RER talks with software manufacturers about new developments in their software, the growth of ecommerce, integration with telematics, real-time communication between all departments, and more.
Wayne Harris, CEO, Point of Rental Software
Lars Podszuweit, director of product management, Sycor
Larry Miller, vice president, business development rental and service industry, Sycor
Kara Longmire, co-president & CEO, Alert Management Systems
Patrice Boivin, CEO Orion Software
Mike Pischke, development director, Genisys Software
Samantha Phillips, operations manager, Genisys Software
K.J. Park, vice president growth & strategy, Texada Software
Matt Hopp, general manager, InTempo Software
Robert Gray, vice president of sales & marketing, Wynne Systems;
Martin Bestwick, sales director, inspHire
RER: What are the new developments in your software during the past year?
Harris: We’ve got hundreds of developments that have been added to all of our software platforms over the past year – most of them are tweaks here and there to enhance features or create new functionality. Our bigger developments are a CRM feature for Elite that allows sales teams to see not only CRM basics like customer, history, and inventory data, but map integration so when a sales rep is out on a site, he’s able to pull up any nearby leads and see if he can make a site visit while he’s already in the neighborhood.
We’ve also been integrating with other key software platforms that help rental companies get more efficient – most recently, we’ve integrated with EquipmentWatch and TrackUnit to get customers better, more accessible information on the equipment they own.
Finally, UnlockIt was released in 2018. That allows people to rent and receive equipment 24/7, whether it’s in lockers at a store or on-site.
Podszuweit, Miller: In the past year we have introduced “global fleet” capabilities, predictive maintenance based on IoT (The Internet of Things), and the ability to leverage Machine Learning for up- and cross-selling.
Longmire: We’ve had a busy year in development! At our clients’ direction, we’ve developed interfaces to SmartEquip & Rouse Analytics. We’ve also developed a Job Costing Module so our clients can track profitability on specific jobs, an interface to Zoho’s CRM product, and have released a kit substitution enhancement that allows users to add any rental item from their inventory as a kit item to an existing kit.
Boivin: We have a complete system from CRM to a complete ERP. So, the past year was focused on improving three main modules. First the field service can now be compared to the best solutions. We added web base technical forms for the technicians to fill-out the inspection from the mobile app with a very visual step-by-step form. Our ERP reporting offers multi-divisions, market or product line reporting on multiple legal entities with different currencies. And lastly, our e-commerce was revamped with better website integration function with the goal of making it a full customer portal.
Phillips, Pischke: As we continue to be reactive to our customers’ needs with enhancements and customizations, we’ve been proactive in certain areas like utilization analysis and fleet purchasing. A new fleet ordering system was created to allow store managers to submit purchase order requests for equipment, including options and costs, with a budget overview in mind. It provides fleet management with an organized process of keeping a rental fleet efficiently stocked.
Park: Texada has been hard at work launching two new products that will help our customers streamline their business decisions and find ways to uncover more revenue. The first is Texada Analytics, a business intelligence tool that displays a visual dashboard of important reporting metrics such as revenue, utilization, and rental rates across classes and groups.
The second is Texada Pay, an advanced payment processing solution that customers can use to streamline transactions and payment collection.
Both products will tie directly into our core rental management system, SRM, to further empower our customers to manage their rental businesses with confidence.
Hopp: At InTempo, we’ve introduced new developments in the past year focused on making the rental process (and beyond) more efficient than ever before. Among them, we integrated our Enterprise software with Machinery Trader, which enables businesses to sell equipment on a national marketplace. With the integration, customers can identify assets to sell and easily send pertinent information to Machinery Trader. Meter units are kept up to date automatically, cutting out the need for manual work.
We’re developing a rental fulfillment app, which streamlines the process from the time of customer initiation to the point where the equipment goes out the door. Additionally, we’re continuously adding features to our mobile app, further extending the power of our software to staff outside of the office.
Gray: We have been consistently adding new features to our mobile application, MobileLink, that delivers real business value. This includes our new transfer feature, which manages both incoming and outgoing equipment: utilization is no longer compromised by equipment waiting in the yard for paperwork and potentially being overlooked. Other features like suggesting which unit to put on rent based on longest time since last rental allows companies to wear their fleet more evenly. This lowers maintenance costs on specific units that tend to be put out on rent even if others in the same category and class are available.
We’ve also released ReadyLink, our service prioritization web application. Service managers have total control and visibility to their department’s workload, surfacing high priority maintenance or service tasks to maximize utilization and profitability of their equipment. Companies who prepare their servicing needs in advance for reservations or highly utilized items are able to deliver on time and reduce costly and time-consuming exchanges and credits.
And finally, with our acquisition of Dispatching Solutions Inc. in 2018, we’ve been able to add transportation and logistics management to our product offerings, so that we’re able to address nearly every facet of the rental equipment process.
Bestwick: Our newly introduced resource and operator scheduler delivers a full end to end digital process for complex resource-based scheduling and timesheet driven activities. Businesses will be excited by the ease in which they can assign their trained operators to machines, quickly cross-referencing availability against the competencies needed to carry out a job. This transformed functionality works wonders in ensuring that jobs are carried out effortlessly from start to finish, providing onsite employees with the ability to capture both productive and non-productive time while onsite through their cell phones, prior to obtaining sign-off, to help reduce invoice queries.
inspHire’s new business manager, Marc Tedeschi says, “We’ve worked hard alongside leading experts in the operated equipment, powered access and crane industries to release our brand-new resource planning module. Guaranteeing all the necessary features are under the hood of one system, we wanted to give businesses the ability to better manage resource, operators, shifts and schedules. Customer feedback has been pivotal in the development process.”
What new capabilities and functions have you added in regard to e-commerce?
Podszuweit, Miller: While there is nothing new, Dynamics 365 has several proven world-class e-commerce solutions to choose from that are easily deployed with Sycor.Rental.
Harris: While we’ve helped people build websites that are integrated with our software for years, we recently added an API that allows customers to create their own integrated website or connect their existing website to Point of Rental to get prices, availability, etc.
Longmire: We have had a fully operational e-Commerce module for years. Our clients have the ability to offer their clients all the conveniences of online shopping, in a way that meets their needs, from WebRequests that come into Alert and with one click can be turned into quotes, to full feature e-Commerce (real time reservations) with credit card online payments.
Boivin: We mainly focused on developing a new platform integrated to our Sirius e solutions that is easily implemented with the newest technology. It speeds up the deployment time and it is much more flexible than our previous version.
Phillips, Pischke: This is all dependent on the customers’ requirements. We will collaborate directly with customer’s third-party website company in order to provide the data integration desired. We have variations of website integrations.
Park: We’ve fine-tuned the design of Gateway, our e-commerce platform, to give each site a simple and easy experience for our customers.
Other highlights of what we’ve added include the ability to: display multiple rates for rental products including requests for quotation on rental products or assets for sale; provide pickup and service requests; update purchase orders; pay invoices; raise billing inquiries; provide alerts when rental equipment is due; and provide robust operational reports.
Gray: RenterLink is our e-commerce platform that connects your business with your consumer. But it alone doesn’t address customers’ mindsets shifting from valuing customer experience over price and product when selecting vendors. Which is a good thing for our industry as a whole, as our offerings are less commoditized, but it places a heavy burden on companies to deliver an outstanding customer experience across all channels.
To address that we’ve enhanced our Customer Portal to be customizable so that our customers can market directly to their accounts. If there is a big storm approaching, you could display a targeted ad in Customer Portal for your generators and trash pumps and link them directly to RenterLink to display just those items. It’s a simple, yet effective, way to enhance that client/vendor relationship and take advantage of your e-commerce platform.
Bestwick: WebPortal grants rental businesses the ability to serve their customers 24/7, helping them provide outstanding levels of customer service and increasing brand loyalty. Customers will also have access to key information such as existing and historical contracts as well as all associated documents like invoices, delivery notes, rates paid, quantities ordered and test certificates, allowing them to make informed decisions quickly. Users will also have the ability to request equipment rental, off-rent and contract extensions. Integrating seamlessly with inspHire, WebPortal will increase productivity and reduce time spent manually taking enquiries to simply converting requests to contracts.
Can you give an example of how integration between telematics and your software have benefited your rental customers?
Longmire: Alert quickly adapted our interface to the AEMP standard, which helps our clients know that they can shop for the best telematics solution for their business and that it will work with their Alert rental package. Any integration that helps automate processes (like checking meters) and reduces touch-costs is a win for our clients!
Boivin: Our customers are using it to track the field technicians and truck drivers during the day. The dispatch center shows their position on the map and they immediately tell their customers how long it will take to get to their site.
Phillips, Pischke: Our integration with Trackunit and Clearsky has really helped from a maintenance standpoint. Equipment that is on a jobsite for an extended period of time will require maintenance. Knowing the real-time meter reading values removes the guesswork for scheduling maintenance of equipment on rent. Customers have utilized the geolocation to track their equipment to recover from jobsites and theft prevention.
Park: Today, the primary use cases are centered around location, meter and inventory control. The primary benefits include simplified ability to track usage of an asset, lowered percentage of lost equipment, and heightened visibility into real-time inventory.
There’s a wealth of data being relayed from assets with telematics to our system. We aim to push the envelope beyond what’s available today by continuing to bolster relationships with OEMs, telematics partners, and our customers.
Hopp: The integration between Enterprise and telematics software is ultimately about enabling our customers to protect their equipment and deliver better service to their own customers. With the data our customers get via telematics, they can perform preventative maintenance while a machine is on-rent to avoid getting to the point of a breakdown. One of our customers told us about an incident where telematics software alerted him to an engine overheat code on a piece of equipment. He was able to identify the issue and get a service team out before his customer called in. The power of telematics paired with rental software is truly a game changer for the industry.
Bestwick: We’re proud to have recently added seamless integration with the telematics systems, Trackunit, Teletrac Navman and CAT VisionLink to our repertoire. Bringing these systems together empowers users to view and cross-reference their telematics and rental data quickly. Tracking the location via GPS, recording equipment usage and operator performance, are just a few of the key features these new integrations bring to inspHire.
As well as these new integrations, we’ve also introduced a brand-new Asset Tracker, a screen within the inspHire system that allows you to pinpoint equipment based on the contract information. This latest innovation seamlessly links with Google Maps, giving users the ability to pinpoint the location and status of all their inventory on an easy to understand map view. Visibility across the entire fleet will enable businesses to optimize equipment utilization and move equipment from site to site easily.
Many of our rental customers are already reaping the benefits from these new additions. Consolidating multiple feeds into a single inspHire screen, alleviates the time spent cross-referencing multiple items. Real-time information is pulled through about the status of assets such as a dead battery, meaning that no time is wasted sending operators to a site in vain. Customers can also expect to see increases in revenue by identifying when machines are being used over periods they shouldn’t be and are not being charged. Keeping costs down also puts our customers in a great position to win large contracts by providing the end client with access to a wealth of useful information which will enable them to drive down their own costs.
Podszuweit, Miller: By building an interface to Telematic providers’ portals, our customers are able to detect usage data in order to automatically bill them to the customers even when they use equipment before or after the contractual agreed time frame.
Harris: Point of Rental users are able to use telematics with two main interfaces: Equipment and Delivery/Service trucks. Businesses are integrating their delivery/service truck information with our Dispatch Center and Mobile Workforce features. That allows them to see their vehicles’ location and speed in real-time and automatically update delivery status as the driver goes through their route, all within a single software. Dispatchers can see who is ahead of schedule or behind schedule and adjust routes accordingly, as well as add priority deliveries or pickups.
On the equipment tracking side, integrations allow for up-to-date hour meter and mile readings as well as GPS locations for integrated equipment. Up-to-date readings allow rental stores to bill accurately based on usage and see extra shift hours quickly.
When equipment reaches maintenance thresholds, in-store staff can see this and send maintenance staff to perform routine maintenance on-site or switch equipment out, saving the company much larger repair and replacement costs. This also helps avoid equipment breakdowns and increases customer satisfaction. GPS location tracking, also integrated, can be used on pickup to accurately find equipment on a job site, which makes the whole transaction fast and simple.
To your knowledge are online reservations and communication of a piece of equipment being called off-rent increasing among your rental customers? How is your software making it easier?
Park: The trend is continuing to grow with the adoption of our e-commerce platform which helps facilitate not just the online reservations and rentals, but features that facilitate account management, termination, billing, and other functions.
To make rentals easier, we developed a rate calendar in our software which helps the end customer understand the optimum time to return the asset and save money, and this in turn increases their stickiness with their clients.
Another feature is the alert function to the end customer for rentals that are nearing the return date to trigger proactive decisions around contract extensions or termination.
Gray: Yes, the ability to communicate and transact online is growing exponentially. Part of a customer’s experience is having the choice on how they interact with your business, and an online option is no longer a value-add, it’s an expectation. RenterLink gives them that flexibility by allowing them to manage transactions and communications on their terms. Reserve, request service or pickup, pay invoices — it’s a “hands-off” channel, yet provides that much more value to your customers.
Bestwick: While self-service is certainly growing in respect to placing hires, it’s still heavily weighted in favor of direct communication with the depots. We aren’t seeing a huge increase in other online activities such as off-rents being made electronically. They are still very much dependent on manual communications, however as we’ve seen with the gradual steady rise of online reservations being placed, I’m sure this will keep increasing over the next five to 10 years.
inspHire focusses on making the lives of rental businesses and their customers easier. Our integrated web portal is designed to give customers visibility to their rental information 24/7; view current and historical contracts, build, extend or end contracts, access key documents as well as see what they have on rent and contracts due to end, putting customers in control and encouraging brand loyalty. inspHire also offers a mobile app that replaces manual processes and paper forms, helping rental businesses get things done on the go; online or offline, stay connected as a team and deliver an efficient service.
Podzsuweit, Miller: We see a slight increase here. Since our software is html-based on the front end, end customers can be offered respective forms for their needs. These forms can offer unique input and custom workflows that can match the customers’ requirements.
Harris: The biggest wave of adoption has already passed, as people have realized it’s a necessity to have a website for their business. What we’re seeing now is that the people who wanted to wait for the technology to prove itself are getting on board. So yes, more stores are implementing online reservations and communications, and their customers are using that technology to manage their accounts.
Our software allows for rental customers to see what they need to see, like their rental history, what items they have on rent and how much they owe. It also allows them to take action – call items off-rent, make reservations, and more. With our new TrackUnit integration, they’ll be even more in-tune with what’s happening with their equipment. They’ll be able to see equipment hours, mileage, alerts — notifications that help them take proper care of the equipment.
Longmire: For the past 10+ years, Alert has recognized the need for more on-line options, so we tackled e-Signatures, and that led to adding payment request forms and count sheets being done electronically. WebRequests (funneling electronic website requests for pricing and information) transitioned into full e-Commerce (real time reservations) and credit card deposits for upcoming orders. And what started as Customer Portal years ago to simply allow clients to see, print and pay invoices has expanded to include off-rent functionality. The trend is definitely enabling customers to self-serve (they prefer it that way and often need to work from their phones). Our clients are becoming more and more comfortable with the technology making these features possible, but it is our job to stay ahead of the trends and educate them about what they can do with their system and why making themselves available to clients 24/7 (without increasing staff) is to their advantage.
Boivin: The trend of web portal is definitely taking off. Some customers are being hurt because they are relying on legacy systems that cannot connect. At Orion, we have had a complete Web portal for many years. Our customers can offer full visibility on their equipment rented and their account information within a native application. If they have multiple systems from different vendors, we offer our solutions and integrate the legacy system in the back.
What kind of support do you offer rental companies that use your software, i.e., call-in helpdesks, online chats, instruction for users, etc.
Phillips, Pischke: A partnership relationship with our client base is our priority. We find taking the time to learn each customer’s business benefits our support team in guiding them through the software. We know each business is unique and our software does not change how you operate, we will advise how your operations are best utilized in our software. We provide support from 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM EST, with technicians available on call after business hours.
We use a ticketing system to manage our customers support, in this we have found we improved the response time and continue to keep our customers satisfied. Our ticketing system is shared amongst our entire support team, which allows our team to better support you in being privy with other support cases. Our email communications involve specific staff members who take ownership of a question or issue, and we are diligent in our follow up responsibilities. We consider ourselves to be partners with our clients, not just their software vendor. We have 25-year customers who continue to use our software because of the devotion of our support team.
Park: All our customers receive unlimited access to our support resources as part of the contract. That allows them direct access to our in-house support staff via phone and email, as well as online self-service tools including a knowledge base with help articles and product help files.
We frequently hold training webinars covering a wide variety of topics and can hold in-person training sessions by our rental experts from the client services team. Feedback from support is critical for us to gain insight from our customer base, and often, those insights will help us uncover new features, processes, and product ideas.
Hopp: We have a number of channels through which customers can reach our award-winning support team. In addition to phone and email, we are also able to provide support through online chat, which has the great benefit of enabling screenshare. Our Enterprise software also provides documentation within the system itself. Recently, we introduced InTempo Academy, an online training platform designed to both provide education and reduce support requests. Both new and seasoned employees can take courses in different areas of the system and earn badges along the way. We are working with several of our customers to develop courses tailored to their own processes. At InTempo, support is included in with every software solution, since we view customer care and the human connection it fosters as an important extension of our software.
Gray: Our clients have access to an online service desk, where they can view and manage their tickets and communicate with our service team. In addition, we have staffed our service desk so that we can offer 24 by 7 support—which is critical for our clients.
Above all else, we have customer success managers who, as the name would imply, are dedicated to managing their clients’ success. This means having a deep understanding of business objectives, initiatives and short and long-term goals of their clients. By knowing this, CSMs can provide strategic plans that marry our software solutions to clients’ goals and initiatives.
Bestwick: Once a business goes live with our software, they are automatically assigned a dedicated account manager to ensure they continue to get the most out of the system. In addition to this, inspHire boasts a strong team of over 30 Helpdesk representatives, who are on hand by phone or email to deal with any technical issues a user may encounter.
Also incorporated into inspHire is an easily accessible Help File. By simply pressing the F1 key, the Help File offers a wealth of guidance to the user and provides clear instructions on how to best use the software.
We firmly believe in keeping our customers informed through every stage of their inspHire journey, which is why our online customer portal was designed specifically to give users access to a wealth of information. Here, customers are able to watch insightful video tutorials, view all of the new release documents and download the latest updates. We offer online webinars which are perfect for keeping customers up to date with the latest developments in our software
Our customer portal is also the designated area for users to add requests to our development Wishlist. We don’t stand still and we’re keen to learn about new requirements through our Customer Wishlists and regular Customer User Forums. Working together and creating a partnership with our customers allows us to continually develop additional products and features that will make their lives easier and improve business processes.
Podszuweit, Miller: We offer our customers training, videos, support via telephone and email, and In-Product Help. There are currently more than 500 videos available on YouTube for Dynamics 365.
Harris: Because we’re partners with the people that use our software, we provide support in every way we can – from thorough documentation to email and online chat to phone support and in-person training. Hundreds of customers also visit us in Fort Worth for our International Conference each November to get additional training, one-on-one troubleshooting assistance, and to pick the brains of industry innovators.
Longmire: Alert has a Help Desk staffed with highly trained and experienced technicians which offers 24/7 call-in support, along with the ability to place calls via email. We have also enhanced our rental package to automatically log calls in our call tracking system overnight from a client’s server if the end of day processes receive a report of any EOD stoppage or database issue, so we can be working on the problem without the client evening having to report the issue.
With regard to training, we try to meet all of our clients’ needs from high-level advanced training/consulting at our clients’ businesses, group classes in our headquarters city of Colorado Springs, online web-based training, instruction manuals, a huge selection of pre-recorded training videos, and a knowledgebase available on our website. Our LinkedIn and Facebook user groups also offer additional ways for our clients to connect with each other to ask both Alert and industry questions. Our User Group, IAUA (International Alert User Association) meets annually for a three-day conference (2019 marks the 34th year!) and we offer training classes, presentations from our partners, networking opportunities, and sessions for our clients to give us feedback and suggestions on what they’d like to see included in the future revisions of Alert. There is a voting process at the end of the conference, so everyone’s voice is heard.
Boivin: At Orion, we were always offering a support service primarily on call-in and email. We introduced online chat in 2018 along with a portal to view and edit tickets and access the knowledge base. We use it extensively to share all kind of documents including training videos. The number of calls was reduced drastically with our newest technology.
In the day-to-day operation of a rental business communication is essential between the shop, sales staff, yard people, counter people and delivery drivers. How does this communication function in real time in terms of determining the immediate location and status of an asset?
Hopp: One of our customers, the owner of a regional construction rental business, cites the fact that the data in Enterprise is in real time as the driving force behind why he trusts his business to our software; all of his employees from accounting to sales to service are on the same page when it comes to any question from the location of an asset to AR aging at any given moment. Many of our customers build reports or dashboards with key information and display them on monitors throughout their stores. One keeps a monitor with rental and sales revenue behind the counter, while another has a large screen in the shop so the service team knows what’s on their plate and can plan accordingly.
Gray: Immediacy, accuracy and accessibility are critical for rental businesses to communicate and operate effectively. Half the battle is that the data is real-time, no matter if it’s from their core rental solution or from a third-party GPS or telematic system. Yesterday’s news, while interesting and relevant, is still old news.
But to get to real-time data, it requires inputting data when events occur. If a flood of equipment returns at the end of the day, you can be certain something is going to get overlooked. And we all know, it only takes one missing piece of info to disrupt the workload of multiple people across several departments, even branches. That’s why mobile apps tailored towards streamlining operational tasks are necessary; it removes opportunities for oversight, speeds up the process as a whole, and continues the effective communication that companies work so hard to achieve.
Podszuweit, Miller: Through IoT integration with the telematics device, you know where equipment is currently located (on or off rent) as well as its operating conditions. This allows you to respond immediately to such conditions manually or build out AI workflows to respond with an immediate service event or change prescribed maintenance plans.
Harris: Right now, every aspect of a company is able to use an app of some type that connects with Point of Rental. Inspection App allows maintenance to update items that are ready to rent or need further repair. Mobile Workforce allows drivers to check in at locations, send route updates to dispatchers and customers. Fulfillment sends updated contracts directly to the warehouse for easy order fulfillment and staging. All this information flows in real time.
By the end of the year, we’ll be unifying our apps into one, which will allow companies to bring all of their employees into the same system, allowing for easy communication throughout a company as everyone works to accomplish a goal.
Boivin: All information on the Mobile app, the logistics app or the CRM comes from the central base of Sirius e. So, for instance, the same graph that is used to display availability is updated in real time from any user interfaces. Users can also use notifications to mobile devices to make sure they don’t miss a change made to their calendar. Finally, they have access to an alert center that will warn them of anything that is urgent to handle.
Phillips, Pischke: AlphaRENTAL offers a robust availability routine which will show you the location and status of any rental item in your fleet. From there, you can easily drill down to see the jobsite, a complete rental history of this item, why it may be in shop, and other pertinent information applicable for various departments. Not only can you find answers to a specific data element, you can see an audit trail of activity within the system, which is vital to any rental operation.
Park: To make sure that communication between all functions of a rental business is easy and instant, our service and logistics app, Fleetlogic, allows access to real time data about the equipment. For example, when our users check in an asset, they can send a notification to the service department. This allows service to start inspections. All equipment inspection statuses are detailed in our core rental software so that when an asset requires rental, you can see which asset is available vs. in a down status.
Fleetlogic also allows users to send notifications directly to service techs through our mobile app, so they know which assets or job sites they’ll be working on that day. When they’re working on a customer’s site, they can get the customer to sign off on the work order right through the app. The finished work order with the customer signature are sent back to the office in real time and dispatch is immediately notified of the status of the asset.
What kind of dashboards does your software have and what information do they offer?
Gray: Our reporting and dashboard functionality enable users to create their own reports and dashboards. This is necessary for companies who require large, cross-functional reporting. Users, or business intelligence analysts, can build dashboards quickly to address the different goals for different departments. Let’s say your logistics center and your key managers want the same data, such as a listing of deliveries and pick-ups. The logistics center will benefit more from an operational dashboard that auto-refreshes every few minutes so they can quickly assess what’s due next. At the same time, your key managers would find more use from seeing the same data in an analytic dashboard, so they can reflect on results rather than actions. It’s the needs that will dictate the most effective format for dashboards, so having the capability to create and edit dashboards as needed is hugely imperative for effective rental companies.
Bestwick: Managers that review strategic business reports daily can react immediately, so, having access to live data, available rapidly, is invaluable. inspHire Business Intelligence Dashboards are simply collections of your critical data that allow you to quickly visualize how your business is performing and make informed business decisions. This browser-based product gives businesses access to real-time data such as utilization, and depreciation by week, month, year and depot. This data can be accessed anytime, anywhere and is customizable to show the information needed at a glance.
Podszuweit, Miller: Our dashboards show the most common menu items for the daily work of an average in-house rental-sales/ dispatching employee. This includes, for example, quotes, orders, rentals, returns, customers, assets etc. as well as BI analyses for utilization and revenue. These dashboards are easily configurable to the customer’s specific requirements.
Harris: Standard dashboards in Point of Rental are based on job functionality: salesperson, dispatcher, mechanic, customer service rep, etc. Everything is designed to make operations more efficient by giving each person the information they need on one screen so they can act on it quickly. In our Elite product, the dashboards are customizable via widgets – managers and individual users can determine which priorities are most important for them or their teams and display that information at a glance.
Longmire: Our Operator Dashboard is comprised of several role-specific dashboards, from Ticket which gives rental managers and operators a 10,000-foot view, to our popular drag-and-drop Dispatcher Dashboard, to dashboards specific to Job Costing, Fixed Assets, Customers, Purchase Orders, and Work Orders. Users are able to easily enter tickets, use hyperlinks to quickly view pertinent information, right-click to take action, and view reports anywhere throughout the Operator Dashboard. Data is neatly organized within each dashboard by tabs, and navigation is simple with filtering capabilities and sorting functions built in.
Our Document Center is a dashboard designed to make all client-facing communication easily accessible from one location. This graphical display allows Alert users to send statements, invoices, and tickets (including work orders) to their customers with the click of a button. The customer is sent communication based on their default (fax, email, print) and the Alert user can make transmission changes quickly and easily. As with all Alert dashboards, hyperlinks to other parts of the system are abundant, as are reporting capabilities.
Boivin: We have two dashboards. One is the main place to operate the business with the contracts, the maintenance schedule, the purchase center, etc. And we have a performance dashboard that focuses on displaying graphs and related reports of the main indicators for a rental and service company.
Phillips, Pischke: Our customizable dashboards include a serialized utilization page (see graphic – in a quantity or cost basis), A/R & A/P status, revenue breakdowns (including a type and sub-type breakdown), and daily, month-to-date, and year-to-date revenue comparisons. In addition, many reports in AlphaRENTAL allow you to export the data to a pie or graph chart.
Park: We currently have a variety of visual dashboards through Texada Analytics that allows users to quickly assess data including time and dollar utilization, invoice history, average rentals, aged AR, accounts payable, OEC on contract, and general ledger. Other dashboards that will help our customers gain deeper insight into their business are on the way in future releases.
What information can your customers access through your online portal, and how “user-friendly” is it?
Harris: Our online portal provides access to a customer’s record – their addresses, their current rentals, their rental history including items on-hand, billing history, payments made, and more. They can also call items off rent, make additional reservations, or submit service requests.
With the upcoming integration with TrackUnit, the customer portal will also provide valuable insight like mapped locations, meter readings, equipment alerts – basically, they can see what’s going on inside their equipment to ensure they’re abiding by the terms of the rental agreement.
Longmire: Alert offers two online portals. Customer Portal is for our clients to easily access their billing information and make payments on their open invoices. (We also offer this technology for our clients, so their clients can log on and handle billing/payments.) The other is our Knowledgebase and our clients are able to log in to participate in all aspects of our training – manuals, whitepapers, FAQ’s, discussion boards, and videos. We think our portals are very user friendly and we are constantly updating our Knowledgebase. We have also built in the capability for clients to place support calls and access the knowledgebase directly from the Alert application.
Boivin: Our online portal is available on a mobile app from Apple store and Android Play store or within a browser. We made it very easy to use with the intent to run it on a phone in the field on the run. The site manager has limited time to order, off-rent or request for maintenance and they need it to be always available. If an equipment breakdown during the day, they need to react quickly, and the mobile devices are ideal for the that kind of scenario. It’s a complete application with account management and reports. We can also offer it integrated into a web site.
Park: Our customers use our online portal to manage their e-commerce experience and provide additional value to their customers. This allows them to give their customers the ability to make reservations, review rental details like site information, date-out, date due and rates.
Both parties also gain the ability to download contracts and invoices from anywhere. Reviewing and paying outstanding invoices is also a popular use of our portal. Besides that, the users can also track billing inquiry, open pickups and service requests through our portal.
Overall, we have been getting great feedback about our recent design changes on how intuitive it is. With our online portal, the users now have access to the information they want, whenever they want it. They can take actions right where they see this information and these changes are instantly reflected in the client’s system. The portal also sends notifications to respective contacts for those actions.
Hopp: It’s no surprise that in today’s world, customers expect to be able to get the information they need, 24/7, without having to pick up the phone. Our easy-to-use Customer Portal for InTempo Enterprise is designed to solve that problem. The Portal not only enhances the renter’s experience, but also translates into less busy work for employees. Our Customer Portal enables our customers’ customers to view and pay invoices, see equipment on rent and create pickup requests, pull trend analysis and job costing reports, and more.
Gray: Wynne’s Customer Portal is a great one-stop resource for your customers. They have access to create a reservation, view current rentals and request a pickup or extend the rental, view invoices and pay them online, as well as a huge selection of reporting options. It’s really simple to use, and the interface allows you to customize their home page however you wish. Display dashboards, ads, their branch contact information—it’s designed to provide any information that your customer could ever possibly need.
What kind of automated notifications do your send to your customers, i.e., “reservation confirmed”, “the delivery is on its way”, “the equipment is due to be returned or you will be billed for another cycle”; “the machine is due for servicing”, billing notifications, etc.?
Podszuweit, Miller: Workflows can be created to send automatic notifications to customers of reservation confirmation, impending equipment delivery or completion of delivery. These workflow notifications can be built for any equipment status or condition.
Harris: Automatic notifications are controlled by our customers, but it’s possible to set up notifications via text or email for just about anything, from opening quotes to closing a contract, to modified work orders, overdrawn credit, payments made, and notifications on delivery – even if an item exits a geofenced area. It’s just a matter of checking a box.
Longmire: With Alert, clients are able to send automated text messages about upcoming reservations, pickups, overdue contracts, and various account statuses (i.e. overdue invoice, credit limit). Through our Document Center, they can proactively send upcoming reservations to request last minute changes and make clients aware of their change policies. The Document Center is used by clients to send statements along with copies of unpaid invoices, and those statements can reflect finance charges, even without posting them to the account unless paid – just another way we can reduce touch-costs! Alert also has the capability through our integration with Sign&Rent® to send quotes via email with hyperlinks to sign electronically, and those signed quotes can be returned to Alert and automatically converted to reservations, complete with deposit payments on them.
Boivin: We have them all. We provide status of delivery, reservation confirmation, maintenance alerts, billing and contract expiration and renewal. We added a collection dashboard this year with reminder emails automated.
Phillips, Pischke: We have integrated with a text-sending company which allows AlphaRENTAL to notify renters of upcoming deliveries and pickups, among other automated notifications. You can also send a blast text to applicable renters for upcoming promotions or send them a ‘thank you’ for a recent rental. Our servers also send automated emails that some clients have customized to notify them of, for example, a cycle billing that now causes a customer’s credit limit to be exceeded. The possibilities of text or email notifications are virtually endless and are a great way to take advantage of technology to help manage operations and further improve the relationship with renters and their rental service providers.
Hopp: One of the great things about our products is their inter-connectivity. Customers can track the progress of their delivery through RenterLink, while the driver is updating the status from MobileLink. Every step (from “On the truck”, “On its way”, “Delivered”) is communicated to the customer as it happens, and it doesn’t force drivers to deviate from their typical workflow.
What would you say are the reports your customers use the most, that they find most beneficial?
Longmire: Depending on their roles in the rental organization, our customers’ most popular reports vary, which is why there are more than 500 canned reports in Alert and we include a report generating tool to enable clients to modify those reports or write their own. Accounting and Back Office folks use vastly different reports than a Salesperson might. Although they both use Alert’s commission reports! Dashboards (which provide real-time data) and automated report sending have replaced the traditional “manual running of reports to screen or printer”, so Alert is pushing data to the end-user and they always have the information at their fingertips. Another very popular feature is that any report in Alert can be converted into an Excel spreadsheet with one click.
Boivin: The day’s utilization and the ROI. We offer very unique representation of the rental performance using those indicators. Many customers are more interested to follow up the trend revenues and opportunity report to identify where their growth is coming from and align the sales team.
Phillips, Pischke: It would certainly be the utilization analysis reports. Whether you are confirming rental trends or wanting to proactively equip your operations with the right equipment for your customers, knowing how well categories of equipment perform and are utilized is a primary key to profitability.
Park: Texada Analytics delivers both “out of the box” and custom reports to give rental companies a holistic view of their business. Our most commonly used reports are: dollar and time utilization, revenue and costs by class/group/product, revenue breakdown MoM/YoY by customer, open contract, asset status (daily), and aged accounts receivable.
Hopp: Beyond pulling key metrics such as utilization, customers use reports and dashboards to get information into the hands of the people that need it and break down silos. For example, a number of our customers create reports for mechanics and display them on large screens so they can see which equipment needs to be serviced. This helps reduce friction within the organization and ultimately gets equipment back on rent quicker. In another example, a report can show the up-to-the-minute “health” of a customer—perhaps there is an issue with AR, or a loyal customer hasn’t rented for a long period of time. Salespeople can get the information they need to make data-driven decisions and nurture relationships with their customers.
Gray: From our perspective, these are two different types of reports. Reports that are used most often are ones that deliver actionable data, like a due for service or an outstanding A/R report. These are the type of reports that are run daily or weekly that help a person, or a group of people, be more effective at their job. While the person who uses that report may find it beneficial, it doesn’t necessarily add value to the company as a whole.
Reports that are the most beneficial are ones that drive initiatives forward. For example, if a company wanted to reduce the amount of idle time for their drivers, they would want a report that shows how long drivers are waiting at a job site or branch. Now, they’ve decided to reduce that time by 30 percent within the first six months and have implemented new processes to support that. Their driver idle time report would be run daily to provide insight as to how well their initiative is progressing. To another company, this information could be meaningless. But for the company who’s looking to reduce their fuel costs and increase trips per driver per day, this is huge. Ultimately, the value of the report depends on what the company is trying to achieve.
Bestwick: The Utilization Report, What’s Out Where and Slow Rent reports are definitely the most popular with our customers.
The Utilization Report gives you a breakdown of time used against potential time used against time it could have been used for every piece of equipment. It will also compare the actual revenue against the potential revenue opportunities. Having easy access to this information empowers businesses to take action and do further research to discover why equipment isn’t being utilized to its full potential.
Taking the utilization report to the next level, the Asset Analysis Report details the depreciation value of an asset, revenue made and costs attributed such as maintenance and repair bills. This is a fantastic tool that can give you greater insight and help make more informed purchasing decisions. If you know a certain type of kit has spent a lot of time in the shop and is costing more than it should to maintain, you may veer away from this when looking to renew or expand your fleet. Alternatively, you might notice that particular items are exceeding your expectations, are popular with customers and you’re seeing a good ROI. With this information, you may decide to purchase more of these.
The What’s Out Where report does exactly as its name suggests. The report presents details of equipment that is currently out on rent, where it is and when it will be returned. Businesses can also give their customers access to this report for them to run at their own convenience, at any time via the inspHire WebPortal.
The Slow Rent report within inspHire provides information on how long equipment has been idle for. It’s crucial that equipment is being fully utilized, so, having the data to predict upcoming trends or long periods of downtime means businesses can adjust inventory accordingly.
PODSZUWEIT, MILLER: The utilization and revenue Power BI analysis cubes.
HARRIS: Rental companies are focused on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that help them determine how to manage their fleet and labor costs most efficiently. They’re looking at their ROI, utilization reports, maintenance reports, revenue and customer income trends, service profits and trends…the numbers that tell them how they’re doing and how they can improve.
How can your software help a rental company determine a profitable rate structure?
BOIVIN: We integrate with Rouse analytics and we offer graphs to identify the competitive segments by using various factor such as ROI, price discount and reduction and Utilization.
PARK: This can be performed in a number of ways. Traditional methods our software can set and track rates include: Tiered pricing across customers and types of assets, setting percentage discounts to list pricing per customer (special rates), and time and dollar utilization.
Texada Analytics can display average daily weekly and monthly rental rates across any given time period. This gives customers insight into rental rate and seasonality trends.
Another route is through rental rate simulation. This allows users to run examples of what revenue would be like with “proposed” changes to rates.
HOPP: Our customers can easily see all the data they need to understand the cost of ownership for any piece of equipment. Beyond utilization, Enterprise tracks every single touch to a machine, be it preventative maintenance or the cost of a part that was replaced. This paints the full picture necessary to help rental companies determine rate structure. In addition, we integrate with Rouse Analytics, which provides benchmarks and additional data points for rates in a given market.
BESTWICK: inspHire tracks all on-going activities against an asset including all revenue, utilization, repair and service costs which provide a 360-degree view on your fleet’s performance. Having access to this information in one place allows our customers to see if a particular product range is underutilized, or prone to breakdowns allowing them to react quickly to fluctuating market conditions by adjusting their rates/fleet procurement policy accordingly, ensuring they maintain an acceptable profitable return on their investments.
Due to our many years’ experience within the plant rental sector, coupled with the maturity of our software offerings, we’ve developed a large volume of rental rate patterns that can be set up out of the box within the software.
Our reporting functionality then allows for the comparison of achieved rates and expected rates, against costs and revenue budgets. The rental company now has the ability to understand monetary utilization and whether it is achieving the budget, allowing them to understand if the rate structure is profitable.
To further expand upon this, inspHire’s built-in ROI reports allow users to understand all costs vs revenue – taking into account total cost of ownership (including depreciation, costs of maintenance, recharged maintenance revenue etc) as well as invoiced revenue, giving true ROI on equipment. This ultimately will allow the business to determine whether they need to increase rates to ensure maximum ROI on equipment.
- Looking back: By offering out-of-the-box analyses for utilization, thus recognizing relevant price implications
- Looking ahead: Offering utilization forecasts and thus a means to change prices accordingly
HARRIS: By using the data provided in your ROI and utilization reports, you see which items are bringing in the most money, which items are rented most often, and can figure out what makes the most sense for your fleet in the future – either adjust rates or adjust your quantities to maximize your profit.
LONGMIRE: Because Alert is driven by our users and their suggestions/annual voting items, we have always been very responsive to their needs with regard to how flexible our software is with regard to pricing, from the pro-rated and scaffold rates of 20 years ago, to the methods today of having dynamic kit pricing, customer specific rates and pricing, customer discounts, and group pricing for classes or categories of clients, pricing methodology is always changing as our clients continue to be creative in how the develop their B2B relationships. Alert is committed to improving our clients’ profitability and therefore while we provide flexibility on the front of the house, we also build in metrics (i.e. our Commission System measures not only discounts but how quickly a client pays) for the back-office.
Are there any particular software features you are working on that you are planning [that you are comfortable talking about]?
PARK: The focus in the next twelve months will be around enhancing our platform to automate more of the rental process and drive accurate and instant information.
Fleetlogic will continue to be a core part of this instant interaction with the service and logistics functions.
We’ll continue to build out Texada Analytics with more features to help operations make informed decisions about when to buy and sell assets, increase or reduce rental rates, and how to optimize time and dollar utilization.
Something to look forward to as well is a revamped version of RentalLogic, which will help growing rental companies manage their essential rental operations.
HOPP: At InTempo, our philosophy is to build unbeatable rental software and then integrate with leaders in particular areas such as dispatch, CRM, and telematics. This allows us to bring the best product to market in the most time-and-cost efficient manner. We’re continuing to work with our customers to build ecosystems around Enterprise so that they are able to offer a seamless experience to their own customers and staff.
GRAY: We consistently are working on enhancements to our ERP solution, but adding even more to our mobile and service applications. For MobileLink, we’re adding more features to make the counter less reliant on a workstation, like creating new customer job sites and creating sales orders.
In the ReadyLink app, we’re adding features that allow service managers to estimate work more accurately and several enhancements to improve fleet utilization across regions.
PODSZUWEIT, MILLER: We are working on implementing mobility. Currently, our solution is accessible from any device or location from a browser if there is an internet connection. However, we would like to make the solution even more user friendly.
HARRIS: A big one that we’re excited about is the integration with TrackUnit, which is going to help customers go beyond AEMP integrations to get to full real-time data accessibility.
Otherwise, the POR ONE app is going to take our apps that already exist for people in each section of a business and bring it all under one app, connecting entire rental companies to not just their software, but one another.
LONGMIRE: Our upcoming version will include lots of focus on web functionality: a mobile check-in process, along with a web work order module that will include a tie-in to the already available mobile timecard feature. We’re also focusing on a dashboard specifically geared to the salespeople and sales managers, along with continuing to expand our offering for more bolt-on products with new business partners. These will include another choice for credit card processing, a different web interface to Gearflow, a company offering used equipment sales, expansion of our interface to Epicor, and more telematics interfaces.
BOIVIN: Our focus will be on implementing large ERP with multiple branches connected on an ecommerce platform.