Some systems can help you determine how hard your employees are working. "All sorts of history is stored in present day rental management systems," say Shaffer. "For example, some display the number of quotes, reservation and contracts opened by day of the week on the screen for any time period you select. From this data you can roughly determine activity at the counter and staff your counter appropriately."
To get the most out of your rental management software, there are areas of your business beyond the basics that you should be utilizing.
"Where a full service rental management system can do the most good is in point of sale, equipment maintenance and repair, sales analysis and purchasing," says Michael Stilwagner, vice president of Wynne Systems. "With fully integrated systems, the business intelligence is best used to manage the exceptions in your business. Numbers that are too low or too high can be seen in real time when there is time to act on the information. Reports give all of the data. Business information gives you the exceptions delivered automatically to the appropriate user for action."
Marketing can be a large chunk of your budget, so you want to make sure you're getting a return. There are many ways to use your software to help market your rental business, from generating mailing labels based on rental activity to targeting e-mails to producing a customer list with phone/address for phone calls and sales visits.
Solutions software allows rental businesses to classify customers by marketing groups (customer types), pricing groups, customer locations and rental store location, and can analyze revenue trends within these criteria. "Essentially, this analysis lets the rental operator look at past rental behavior to predict future behavior, seasonal needs and other revenue opportunities," says Shea.
Genisys offers "signature capture units" that double as customer display stations to allow counter personnel to "sell" products or talk about specials that can change daily if needed or by store location.
A website might not seem important but many surveys have shown that it's a very important marketing tool. In some markets, the Internet has replaced Yellow Pages as a way people - especially young people - search for local rental businesses.
Websites are becoming more sophisticated for rental businesses as well. Gone are the static "inventory lists" with a phone number to call. Some websites display inventory with pictures, descriptions and in some cases prices. A "shopping cart" feature allows "orders" (requests for quotes) to be created by a "shopper" and e-mailed to the rental store for follow-up.
"Many rental store owners make the mistake of hiring someone to develop their site without considering how rental and sales inventory (item name, specifications, pictures and optionally pricing) will be uploaded from their rental management system," says Shaffer. "Rental and sales inventory changes over time, and store owners will want to upload their current inventory into their web site periodically. Any costs associated with this should be discussed before hiring a company to create the site."
Point-of-Rental Systems hosts integrated web sites for their users. One of the primary benefits of this option is that Point-of-Rental System users can simply click on "update website" anytime they wish to upload their current inventory including specifications and pictures.
Wynne Systems also offers an "extranet," RentalMan Customer Portal, that delivers infromation on a real-time, easy-to-use familiar platform. "There's no waiting for data to be uploaded or worrying about when a piece of equipment is sold it has to be removed from the list - it's all automatic," says Stilwagner. "Credit applications are also automatically processed in RentalMan."
OUTSIDE THE RENTAL STORE
Some software providers are letting you access your software system when you're not even in the store. Genisys offers a smart phone real-time interface to the database that lets you check on customers account balances, credit limits, phone numbers, contact information, etc; check rental rates (book or by customer), availability for any date range, make reservations; check revenue by store location for any date range with breakdown by revenue departments; return rental inventory out in the yard, take inventory, receive purchase orders, and many other functions. This can all be accomplished from any Windows Mobile based phone, or even the new iPhones.