RER speaks with Mark Tedeschi, U.S. general manager, inspHire about asset tracking, measuring costs and depreciation, enhancing software’s mobility, how the rental industry’s methods of determining rates will change in the future, and more.

What are the new developments in your rental software in the past year?

Tedeschi: Businesses, now more than ever, want to have easy access to data that tells them exactly where their equipment is, who’s using it, how it’s performing and if its utilization could be improved. Mapping, GPS and telematics are the tools more businesses are looking for, which is why we recently introduced these elements to inspHire.

The built-in asset tracker, powered by Google Maps integration, gives users the ability to work from a single map view, enabling them to easily analyze and cross reference equipment location and status. This attractive visualization enables informed decisions to be made quickly and accurately all within once screen. To ensure we give our users the best experience, we’ve been able to create integrations with leading telematics providers such as JCB LiveLink and Trackunit, with further integrations including Teletrac Navman, set to be developed in the very near future.

To many businesses, in-store experience is pivotal to customer service. Throughout the year, inspHire has introduced a range of development geared towards tool rental stores including over the counter signature. This has been designed to speed up and streamline a customers’ instore experience, ensuring they get what they need, pay the correct amount as well as being able to swiftly pay and digitally sign any documentation.

As telematics grows in importance in the rental industry, the relationship between telematics and rental software is important. Can you talk about the integration between your software and telematics systems?

Tedeschi: In the early adopter stage, new technologies are often expensive and out of reach for the average consumer, in this case, smaller businesses. The cost tends to be unfeasible and the risk of implementing relatively untried systems can be a huge turn off. However, as these technologies move through the early adopter stage and into early majority, it’s proven to add value to your business and more people get on-board, meaning the costs begin to fall, making it more accessible to the wider audience. This has been very much the case with telematics, so much so that many manufactures are now installing tracking units as standard.

Telematics data brings a wealth of information to a business, combining this with the equally important rental data stored within inspHire and it’s a rental company’s dream come true. This plethora of data helps businesses take their operations to the next level, maximize utilization, encourage accountability, increase ROI and improve customer service.

GPS tracking enables you to pinpoint the exact location of equipment and live performance data, such as operating hours, allows you to analyze how customers are using equipment and if they’re using it correctly.

As well as operator and equipment performance information, it also promotes proactive equipment maintenance and repair. Pulling through live data such as mileage covered and hours worked enable inspHire to notify customers when every piece of equipment is due for a test or maintenance, helping businesses to keep equipment safe and ready to use at all times. As well as this, you’ll be able to spot any irregularities in the performance data, allowing you to action preventative maintenance work, helping to avoid any further damage to equipment.

One of the challenges rental companies face is figuring out the profitability of each piece of equipment and each cat-class. How can your software help with that challenge?

Tedeschi: As the saying goes, if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. One of, if not the most important questions any profitable rental business needs to ask itself is, ‘Do I know how much my equipment is making and costing me?’ inspHire makes it easy to find out that information with a built-in suite of comprehensive reports as well as easy to understand, eye-catching business intelligence dashboards.

More specifically, detailed reports such as the utilization report give you a breakdown of time used against potential time used for every piece of equipment. It will also compare the actual revenue vs the potential revenue. Having easy access to this information empowers businesses to take further action and do further research to discover why equipment isn’t being utilized to its full potential and what can be done about this.

Taking the utilization report to the next level, the Asset Analysis Report details the depreciation value of an asset, revenue made, and costs attributed such as maintenance and repair bills. This is a fantastic tool that can give you greater insight and help make more informed purchasing decisions. If you know a certain type of kit has spent a lot of time in the shop and is costing more than it should to maintain, you may veer away from this when looking to renew or expand your fleet. Alternatively, you might notice that particular items are exceeding your expectations, are popular with customers and you’re seeing a good ROI. With this information, you may decide to purchase more of these.

Once businesses have been able to analyze this information, it is likely to give them ideas of certain equipment they may well need to market more. Using inspHire CRM, you can build highly targeted, attractive email campaigns with Mailchimp integration. Taking the knowledge gained from inspHire reports, you can segment them in inspHire CRM to match very specific criteria. For example, you’ve noticed that a certain type of equipment isn’t being utilized effectively, you may decide you want to send a promotional campaign to all of your customers who have previously rented that equipment from you. You know they’re interested in this equipment as they’ve used it before, therefore, you’re sending them a relevant offer that they are more likely to take up.

Another challenge for rental companies is the profitability of bidding on a job and what rates make sense. How can your software help?

Tedeschi: To understand the full life costs of a rental asset, it is essential all expected costs are captured at the point of asset creation. This includes depreciation, finance or leasing costs, expected monthly budgets for pro-active services, inspections, repairs or any unexpected overheads that are due during the life of the equipment. By purchasing the item in inspHire, the creation of the asset is automated based on a template stored on the equipment category, so the expected life and monthly or annual depreciation costs are instantly calculated. The ability to store monthly and yearly cost budgets and finance & leasing costs allow these to be taken into consideration.

Using this information, a cost forecast can be created for each asset or group of assets by category. By running a report from a rental contract from the expected rental start to end date, the total forecasted costs of the assets during the life of the bid (if known) can be calculated. This will allow the bidding team to calculate the correct amount of rental charges to bill the company, taking into account forecasted costs, while maintaining a profit margin that suits the needs of the business. These can be set at customer or rental contract level giving complete flexibility. Stored rental rates will be used for any future contracts for a particular customer.

By utilizing other reports within inspHire, the ROI of assets can be reviewed in real time outside of a contract. All overheads relating to the items or item categories are shown, taking into account depreciation to date, services, repairs and all invoiced revenue is calculated giving true ROI to date. The forecasted income reporting will also allow users to predict, assuming that all items are still on rent, all billed and un-billed revenue to a set date in the future, allowing calculated budgetary decisions to be made on the fly.

Increasingly rental customers want as much access as possible to manage accounts online. How are you able to facilitate these functions?

Tedeschi: As a society, as consumers, we are becoming increasingly demanding. We want to be served at our own convenience, on any device, wherever we are, quickly. This has been the norm in industries such as retail for years and we’re gradually seeing this transition over to rental.

The inspHire WebPortal gives businesses using inspHire the ability to serve their own customers through a branded, personalized online portal that seamlessly links with their website. Using the WebPortal empowers customers to access all of their important account information, whenever they need to. Functionality allows them to view their contracts, invoices, equipment certification and specifications as well as a historical archive of all of these documents.

Not only this, WebPortal also comprises of a product catalog and rental contract request system enabling customers to manage the existing equipment they have on rent as well as view the availability of other equipment in the rental company’s fleet. Directly within WebPortal, users can easily request to off-rent equipment or extend their existing contract if they need it for a longer period of time. The product catalog, which is easily populated by the equipment images and descriptions you have within inspHire, allows users to add items to their shopping cart, where they will also be prompted of any accessories that can be used with the item they’re looking to rent. Once they have confirmed their request, a notification will be sent through to the rental desk, of which they will just need to accept or decline the request. All data entered by the customer will be pulled through meaning no data input duplication as well as reduced admin time and costs.

As well as inspHire WebPortal, our open API also allows businesses to integrate inspHire with their dedicated e-commerce solutions, enabling customers to make payments directly through their websites. As these technologies advance it is inevitable even more of the rental process will be able to be completed online. Having taken that next step to easily allow payments to be made online, we are going to be able to view live inventory availability and raise orders directly through the system, without any human interaction needed, in the near future.

Mobility has been a major topic in recent year, being able to do just about everything on a smartphone that can be done on a laptop or desktop. Any new developments in that area?

Tedeschi: Whether you’re back at the store, out on the road or in the yard, there’s always something important that needs doing, tasks that you need your rental system to track. With the ever-increasing capabilities of mobile technology even more of the rental process is becoming mobile friendly.

Over the past year we’ve put a lot of time into developing our mobile offering, adding a lot of features and functionality that rental businesses have been asking for. Our transport planning functionality has now been completely integrated with inspHire Mobile, enabling routes for delivery drivers, service engineers and service tankers to be sent directly to their mobile device, from here they can open up Google Maps, which will guide them through the most efficient route to take. Not only this, businesses can now track their mobile workforce, within inspHire’s back office system, using the built-in GPS on their smartphones or tablets. This is not just a fantastic feature for monitoring their progress and productivity, but it is also an invaluable customer service tool as you can now give more accurate estimations to your customers of when the item or job they are expecting will arrive.

As well as introducing our transport planning functionality to inspHire Mobile, we also launched a new Over the Counter Signature’ feature. Now, when a customer comes into the store to make either a purchase or rental, you can process their payment and immediately capture their signature on a mobile device, enabling them to digitally sign any documentation you need them to. This will speed up the customer experience and will also give you a full digital paper trail.

We have also enhanced our delivery and pick-ups experience on inspHire Mobile by adding the ability to auto email documents straight from your hand-held device. For example, a delivery driver has requested a signature on site to confirm the delivery has been completed, this delivery note can now be generated and emailed straight to the site contact or a specified email address that can be typed in.

The generation that is now stepping into the rental industry have grown up with mobile phones in their hand, it’s how they function and businesses utilizing mobile will enable them to be most productive. As you mentioned, mobility has been a major topic over recent years and I can only see this gaining even more traction as it’s going to be a must to attracting young, up and coming, talented staff.

What future trends and developments do you see, both from what rental companies are asking for and what your programmers are working on?

Tedeschi: With the great advances in telematics and the industry likely to move towards most machines being equipped with trackers, it is likely that we’re in for a change in the way businesses are charging their customers. Currently, we see rentals charged for on a daily basis, this model has been a consistent for years, but with the development of telematics, this is likely to change. I feel rental is likely to move towards a more utilization-based rates model, meaning customers are only charged for the time they are actually using equipment.

As we see the industry evolving, customers’ expectations are evolving with it. Understanding your customers, knowing what they need, what makes them tick and ultimately, what persuades them to make a purchase, or in this case, rental. We’re seeing ever-growing demand and requests as to the capabilities of inspHire CRM. A powerful CRM system that enables businesses to synchronize marketing, sales in a single system, empowers businesses to better target their equipment offerings. Most recently, we have added a wide variety of functionality to inspHire CRM that gives sales and marketing teams the tools they need to hit their targets, for example, the introduction of mandatory fields pushes sales staff down the ideal route, making sure they capture all of the necessary data that is vital to your sales process. Also, a brand-new sales funnel displays all of your customers in a visual, easy to understand format, allowing you to focus your time and effort on those that are most likely to convert to a sale.