James Morley, senior vice president of product management, Point of Rental Software talks with RER about cloud-based functionality, powerful new search capabilities, cloud enablement and spezzatura!
What have been the most important new developments in your software in recent times?
Morley: Our enterprise software is constantly adding cloud-based functionality to better connect mobile users, fleet telemetry solutions, and other third-party services. Integration capabilities through public APIs are allowing us to both bring new features to all of our rental management systems simultaneously and enable customer integrations to their specific set of tools. It’s even possible to host our enterprise solution in the cloud -- businesses no longer have to manage their own internal IT hardware and they can realize benefits like self-healing and auto-scaling.
We’ve also added powerful search capabilities to all our software, so you’re able to easily access a contract, customer record, or inventory based on what you remember about it. Our cloud-native software, ironically, is adding offline functionality to support mobile staff doing work in areas without an internet connection. Ultimately, we’re increasing our flexibility to handle rental the way rental stores would like to handle their business - now and in the future.
What are likely to be the most important new developments in your software in the foreseeable future?
The most important new developments for the near future are cloud enablement, continuing to enhance our mobile workflows and integrating them with the rest of our software, and using machine learning to deliver the most relevant user experience possible.
The past couple of years we heard a lot about rental companies adopting e-commerce as a far more important part of their business and software manufacturers are offering more capabilities. Enhanced customer portals have been a big part of it as well. Now that people are returning back to more “normal” lifestyles and work methods, are e-commerce and enhanced customer portals continuing to be just as popular?
Absolutely. While things are returning to “normal” in regard to COVID, rental businesses are still working against labor shortages, equipment shortages and rising costs. Their customers like being able to access rental and equipment information when it’s convenient for them. And big box retailers are helping make e-commerce the norm - for example, Grainger is expecting 80 percent of their sales to be through e-commerce by 2023.
By making as much of the rental process as “self-serve” as possible, e-commerce features and customer portals are helping rental stores compete, serve customers, and reduce labor costs.
Rental companies are now receiving a lot of data through telematics communications. How is your software helping rental companies to process and most effectively utilize this information?
Point of Rental has been on the forefront of telematics integration for many years. This includes supporting several generations of AEMP standards, but it also includes tight integrations into a variety of telematics trackers and data handling software.
Whether it’s on-board telematics, self-installed trackers, passive trackers, battery-powered trackers - we’re integrating with companies that collect that data to allow you to see critical information within Point of Rental. This includes a growing number of features available directly in our mobile apps, which allow your staff to better handle field work without installing equipment in the truck. Not only can you see this information, but renters can see the real-time status of their on-rent equipment via your customer portal.
How does your software help sales staff and service personnel on the road?
Sales and service personnel are able to access and even update their tasks from any device, regardless of whether they have cellular service at the location or not. Updates will automatically flow when they have internet access again. Contracts, customers, and equipment are all searchable within one universal search, so you’re not having to navigate your way through several screens, either. It’s just a matter of typing in what you’re looking for and the app will find it for you.
What are some of your long-range thoughts about where software is going a few years down the road?
There’s an Italian concept called “sprezzatura” - it’s when you’re working really, really hard in secret so you can appear to do things publicly without effort. As we simplify customer experiences, the software behind the scenes will be working harder than ever to integrate with hundreds of other apps or programs, make use of new technologies like machine learning, and adapt to changing business needs.
Sprezzatura goes beyond just the software, though. All these additional features still need to be easy to use and understand - rental software companies need to provide better training, more learning resources, more support hours. We’ve added a dedicated learning and development team at Point of Rental that’s focused on creating and organizing webinars, video lessons, and revising documentation. People are excited about the early results and efforts there will expand in the future as well.