RER is running a series of interviews with equipment rental software-related manufacturers. Here Orion Software president and CEO Patrice Boivin discusses logistics and mobile apps, web portals in managing rental, customer-relationship management software, and more.

RER: What have been the most important developments/trends in rental-related software in the past year?

Boivin: Logistics functions are taking a key role in improvements customer satisfaction. Combined with a mobile application and coupled with a route map and maintenance feature, rental companies that are growing are in a position to guarantee more reliable service and better communicate with their customers. The mobile apps that utilize the GPS position of mobile devices offer an affordable solution when you need to view fleet positioning in real time allowing the user to react quickly to any changes. Additionally, automatic emails informing customers of every step of their deliveries is also a key, differentiating factor that will continue to emerge in the future.

What do you expect will be the most important development/trend in the coming year or so?

The Rental Web portal is very promising. We see a trend emerging with an increasing amount of rental companies interested in taking advantage of technology to get closer to customers’ operations. A rental portal that offers a complete set of functions to help manage rental equipment online, access statements of account and  their transactions is emerging as both a strong enabler of efficiency gains as well as a relationship builder. The current trend shows a need to eliminate telephone conversations and access information at any time during the day and night. Today’s younger generation entrepreneurs want to use the power of their mobile device in order to manage rental operations in a paperless environment. The key trend is having access to information at any given time by using a “pull” process. The end users are saying: “Let me manage my rentals by providing me access to my rental information and you'll be my preferred provider.”

What have been the most overlooked features of rental-related software in the past year or so – in other words available features that rental companies tend to not take advantage of?

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is extremely under-estimated. It is a valuable tool that can assist in managing the Salesforce when combined with a quoting and fast contract solution. A CRM that provides equipment availability in the hands of the salesman on a mobile device allows speed to market by completing a quote and reserving the equipment on the construction site directly. Any employee in the rental company can rent out the equipment with complete information about the customer and its other transactions. You can even provide a rental portal to customers on a mobile device enabling them to rent their own equipment as well as access their current contracts and invoices. This is a great way to establish an exclusive relationship with customers.

How can software help rental companies do delivery more efficiently?

A complete dispatch center integrated with a mobile app. Dispatching fleet trucks in the rental context is much more complex than in a distribution business. The timing of the arrival on site is crucial and there are constant last minute changes. The application must have a real-time GPS position and mobile apps in the hands of the drivers to manage the complexity in a paperless environment.

How can software help with fleet management?

Preparing route plans for the fleet drivers is not a trivial job but the experience of the manager cannot be replaced entirely. The software must provide the information on a map in a very simple and clear interface. The software must guide the dispatcher and warn him or her of the problems such as committed delivery time and volume constraint of the trucks. The Mobile app with maintenance and inspection is also a very good way to get efficiency gains. Drivers can do the simple maintenance and inspections on site while they are delivering and returning equipment. No need to wait for the equipment to be back at the stockroom. It's more efficient to do the quality check at the time the equipment is loaded with the customer sign-off on the mobile device to confirm that there is nothing defective.

How can software help with running the shop more efficiently? 

The user interface must be very simple to use and very flexible. When selecting a rental software, the flexibility of the interface is key. Rental is a complex world where availability of items can be affected by various situations and at any given time. Users must be able to react immediately by sub renting, transferring from other branches or by quickly opening a work order. The software must also allow the concept of “running the shop in a physical place.” The rental platform must offer tools such as a quick contract Mobile app to create or close contracts anywhere.