Hope is not a plan: Teched-up and ready to rent
By Adam SnookFeatures Business Intelligence equipment rental tech telematics
Telematics and GPS-enabled equipment. Online payment and ordering. Contactless delivery. If they don’t already, your customers will soon assume you offer these things and may become frustrated if you don’t.
Aside from the multi-nationals and large independent players, the rental industry is typically fairly slow to adapt to new technology. I get it. I’m an old school guy, too. But the time has come.
We all know a handful of rental stores that still use paper rental contracts. If that’s you, it’s time to upgrade to the bare minimum. Rental software makes your life so much easier. It’s great for inventory management. Nothing is worse than double-booking a piece of equipment and having a customer show up only to leave empty-handed. Accounting is made a lot easier. Having a system that will automatically track your accounts receivable as you rent keeps you from letting deadbeat customers get too far into you. It also makes month-end much easier when you can just email invoices and statements directly from the system. No accounts payable department wants 30 paper invoices at the end of the month. Then there’s the enhancements to security. Equipment theft has become such a problem these days, anything you can do to slow it down is worth the time and money. You can attach photos of the driver’s license and customer to each contract digitally. You can also properly pre-authorize deposits on credit cards. Finally, the intangible benefit is that you don’t look like a hillbilly. Most people these days expect digital options, and nothing prevents you from continuing to do things the old way for your your old friends who don’t.
An efficient rental program isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. And it’s really only the start of what’s become standard practice these days. How useful is your website? I don’t mean just showing your address and some stock photos of some of the equipment in your fleet. Is there an ability to order directly off the website? This generation expects transactional ease. If they can order their groceries online for pickup or delivery, they should be able to do the same for equipment. Can a customer access their account directly on your website? They should be able to view current open contracts, see amounts owing and make payments. The easier you make it for them to deal with you, the less likely you’ll have to discount your equipment in order to keep that customer happy. Are there links to operator and safely manuals for the more complicated equipment you rent out? If this saves you just one Sunday afternoon call-out per year from an inexperienced operator, it’s 100 percent worth it. Not to mention the liability coverage these days. People don’t need a reason to sue anymore.
As expensive as equipment has gotten, technology has gotten cheaper at almost the same rate. GPS used to be cost-prohibitive, but there’s so many cheap options these days there’s almost no excuse not to have it in your larger pieces of equipment. Theft has become a serious problem, and insurance companies are slower than ever to pay out claims, if they do honour the coverage at all. Twenty dollars per month to monitor a $60,000 track skid-steer should be an automatic, and will likely soon be a requirement to have any insurance coverage. Plus, locating your equipment isn’t the only thing you can do with GPS anymore. Telematics have become a game changer in keeping a grasp on your larger fleet. The ability to monitor service intervals, breakdowns and run time have made service departments more efficient than ever before.
It can seem overwhelming when you start looking into the initial costs and time required to set these services up. It might also feel like you’re losing control of the operation by handing some of this control over to systems and programs. But the reality is that change doesn’t care about your feelings, and if you don’t catch on, you won’t catch up. Don’t get left behind.
Adam Snook owns Just Bins, a Regina-based provider of waste disposal solutions.
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