Upserve Payments (Formerly Swipely) Review
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- Date Established
- Providence, RI
A couple comes into your restaurant. They have a quiet lunch, a little coffee afterward. They pay without incident, politely waving on the way out. You probably see this as an ordinary, boring, everyday occurrence, and most likely won’t think about them after they leave. Swipely (now Upserve) users, on the other hand, see in this interaction a hundred useful data points, all pixels in the larger picture of their business trajectory. Collecting the ephemeral data before it disappears into the ether is half the battle. But the other half, and what Swipely/Upserve does that’s so interesting to business owners, is taking those data pixels and creating a picture that reveals actionable insight, transforming the haphazard statistical static into a clear image without requiring you to fit the puzzle pieces together on your own. Visitor data aggregation and analysis isn’t just for e-commerce anymore…
Upserve Inc began as a consumer-centered purchase tracking software company called Swipely, but in the last few years has put both feet squarely in business-directed services, namely data analytics. They set up merchant accounts for payment processing services and use the data gleaned from the transactions to populate their proprietary cloud-based software that sorts and displays the kinds of data that most restaurants, bars, cafes, and specialty shops either cannot access or access so inefficiently that it’s more of a burden than an asset. Anyone who has any experience in restaurant management knows how much guesswork goes into assessing the long-term efficacy of promotions and staff performance. Calculating your return on investment shouldn’t be something that you “feel out” or deal with based on anecdotal evidence. That’s where Upserve comes in.
Instead of having to track down information and data from a bunch of different people and places throughout your business, Upserve aggregates, gathers, and neatly displays a wide variety of metrics in one seamless platform. Is happy hour really increasing sales? Which menu items are turning new customers into regular customers? Did the event you catered this weekend generate any buzz? Does a Facebook post in the afternoon bring in dinner business? All these answers and more are now at your fingertips, and it’s all completely scalable with no additional hardware and no staff training.
Upserve is not meant to replace your current POS capabilities such as inventory, ordering, accounting, booking and so on. Upserve offers payment processing services at fair rates, and as a value-adding service integrates a powerful marketing and operations data manager with an ever-growing feature set that already includes a functional loyalty program, customer relationship management, menu analytics, staff management, reputation monitoring, financial reports and more. It’s meant to work with your current POS system to bring an increased level of clarity and usability to the data your business generates.
They can provide the software at no additional cost with one catch: you must use Upserve’s payment processing service. From what I’ve seen they handle payment well and at reasonable rates. Merchants seem to agree, given this company’s meteoric growth. Since Swipely got into the processing game, they went from dealing with $250 million in 2013 all the way up to an astounding $4 billion in late 2014. You don’t get that kind of growth on hype alone. They have a sharp, invigorated and frankly likable CEO at the helm, Angus Davis, and are backed by some high-profile investors, so continued growth seems very likely.
You can find uses for Upserve outside of the restaurant industry, but the features are really honed for food and drink service. That said, I’ve read reports from spa owners, specialty food shops, liquor stores and others retailers who report satisfaction with Upserve’s features and value.
Upserve is a great tool for established retail and service businesses processing at least $400K annually. Low-volume and start-up businesses will likely not find a good match in Upserve at the moment. First, because the tools will likely outpace your needs for them; the greater your volume, the more data you produce and thus the better Upserve will work for you. Second, because Upserve will likely not be able to offer you the most competitive package for your budget and needs. (Don’t worry, we can help you find the right match.) Upserve’s main market is established small to mid-sized restaurants and retailers.
I’d suggest that you sign up for a free demo of the Upserve system. It only takes a few minutes of your time, and it could be a great way to bring order to the chaos of your business data, allowing you to push past your plateau and tap in to your best growth potential without paying a dime more than you currently do – and using the exact same POS equipment and software you’re used to. Low-risk, high reward potential. That’s what I like to see! Check them out and let us know how it goes.
Table of Contents
Products & Services:
Upserve/Swipely’s payment processing and data analytics software come as a package deal. You can’t use one without the other. Calling it analytics software actually sells Upserve short. A certain amount of customer relationship management (CRM) and employee management is built in as well, alongside a solid loyalty program and reputation monitoring system. This suite of products work together to provide a broad and easily accessed view of your business on-screen in terms of marketing, operations, and financials (outlined below). Over the last few years, Upserve has released new and powerful features on a very regular basis.This trend continued in 2015, with the release of Logbook, a new feature that allows Upserve users to collect and manage data from a variety of sources to gain a better insight into how their business is running on a day-to-day basis.
The software is versatile and scalable. You can manage multiple locations of the same business, multiple businesses at the same location, or multiple businesses at multiple locations using Upserve without adding any hardware whatsoever. What’s even better is that your employees will not have any extra work burden. No additional data entry is necessary.
Here’s a basic feature outline:
1. Marketing: This section contains your loyalty program, campaigns and events, and customer data. It also features current reviews and ratings on your business.
- Loyalty Program: Upserve’s loyalty program offers cash back rewards for your credit card customers. Your program will be customized and created by Upserve. The program has, essentially, two parts: First Purchase Offer (a special incentive designed to encourage customers to sign up for your rewards program) and Rewards Plateau (the plateau is the threshold members must reach to receive their cash back rewards).
- Campaigns: Campaigns operate independently from your loyalty program and can be set up for specific periods of time. These campaigns track and calculate transactions to offer you ROI (return on investment) data specific to your campaign. Some of the specifics include: social buzz regarding your campaign, sales, return customer info, and money spent versus sales.
- Reputation monitoring: This portion of the software shows current reviews and ratings from popular review sites such as TripAdvisor, Yelp, Google Plus, and OpenTable. This also allows you to track when you’ve posted on social media like Facebook and Twitter, when customers posted about you, and what visitor engagements occur on a daily basis.
- Customer Database (CRM): Your customer database provides a myriad of information on your customers, including top spenders and campaign participation. The database can be edited to include notes and other identifiable information about your customers (i.e., birthdays, social media info, etc.). You don’t have to use the loyalty program to populate the database. Upserve aggregates customer information based on their payment card usage. But using the loyalty system can help make the information even more accurate and actionable.
2. Operations: This section of the software offers insights on your business’s performance and is available with Micros, Aloha, Squirrel, Adelo and PosiTouch POS systems. While Upserve/Swipely works with most POS software, only the best integrated software will have complete functionality. Otherwise, some features will be left off. There are two key areas for this software: product intelligence and employee performance.
- Product intelligence gives you detailed data on what products are moving, what products are bringing customers back, and in what quantity/frequency. This includes their so-called “magic quadrants” display, which breaks your menu down into four quadrants (Hidden Gems, Greatest Hits, Underperformers, One Hit Wonders) based on popularity (volume) and repeat customer (retention) statistics. As part of this report, you can see the number of each item sold, the percentage of customers who order this item that returned, and how long it was before they came back. “Menu Scorecards” allow you to see how each menu item is performing and make comparisons based on store averages.
- Employee performance details include overall and specific product sales figures to help you reward staff or pinpoint problem areas. Employee Scorecards function much like their menu counterparts, showing useful rankings and comparison statistics, including average ticket and the different categories of items on each ticket. This allows you to not only pinpoint your weaker servers but also to gain some insight into why they might be performing poorly. Maybe it turns out they are intimidated when it comes to wine and beverage sales and this is causing their average ticket to be low. It also allows you to see what your best servers are doing right and thus give other staff actionable advice to improve their performances.
- Daily Journal: This features records and displays everything from the day’s weather to social media interactions and sales figures on a daily basis. It’s a great resource for at-a-glance, day-to-day comparisons.
- Logbook: New for 2015 is Logbook, a social productivity and collaboration tool designed to gather feedback from multiple sources and provide restaurant managers and owners with a clearer view of what’s happening in their daily business operations. Logbook collects checklists, shift reports, and manager’s log notes from multiple locations and users, and brings this information together via an interactive communication tool to provide a “big picture” overview of how your business is performing on a daily basis. While all merchant accounts have access to Logbook through the Upserve portal, users of the Micros 3700, Aloha, or POSitouch POS systems will also receive a Daily Digest email that summarizes all Logbook entries for each day.
3. Financials: The financial section of the software offers data and reports on sales, visits, customer values, comparisons, and averages, all of which tie in with the operations and marketing capabilities. You’ll also access your deposit information and loyalty redemptions as well. You can generate reports for sales summary, time of day, day of week, and new versus repeat customers. Sales can be viewed by item, by category or by server. You can view these components in a ranked list or in separate profile views. It’s really hard to articulate all of the different ways this data can be displayed visually in Upserve, but nothing feels like a throwaway feature. Every report and graph seems to distill very relevant and useful insights.
Upserve takes the data that all processors can see and makes it visible and usable to local merchants. As is the case with all data aggregation, the longer you’ve been collecting, the more powerful your output will be. Beyond that, converting visitors to loyalty customers will add a lot of precision to your reports. An added benefit to this, in terms of data collection, is that being a loyalty customer with Upserve incentivizes card payments over cash payments. This helps to drive in the most data possible. Customers who might normally pay in cash are likely to pay in debit, and thanks to Upserve’s use of interchange-plus you will pay very low debit rates. While this theoretically costs more than cash acceptance, remember that accepting cash has its own costs.
Integrations & Add-Ons:
The most in-depth integration is available with Breadcrumb (purchased by Upserve May 2016), Micros, Aloha, PosiTouch, Squirrel, and Adelo. Using one of these systems opens up the complete feature set available through Upserve, including menu intelligence and employee performance. Because many other POS systems use varying closed APIs and may not produce all of the necessary data, integration may not be as complete and some features may not be available.
But, that said, Upserve does integrate with a ton of other POS systems, including:
…and many others. So don’t write them off if you are currently using a POS not listed here, or even if you just use a standalone POS card terminal. But be aware that certain feature availability depends on your system or willingness to upgrade.
They also launched their mobile app in March of 2016. This app allows users to access all of there Upserve analytics and restaurant information from their mobile devices.
Fees & Rates:
Originally, Swipely did not disclose any rates or fees publicly. In a digital transactions article from 2014, Swipely’s CEO Angus Davis “declined to disclose Swipely’s fees, but says pricing is custom to each merchant and is based on the number of locations, users, and sales.” A Forbes article from 2013 estimated that Swipely’s effective rate averages at 2.65%, although I think it’s probably lower than that. Their sample statement shows a markup of about 0.18% + $0.05 per transaction.
However, this changed when the name did, including a pricing page with several options:
$99 per month/location
$249 per month/location
$499 per month/location
Each of these comes with their own set of services and includes Upserve Payments and + $0.10 per transaction, for eligible restaurants. Interchange is also available to qualified clients.
And then there’s Enterprise
This pricing option is for companies with a large number of locations. Customers who utilize this category can utilize the included Upserve Payments or use their own processor.
While most merchants will be able to use their current equipment with Upserve, they may need to upgrade if they are only using a standalone terminal, especially an outdated one. Upserve has a practice of paying $500 worth of transition expenses, which is more than enough to replace the terminal at no added charge. In other cases, the standalone terminal can be eliminated altogether.
For Your Information – Don’t bother trying to get a rate or fee quote until you have submitted processing statements and seen the live demo. It’s simply not going to happen. To figure out what pricing tier you belong on and what features are available to you, the rep will need to know (a) what POS you use and (b) what your processing history looks like. And since they don’t want you to make a decision about the Upserve system based solely on price, you’ll need to see the demo before the pricing conversation happens.
If you are not grossing $400K or more per year, Upserve may not be for you. The target users for this software are established businesses. If you have a low volume or no processing history, you might want to consider other solutions.
The speculative numbers aren’t important to me. What’s important to me is that Upserve (a) uses interchange-plus instead of tiered pricing, and (b) is not charging junk fees. I can say that based on my research, these two statements are 100% true. This will allow you to make clean value comparisons. The overall goal seems to be to give you added value without making you pay more. But they are selling on value, not on cheapness.
Contract Length & Early Termination Fee:
Upserve/Swipely does appear to use a fixed early termination fee of $300 on at least some of their contracts. This is a negotiable point, especially if you don’t take them up on the $500 transition cost for new equipment, so don’t be afraid to ask for a waiver on this. Contracts span three years and auto-renew thereafter, but if you satisfy the initial contract term you can almost certainly get the ETF waived should you decide to cancel beyond that point.
The bright side is that they never use variable liquidated damages early termination fees. Still, as merchants are becoming more and more accustomed to month-to-month agreements any termination fee becomes off putting. The other good news here is that Upserve appears to be upfront about this commitment, and doesn’t rely on deception or dishonesty to get your signature. Regardless, I’d recommend reviewing your fees and rates carefully, and discussing the termination policy in-depth with your sales rep. Thirty days’ notice is needed for cancellation.
I have seen no evidence of merchant dissatisfaction in regard to Upserve’s contract or cancellation process.
Sales & Advertising Transparency:
Upserve/Swipely’s marketing is built to convert visitors into viable leads and get those leads into the sales experience as quickly as possible and with minimal friction. They want to get you into a guided software demo ASAP because they are confident in their software. How many payment processors want you to test their reporting system before signing up? Very nearly zero, given that most processors have clunky, almost ’90s-era reporting systems. Most processors are selling you on their (alleged) honesty, reliability, and cost-effectiveness, none of which are that interesting to demonstrate. Upserve, on the other hand, is selling you insight, control, and a powerful business toy with a lot of interesting buttons. This type of thing is very fun to demonstrate.
There’s a certain element of feeling like you’re being forced to use their processing system just because you want their software, but I’d actually be willing to speculate that they couldn’t execute a system like this without having a direct link in the payment chain. They glean customer data from the transactions in a way that would be impossible if merchants were allowed to use their own processors. So it’s less a matter of cajoling and more a matter of necessity.
Still, there is room for improvement in terms of their marketing surrounding what they do payment processing-wise. You’ll find some useful discussion in their blog posts, but Upserve’s primary public marketing more or less ignores the processing side of things.
As of late 2015, Upserve gets half of their business through ISOs, value-added resellers and other third parties. There is always a concern that branching out in this way will lead to a poorly-trained and unregulated sales force, but this doesn’t seem to be the case with Upserve. I’m not sure how they are handling these outside sales outlets, but things seem to be going smoothly so far. It seems like onboarding and account management is handled in-house, with partners focusing on lead generation based on their existing networks.
Customer Service & Technical Support:
Upserve offers 24-hour support for its merchants via phone and email.
- Phone: Phone support is offered 24/7 from US-based representatives. You’ll also have a dedicated account manager to help you navigate issues specific to your business.
- Email: Merchants can contact Upserve using their email page and get a response within 24 hours.
- Web: Swipely offered web support via their Live Chat during business hours, but minimal self-service online help. However, since the name change, Live Chat has been offline. They have a Resources page with some useful information, and I actually found their Blog to be fairly informative.
What they could really use is a detailed and all-encompassing knowledge base for self-service support and skill-honing. If you’re the type of person who loves to read a user manual to learn about all the advanced functions and best-use tips for a new piece of software, you’ll be disappointed by Upserve. They have a limited FAQ (which is oddly located at the bottom of their ‘Press’ page) and Support Center. The good news is that Swipely is super-intuitive and their support reps are responsive and knowledgeable. Still, sometimes you just want to peruse some documentation at your leisure.
Negative Reviews & Complaints:
With a customer base as large as Upserve/Swipely’s, you’d expect to see a fair number of public complaints. Somehow, however, Upserve managed to keep a nearly-spotless reputation despite their continued growth. They have an A+ rating with the BBB with absolutely zero complaints in the last three years! The only reviews currently posted on the BBB website, however, are negative. All three of them cite poor customer service as their main problem with Upserve.
Personally, I found very few things to complain about. Upserve is growing at a tremendous rate and has undergone substantial restructuring in terms of offerings and marketing since their initial launch. They’re honing their product and the way they sell it, though, and I think the increased success of the system will help to keep improvements coming. They are incredibly wise to leave POS software to the other guys, and instead just focus on their data management and back-end analytics software coupled with the payment processing service that provides the data.
Upserve does have a blind spot, however: cash. There is no way to track cash customers in terms of data analysis. You can include their order to glean menu information and server insights, but the customer remains untraceable. Getting the markers needed to track cash customers creates a certain amount of friction, and Upserve is all about reducing friction. It’s difficult to find an elegant solution for this. I guess the good news is that cash transactions are rare as it is, and getting rarer. Cash-intensive establishments may struggle with this. However, there was a rumor that Swipely was working on a solution for this. The new Upserve website does mention cash transactions several times but doesn’t put forth any clear change from Swipely in this regard.
It would be nice to see Facebook reviews tracked with the social media aggregation. Upserve certainly isn’t ignoring the power of Facebook. They help you track Facebook interactions (your posts, visitor posts, plus associated likes and comments) within the software and offer tons of tips and advice in terms of best-use for the FB platform. But if you want those FB reviews aggregated with your OpenTable, Yelp, Trip Advisor and Google+ info, you’re out of luck at the moment.
As Upserve/Swipely changed course from a consumer-driven service to a business-driven service, certain features dropped off as others cropped up. At this point, their consumer tools like the merchant directory are essentially vestigial. It seems that customer sign ups are now predominately handled via text. The absence of an up-to-date directory seems intentional but could be viewed as a shortcoming. A feature like camera scan card entry (common in mobile wallet apps) could be a major bonus. This might also offer a workable solution for cash-preferring customers.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials:
A big percentage of Upserve’s marketing comes in the form of video case studies and testimonials. Check out their Resources page for a collection of these videos interspersed with various other helpful media. Most of these merchants are in the restaurant/food service industries.
Here’s a rundown of some positive feedback I’ve seen for Upserve/Swipely:
- Painless setup and changeover: Merchants love that there is no new equipment to buy and that they don’t need to change over any essential software like their POS system. They also love that no additional staff training or effort is needed. The system is entirely automated and designed to work with your existing setup. The only thing staff may need to be prompted about is converting customers into the loyalty system, if you choose to use the loyalty aspect of Upserve.
- Make informed menu decisions: This is why restaurants make up 70% of Upserve’s customers. If you think that your POS is giving you enough information to know how to effectively manage your menu, I’d encourage you to think again. There is no system I know of that synergizes customer data and business data with menu item performance the way Upserve does. This is one of their most highly-lauded features.
- Improve staff performance: Again, like the menu management, knowing which of your servers is selling the most is not a problem for most POS systems. But knowing why that is or what you can do to optimize the poor performing servers has remained a matter of intuition and trial and error. Upserve adds detailed quantitative insights to server performance in a way you’re unlikely to have experienced before.
- Retain customers: Most business owners know that a regular customer holds way more value than a one-time customer, but it’s been historically difficult to assess how well you are converting new customers into recurring business. Upserve not only tells you how well you’re doing in this regard; it gives you insights into why you are succeeding or failing to do this as well as tools to improve loyalty.
In terms of data aggregation and management, Upserve is leaps and bounds ahead of even the industry leaders for payment processing in the restaurant industry. But in terms of the payment processing itself, this company is new to the scene. It appears that they use First Data as their processor, which is good news. Some of our favorite providers (like Payment Depot) use First Data. Despite the fact that many merchants who use FD directly have been known to experience issues, FD is about as powerful and versatile as it gets, and it’s good to know that Upserve has a capable processor on the backend. To be clear, as the merchant, your interaction with the processor will be minimal. Supports comes directly from your Upserve account manager.
If Upserve wasn’t offering any value-added features, I’d consider them an above-average, but not exceptional, payment processing provider. With their unique suite of software and services, however, they make the grade as an outstanding company to do business with. I trust them in terms of payments and am impressed by the power of their software.
Upserve doesn’t get the last half star for a few reasons. First, they have only dealt with payment processing for a very short period of time so far. They only launched the payments part of Upserve/Swipely in late 2012, so I’d like to see some more long-term feedback come in. Beyond that, there is little discussion of the payment processing end of the business or associated rates and fees in Upserve’s primary public marketing. Even if they don’t go all-out in this regard, I’d like to see a little bit more effort on top of the information you’ll find in their blog posts.
In terms of support, I think they need a big, detailed, precise knowledge base that outlines every current feature, what it does and how to use it best. If they could put together something like what Square has, that would be an amazing asset. Yes, the software is easy as pie to use and their customer service is great, but we really need an in-depth guide that users can refer to as they hone their Upserve skills.
Aside from that, there are some feature upgrades that would make the service even more valuable, but no major shortcomings or complaints to speak of. If you have an experience with Upserve, please leave a comment so we can consider your input during our next update. Otherwise, check out Upserve or our other top rated processors!!