Use It Or Lose It

Few would argue that business management software is a must for equipment rental businesses today. Everyone can recognize the benefits these programs offer in terms of streamlining the point of sale, managing reservations, tracking equipment location, maintenance and much more. Many would also admit much of what today's software can offer is going unutilized.

Optimizing the rental process

"Generally, the capabilities of rental software that tend to be underutilized are those that address areas of the business beyond the actual transaction - marketing, for example," says Jack Shea, CEO of Solutions by Computer. "Rental transactions capture valuable marketing data as a matter of course, but this information is often left untapped. We use our customer newsletter and other communication channels to encourage the use of system data to guide advertising decisions and implement programs such as coupon promotions, direct mailings and frequent renter awards."

He continues, "This same concept applies to other areas of rental operations as well, for example, CRM and cost control. Our CounterPRO and Enfinity systems take advantage of current advancements in third-party applications and tracking technologies to help our users optimize the rental process."

Shea points to recent examples, including truck loading and delivery routing. "Our systems use multiple technologies to ensure complete deliveries: Recommended Item advisories, Accessory Kits and Barcode/RFID scans as items are loaded. The goal is to eliminate common missteps during the delivery process, such as items that fail to get picked and loaded, or items that are loaded without all their components. In both cases, the rental company has to absorb the labor and fuel costs of a second trip to the jobsite, or replace the missing components locally at retail cost."

Taking care of business

Keeping equipment up and running is paramount in a rental business. As such, today's rental management applications offer maintenance scheduling to systematically prepare for delivery, perform preventive maintenance in the field and complete inspections of returning equipment. This minimizes turnaround times while tracking parts and labor cost of equipment so it can be constantly evaluated, says Mike Stillwagner of Wynne Systems.

Systems also offer preventive maintenance work orders, decreasing downtime and minimizing future breakdowns. Also available are repair work orders for faster, more accurate repairs. "These increase available utilization time within your fleet and maximize mechanic/technician time utilization," Stillwagner says.

Lastly, telemetric information provides hour meter and accurate location of deployed equipment that may be due for service. "This maximizes profitability by facilitating timely service and reducing future repair cost," Stillwagner says. "Telemetrics to get location of equipment on a customer's site, and service vehicles with faster, more efficient service calls should increase customer service confidence and repeat business."

Getting the message

According to Bob Shaffer, president of Point-of-Rental Systems, today's systems generally have some sort of customer and inventory analysis by period and revenue trends. Even if the system automatically senses poor trends and is able to automatically email or print reports, somebody has to follow up and do something, he points out.

"If management ignores this information, many opportunities will be lost. Modern rental management systems provide messages that can be sent to specific employees or employee groups by email within the program, external email or even text messages. Reminders can also be embedded into quotes, reservations and contracts. With an embedded reminder, any time transactions are viewed, a pop-up message will automatically display. These messages are useful to make sure customer or operational requests aren't forgotten. In short, throw out your Post-It notes."

He adds, "If these features are not implemented by management, they are simply wasted. In short, owners and managers of rental stores need to review the features their systems offer and start implementing more of them."

Shea agrees. "[Rental operators] are not always aware of the solutions offered by their rental software. We are always working to bring the full range of solutions top-of-mind and encourage more complete use of our systems."