A New Idea Called Education

Oct. 16, 2009
RER conducted a series of interviews for our October issue on software technology and will be publishing a number of them in RER Reports. The second installment is with Bob Shaffer, CEO of Grand Prairie, Texas-based Point-of-Rental Systems, who talks about new developments in software and the importance of training.

RER: What have been some of the new developments in software over the past year or so from your company?

Shaffer: We’ve recently introduced a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) feature in the latest (12.0) release of our Enterprise product. Communications with your customers, vendors, employees and others can be documented and even scheduled with the CRM alarm feature. It can automatically interface with your Outlook, Microsoft or Google calendars or send reminders to the Task List built into the Point-of-Rental System’s Enterprise software. Communications are indispensible for efficiently running a busy business and CRM coordinates it all. Many other features or upgrades have been added recently such as importing inventory from PartyCAD drawings, adding weight and set-up time fields to the item records, adding the multitude of new fields and reports to help stores located in California meet the new CARB requirements. Our users can now tag any system report to have it automatically e-mailed or faxed for defined frequencies. Other modules that have recently been enhanced are preventive maintenance, remedial maintenance, work orders and depreciation.

What are some of the new developments you have planned?

Every year Point-of-Rental Systems introduces the next edition of our Enterprise Windows based software. Each edition has several big enhancements along with literally hundreds of minor improvements to functionality and the like. New features are always nice but we’ve been doing this over 25 years and have generally been disappointed with the number of our customers that actually use them! So, we’ve come up with a new idea called Education! From October through February, Point-of-Rental Systems will be offering regional training seminars! These are one day events scheduled for Dallas, Seattle, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Philadelphia, Hartford, Atlanta, San Antonio, Oakland and Irvine.

What are your customers in the rental business asking for particularly?

A couple of years ago most of our customers were so busy that it was all they could do to get equipment to the job site and try to schedule pickups within a few days of when equipment had been called “off rent.” Today they have more time to think of increasing rental and sales revenue, reducing expenses and increasing cash flow. Our support personnel report that our customers are asking for reports that provide year-to-year income trends for specific items and categories of items. Although most of these reports have been in our Enterprise product for many years most of our customers previously didn’t have time to study them! Some of these reports ferret out rental and sale items that are inactive. Others are designed to optimize inventory depth to improve ROI of serialized items. Some users have opted to install our newest module that can mass fax or e-mail statements and automatically fax or e-mail individual contracts that are closed each day. This not only saves postage but also should reduce the dating of your aged receivables.

From a software perspective, what do you see as some of the important things a rental company should be concentrating on in the current economic environment?

Marketing is the lifeblood of any business and today all rental businesses need a professional Website. Recognizing the importance of integrating a rental store’s inventory into their site, Point-of-Rental Systems decided several years ago that it was uniquely qualified to offer website hosting for our customers. As we’ve added features such as shopping carts, pictures, specs, instructions, customer portals, and importing of web generated quotes, the number of our customers opting for this feature has increased. These sites enable many of our customers to have a web presence that is better than their competitors that are many times their size.

Rental companies need to learn how to use their software to be more proactive than usual. Party stores need to look into transaction history to find big orders that are likely to repeat year after year to see it they can book this year’s reservation. Tools guys need to learn how to market to governments of all sizes! Smaller and mid-size tool stores need to actually welcome cash customers instead of pushing them out the door.

And technology can provide the information but it takes smart, enthusiastic, motivated managers and employees working in concert to make any company great!

Do you ever find yourself thinking: “If only I had $20 million (or pick a figure!) to spend on such and such, what would that such and such be?”

In the developed world, equipment and to a lesser extent party rental is too mature to expect big returns even if a lot of money were available. Someone with lots of risk capital willing to make a big gamble needs to investigate the rental concept in the emerging Asian markets. Due to vast differences in culture, government and language, this venture would consume lots of money and require many years but, if successful, the payoff would be huge.

What are some new technologies that are important?

The convergence of phone and Internet applications on portable display devices will usher in a host of useful applications mostly related to communications. Salesmen will not only have real time access to data but they will automatically be made aware of situations that could be significant including warnings such as collection problems.

What are some of the new capabilities you expect from software looking ahead five years?

Rental software will be smarter and more opinionated. It will automatically analyze historical data and suggest that management buy this or dump that for example.