The pandemic led a lot more rental companies to become more serious about e-commerce. What changes have you seen among rental companies as a result?
Fort: As the pandemic started, we adjusted our electronic signatures solution so it could function independently of our software and made it free to anyone who wanted it for three months. We had no idea how many people would be interested - we ended up giving away about $1.1 million worth of software and service for people implementing contactless rental solutions. As people adopted eSign, we learned that a lot of companies needed it to accept payments as well, so we added that functionality and included it in the offer, too. We had people adding online rentals and catalogs, ensuring that as much business as possible could be taken care of away from the counter. E-commerce is now a permanent part of how successful rental businesses operate moving forward. It’s convenient for renters, it’s efficient, it’s paperless, and with the right software, it’s easy to manage for rental stores as well.
How have you developed your e-commerce capabilities to help your customers through this period?
In addition to the eSign capabilities, we added a pair of e-commerce-focused businesses and the teams behind them and we’re integrating their functionality into our software. RentItOnline is able to show real-time availability and has a lot of great back-end features that are going to enhance the way businesses rent online. We acquired Rental Hosting in the U.S. this year and their expertise in building rental-focused websites and customer portals have helped our customers’ online presence. That addition has already resulted in expanding the online quote feature to get orders all the way through the payment process into a reservation.
What new capabilities, products and upgrades have you developed in the past year?
The past year has primarily been about ensuring you can use Point of Rental anywhere. We’ve continued to make our Windows-based products more web-accessible, and our cloud-based products just keep getting more features. eSign, our independent electronic signature solution, got payment functionality added and now allows you to request initials throughout any document as well. We’ve deepened our Trackunit integration, added BI (business intelligence) features, and now we’re able to manage business workflows between mobile devices and desktops better than ever.
What have you done to improve your software’s integration with telematics systems and other integration with machine data?
We’ve had industry-leading integrations for a while now, but over the last year, our Trackunit integration has expanded, accepting and pushing even more information between machines and the software. Our Location Exception tool shows your assets that aren’t where you think they are - whether it’s on a job site instead of your yard, if it’s at the wrong store, or even if it’s somewhere it should never be.
What have you done to improve mobile capability in the past year? Is this more important than ever in the age of COVID and more people working remotely?
First of all, it’s important not only because of COVID-related remote working, but because that’s the way work has been trending for years. A lot of our long-term projects that started pre-COVID are starting to get implemented and it’s really exciting to see, because mobile functionality...if it’s not already a necessity, it will be soon.
Our Elite software is now capable of writing contracts, building quotes, and managing contracts on tablets through an easy-to-navigate web app. People can handle work orders there, too. I’ve already mentioned eSign & Pay and the value it provides.
The thing we’re most excited about is our POR One app. It supports custom workflows that allow Point of Rental to match a business’ specific or proprietary business processes. So, if your process is to receive a machine back from a rental, then inspect it, get photos, wash it, and refuel it in that order, our software will help you ensure that your team is on the right step of the process at the right time. It cements your processes and really cuts down on training time -- you’re not having to memorize the steps of the process, just what you do on each step. It also provides visibility for your counter or sales staff -- if someone’s asking where that piece of equipment is, they can see where it is in the process of getting ready to rent without going out back or calling someone. It also still includes internal messaging, so even if you’re not doing something that has a corresponding software action, you can get information from your co-workers quickly, easily, and without leaving your software.
What are likely to be the new trends/new directions in software in the foreseeable future?
First of all, it’s still going to be about mobility. Users want to be able to do everything they’re able to do on their computer on a tablet, on a phone - any device, anywhere. We’re building an environment where all of a business’ devices and data are connected in real time so no one’s ever out of the loop. The other big trend is taking all the business data that you’re collecting as a rental store and presenting it in a way that leadership can take intelligent action on - we provide customizable dashboards to break that critical information down.
Further down the line, there will be a lot of building further on data collection and machine learning, using AI to implement truly dynamic rates or automate asset lifecycle features.
What new features have customers been asking for that will be important?
I mentioned business intelligence in my last answer - that’s one of the big things people are asking for. We’ve gone from “We don’t have enough information to make intelligent decisions” to being overwhelmed with the sheer amount of data we can collect. BI helps organize the data in ways that people can understand, so they can respond appropriately to what’s happening and adapt proactively.
In addition to that, mobility and paperless operations are something that we’ve considered important, and we’ve been building out for a long time now. COVID really pushed the industry’s collective mindset from “these are nice features to have, but we don’t need them right now” to “we need these to attract and keep customers.” Overall, rental stores are becoming a lot more proactive in adopting technology early on, rather than waiting until it’s a necessity.