Interview with Mary Crosslin, co-president/chief operating officer, Alert Rental Software
RER: What have been the most important achievements of your software in the past year?
Crosslin:I think by far, we are most excited about Rover – our mobile app. It has been enthusiastically received by our clients and is helping many of them become more efficient in the yard when out-bounding contracts and streamlining the check-in process.
What have been the most important advancements in capabilities, i.e., enabling rental companies to improve their efficiencies?
Crosslin: At Alert, we think that the expanding synergies between technologies and tech partners is the best way rental companies will leverage functionality and level-up efficiencies. Rental stores in every market and every part of the world are dealing with some of the same challenges – at its core: how to do more with less. That means, more than ever before, embracing technology to reduce friction for their clients to do business with them and automate wherever possible. You can see that in the integrations that Alert has invested in with companies like Easy RFID, DPL, and Zoho in the last year, as well as enhancements to tools within Alert such as Document Center, Dispatch Dashboard, and our web services offerings of e-Commerce and Customer Portal.
Further, we have expanded our service offerings to the rental industry beyond offering turn-key websites to add Alert Virtual Accounting – both of which are services offered to rental operations regardless of the rental software they use. Rental stores are realizing that their rental software ERP is the hub for all their technology. Everything ties into that tool: from GPS, RFID, CRM, and accounting to their website.
This question is not so much “What are your next products?” as much as “Where does your software go in the next few years?” or perhaps better asked, “What are customers expecting in the next level of software?”
Crosslin: I’m not sure there is one ‘direction’ that our software is heading, but I can say one emphasis will be hyper-automation. What can we take off the shoulders of the rental store staff to free them up to do what they do best? This will involve additional web services, more functionality with our mobile tools, new ways to provide training, more ways to share data, and even more business services. We plan to continue to work with our clients to be a technology partner rather than a software vendor.
I’m sure you keep your eye on software developments in the world beyond this industry. What are some of the developments or trends in software that you’ve noticed in other industries that you admire, whether or not they are relevant to the rental industry?
Crosslin: Some of the most interesting things happening in software and technology right now revolve around expanding the immersive experience. How things like AI and extended reality (XR) can be fused with machine learning to optimize how technology is delivered and applied to training and deployment of software. Anything that expedites getting software installed and implemented more quickly, with training happening more efficiently will be a boon to our industry.
It seems there is a lot of discussion about artificial intelligence these days –AI is a popular buzzword. Is AI relevant to rental software?
Crosslin: The use of AI is everywhere, and this is a conversation that we have been having with our team and our clients over the past few years. The challenge in the rental industry is that there are so many moving parts that impact fulfillment, scheduling, deliveries, etc. that it is difficult to take the ‘person’ out of the equation. That’s not to say that tools that leverage AI aren’t already being used in everything from GPS and routing to automated responses and processes from websites, it’s already here.