions of each attribute weren’t very well-written. For the most part, though, using NCR Silver was a breeze. When I did need help from the web console; selecting the “help” link from within the interface brought me to the appropriate document for that specific screen. You also have the live chat option, prominently visible in the dashboard area, that can connect you with someone immediately. This is great for instant gratification.
Working inside the POS app was just as easy. The interface was beyond intuitive, and I knew how to use it before I even saw it. That sounds hyperbolic, but it isn’t. The app does what it was designed to do. Honestly, I’m starting to not want these things to work well or be well-designed. It’s difficult to come up with a creative way to say, “It works really well!” How many ways can I express the attractive visual design? What’s a new way to explain how much difficulty I didn’t have? It’s a difficult job being a software reviewer. T
Hardware and Software Requirements:
The app itself will work on any iPad, iPhone (4/4s and above), or iPod (4th generation or later). Having tried it on both an iPad and an iPhone—I’d say count on buying an iPad. The iPhone screen is too small and there’s too much back and forth between pages—selecting items, seeing the full order, cashing out—which makes using the app cumbersome. It’s a complete 180 degree turn from the iPad app, which was easier to understand than Ikea furniture assembly instructions.
As with any iPad apps, the supported peripheral hardware forms a narrow list. But you’re not going to go broke buying these things. NCR offers a hardware bundle alongside some extra a la carte options; they don’t tell you the manufacturer for each item, instead quasi-branding each as “for NCR Silver.” It’s a semantic trick to get you to buy the gear from them. Even so, they don’t appear to be gouging you for extra dough. Here’s the breakdown:
- NCR Silver Register Bundle, $499, includes the Countertop Receipt Printer, Cash Drawer, Swivel Stand, and Credit Card Reader. There are two separate options for iPad and iPad 2, so be aware of which one you’re choosing.
- NCR Swivel Stand for iPad 2, $99, fits iPad 2, 3, or 4, and presumably the Air. It tilts, swivels, and has a magnetic base so that it stays in place on top of your cash drawer all while serving its main function of keeping your iPad vertical.
- Countertop Receipt Printer for NCR Silver, $285, can be connected to your network over wi-fi, or directly to the iPad over Bluetooth. A pack of 24 receipt rolls is available for $29.00.
- Cash Drawer for NCR Silver, $109, which is 16″ wide and has a removable till and if you’re still reading this sentence you probably expect way too much from a cash drawer. Really, it’s a drawer. It holds cash. Enough said. Any additional removable cash drawer till will cost you $39.00.
- Cordless Barcode Scanner for NCR Silver, $269, will scan barcodes cordlessly, as its name cleverly implies.
- Credit Card Reader for NCR Silver, $79, regardless if it’s for the iPad or iPhone/Pod. There are two options, the “30-Pin” and “Lightning” connectors, and each has a specific list of iPad types that it’s compatible with, so make sure to check this before buying. They’re clearly listed on the sales page.
- Mobile Receipt Printer for NCR Silver, $355, is a Bluetooth only printer, available for customers who don’t have wi-fi and don’t want to spend $70 less on the receipt printer I listed above, which also supports Bluetooth. This one’s a little smaller, so I guess that makes it easier to transport, but come on: is it really that hard to move a full size receipt printer?
- iPad Air Adapter Kit: $10, allows you to adapt your iPad air with the NCR Silver software.
We’re getting to the point in the evolution of cloud-based POS systems when there are certain features you expect to see as a matter of course. NCR Silver does not disappoint in this regard, offering fully functioning cash register with multi-tender support, easy discounting, inventory and customer management, remote reporting, and employee timekeeping. The cherry on the top is an equally strong set of analytics tools.
What puts NCR a notch above other entry-level apps (or, at least, apps priced at that level) is the depth of functionality within each of these areas.
The inventory module doesn’t just keep track of how many items you have. It also tracks your vendors and costs, keeps track of reorder points, supports variations like size and color, and allows modifiers for food-service establishments. Advanced printer routing allows you to set items to print–or not–to a kitchen, bar, or prep area printer. With the new multi-store features, you can get bird’s eye views of the entire operation or drill down to each site for specific details, whether for inventory, customers, employees, or sales. Too often I see systems with low stock thresholds that claim to alert you, but that alert only sounds when you sit down and run the low stock report. NCR Silver actually goes the extra mile and alerts you proactively.
Full offline protection is now available meaning you can run credit card transactions (at your own risk, of course) when there’s an outage, and NCR will queue up the authorizations until the system is back online.
For customer loyalty, NCR doesn’t stop at having a master list of names, numbers, and addresses. It’s not uncommon for POS software to email receipts, but how about a follow-up message the next day, thanking the customer with a special offer? This email functionality is one of NCR Silver’s stand-out features. You can manage your whole email marketing operation – broadcasts, newsletters, welcome emails – from within the member area.
If a customer is already in your database, a credit card swipe will cause the software to prompt the cashier with the matching name(s) to associate with the sale. There are also two ways to work a rewards program–by dollars spent or number of visits–as well as integrated social media marketing tools (Facebook and Twitter). As mentioned earlier, there are accompanying analytics so that you can track all of your customers’ responses (including a section for “Customer Notes”).
Integrations and Add-Ons:
NCR Silver integrates with Quickbooks and Xero, the two most widely used accounting services.
Compatible Credit Card Processors:
Due to the size of the company, NCR Silver integrates with most merchant credit card processors. Elavon, PayPal Here, and Vantiv, Chase Paymentech, First Data, Global Payments, Heartland Payment Systems, Mercury Payment Systems, WorldPay, and TSYS. are all covered. You can also manually enter data if you need to use a stand-beside credit card swipe machine for those few merchant services that aren’t integrated.
You can integrate with BitPay if you want to accept Bitcoins, a currency that I still haven’t been able to understand. It also offers LevelUp for one-touch mobile payments. If you want to learn more about Bitcoin, click here (somebody clearly more intelligent than me has written a good introduction to the topic).
If you need help navigating the world of credit card processors to find a good rate, then please let us know.
Customer Service and Technical Support:
Support is offered 24-hours a day, seven days a week via both phone and live chat. The phone service is second to none. The live chat, which I’ll get to in a minute, is a little less heartening.
Additionally, you’ve got the aforementioned “personalized phone conference” with a “Silver Guru” and full setup of your store–for $299. It should be noted that a “personalized phone conference” with one person is what most folks would refer to as a “phone call.” Also, I don’t care what the dictionary says; I’m tired of people using the word “guru” to mean an expert with all the answers. A true guru only unlocks the answers we already possess within ourselves, and the whole experience is tax deductible.
As for the quality of the phone support, I can say that my own experience was pretty impressive. I live in a small town in Vermont, and if I call my local food co-op to find out if local rhubarb is available yet, I have to sit through a very long list of options before I can get to the Produce department. The whole process to get to a person can run up to 2 minutes. But I called NCR Silver support on a Monday, in the middle of the day, pressed 1 for English, and was talking to one of the 23,000 live human beings that work for NCR Corporation in under 30 seconds.
I didn’t see any negative reviews of the support anywhere, either. Even in the violently hyperbolic bad reviews that all software has at least 10 of, the focus was on features–not support. One user highlighted support as the primary reason for choosing the software, noting that:
“The NCR Silver team genuinely cares about helping our business flourish. The customer support team and developers have visitied us on location to see how NCR Silver could be tweaked and deployed more efficiently in a quick-serve, mobile food truck environment.” -Tex’s Tacos
In addition to phone and email support, there’s also a “Customer Care” website, with a comprehensive knowledgebase of articles and fairly active user forum, which NCR technicians respond to regularly. Additionally, NCR maintains the standard Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube outreach efforts, all of which are active and are being used effectively.
One red flag that I would raise is in relation to the live chat. There’s a big button in the desktop dashboard area just crying to be clicked. On numerous occasions, however, I was rewarded with the message, “There are no assistants available at the moment, please try calling us.”
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
The right to complain vociferously is guaranteed to U.S. Citizens in our Bill of Rights, and presently there is no greater proof of how much we cherish this American liberty is than internet consumer forums. So it’s no surprise that, in spite of my very positive experience with NCR Silver, there are some people who’d like to see the developers of NCR burned alive for their sins against humanity.
Many of the negative reviews online are out of date and center on lacks in the software’s functionality that have since been amended: cash management, employee time-clock, no support for multiple sites, no Quickbooks or Xero integration. I came across a couple of reviews that complained of it being horribly buggy, but these, too, were older reviews.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
Users who have downloaded the app and use it for their businesses are generally happy with NCR Silver. The App Store shows that most reviews are 4 or 5 stars, with customers heaping lavish praise:
“The smartest business app ever…Does everything you will need to not just manage your business but build it.” –Incognito2004
“Finally a real POS system that’s for even the smallest business, that’s not just affordable, but can actually make you money…even someone with no training could walk up and start using it…The alerts [are] great, for when you’re not in, [you] know when you’re having a wonderful sales day, or when something fishy is going on like extremely high discounts.” –Johnny B. Goode
“Keeps getting better…the new loyalty feature is simple but meets my needs. I was considering another loyalty option but now will not have to spend that extra $$$” –Mason3112
Our last review of NCR Silver, around three years ago, was a largely positive one. We gave it high marks for ease of use, flexibility, and built-in marketing tools. All of these great features, together comprising the foundation of the software, are still there and working well. At this stage, any development is essentially going to be just elaboration on those basic features, adding more functionality and more frills. This is evidenced by the recent addition of an extensive analytics dashboard and the cohesive email marketing area. Obviously there is also the restaurant specific-option now, which is perhaps the biggest change to be aware of.
I’d recommend for it almost any type of small business, from retail to food service. NCR Silver rivals some of the most feature rich (and more expensive) competitors out there. The difference is, those competitors (Erply or Lightspeed, for example) start small but are designed to scale up to much larger operations, a fact which is reflected in the price tag. NCR Silver, on the other hand, caters specifically to small businesses, and offers big-business functions and service at an entry-level price.
All that glitters may not always be gold, but you could do a lot worse if it turns out to be Silver.