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Sycor Rental Diagram 2020 (002)

Interview with Sycor Americas' Larry Miller: Moving to an App Strategy

Aug. 6, 2020
Larry Miller, Sycor Americas, talks with RER about rental companies and customers using custom mobile apps; managing with reduced staff; going mobile; how to help the service manager; and more.

Larry Miller, Sycor Americas, talks with RER about rental companies and customers using custom mobile apps; managing with reduced staff; going mobile; how to help the service manager; and more.

What are some of the products and capabilities you have added in the past year approximately?

Miller: Over the past year we have seen several clients wanting to leverage their investment in Microsoft Dynamics CE (formerly known as CRM). Many have expanded CE into full Field Service Dispatch solutions with preventive/predictive maintenance functionality. We are building out the integration so that field workers performing “rental” tasks (yard picks, PDI’s, delivery, return inspection) can utilize CE resources and mobile capabilities.

More clients are moving away from the traditional “portal” strategy to more of an “app” strategy. Our customers don’t want their clients to have to “go to their website,” but rather have a published app that their client can download and access quickly on their cell phone. Using Microsoft PowerApps, you can quickly build a custom app to provide the appropriate functionality for equipment availability and quoting.

The focus continues to be on “affordable customer service” and finding ways to manage a larger customer base/business volume with reduced staff. Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 Virtual Agent can help with this. We have all gone to a website and had an “attendant” pop up asking, “How may I help you?” In most cases, there isn’t someone just sitting at a call center waiting for you to pop in. These are “chatbots” which is really a program that is waiting for some input and will provide responses to guide information or answers to the prospect. Microsoft Virtual Agents allows a “no code” application that you can build your question/response data set. Now with operational knowledge, you can build this out without the need for technical or IT intervention. 

What are customers asking you for now, or what are some of the trends in what they’re asking for? 

More customers are going Cloud. We began seeing this several years ago but this “cloud transformation” has been faster than anyone could have imagined. The improved level of performance, the higher levels of security and the lower overall cost, have combined to make Microsoft Azure Cloud the best economic choice.  

What are some the capabilities of your software that are under-utilized that you wish more companies would pick up on? 

I would say mobility is the most frequently overlooked feature. Our solution comes out-of-the-box mobile ready, yet some clients feel that going mobile requires additional programming or IT assistance. All you need is a cellular or wi-fi connection and you are set to go. 

A lot of things have changed in the world because of the pandemic. What has changed in the rental industry, and how has your approach to software changed?

Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have seen customers wanting to have more productivity in a remote setting, secure data access, and they’re looking for easier ways to meet/conference remotely. Document imaging and central data repositories have also been frequent needs.  

In terms of the pandemic, presumably visits to your software users have decreased? Have you improved or enhanced your online training capabilities?

We are offering many more on-line training and implementation services than before. We are working on our first “full remote” deployment strategies, which we wouldn’t have considered two years ago, but today it is worth figuring out.

How has your software improved in making service personnel more efficient? 

We are continuing to build out the Microsoft platform strategy. No matter what Microsoft products you own, we should be able to leverage the functionality across the enterprise. Microsoft has made great improvements in the Common Data Model (CDM) which allows different MS products to integrate and share data.

Here is an additional example of how Microsoft’s products work together: Say I am working in my Microsoft Dynamics ERP system. I have security set up and I am one of the few people in the company allowed to view customer credit limits, for example. Let’s say I downloaded a customer list to an Excel spreadsheet that contained that restricted data. Now, I happen to send that spreadsheet to John, the service manager. John does not have the permissions that would allow him to see the customer credit limits when in the ERP. Will John now “see” the previously hidden data now in the spreadsheet? No. Because John was restricted from viewing the data in the ERP, John is restricted from viewing that same data in the spreadsheet.  

How has your CRM programs improved? How does it make your sales or rental sales personnel more efficient or productive?

Our marketing results have drastically improved. Attendance at our webinars has skyrocketed.

What can you add about predictive maintenance capability?

More companies are asking for predictive maintenance capabilities. Sycor.Rental is connected to Microsoft’s Azure AI Server where we can build out the functionality that a customer needs.

How about helping rental companies to analyze utilization and improve rental rates?

More companies want to use PowerBI to better analyze their data for both profitability and utilization.

And location tracking?

Status and location work hand in hand with Sycor.Rental. You get the complete picture of where all your equipment is at all times.