New tech frontiers in rental software


Great Article from the ARA Rental Magazine's Brock Huffstutler talking about the innovations in rental software. 


New tech frontiers in rental software

By Brock Huffstutler

March 4, 2024

Photo courtesy of Alert Rental Software

In the rental software space, rapidly evolving tech like artificial intelligence (AI) is being implemented alongside proven telematics programs that manage GPS tracking of fleet, equipment diagnostics and more.

The blend is opening new frontiers of efficiency for many in equipment and event rental.

See what some of the industry’s established and newer-to-market software providers are tailoring into their offerings that sit at the vanguard of high tech.

Holistic operating systems. Most rental software providers agree that AI is the wave on which innovations in operating systems will ride. Such is the case with Forcey, Cleveland, and version No. 1 of its offering.

“Imagine you had a technology that could analyze every estimate, considering finite factors like labor, inventory, installation tools and truck capacities. And what if it could reconcile it all in a matter of seconds and tell the salesperson, on the very first call, when or even if the inquiry could successfully be fulfilled without having to call operations?” says Ramsey Duqum, CEO, Forcey, of the possibilities unlocked through his  product via AI.

“Imagine you had a technology that could analyze every estimate, considering finite factors like labor, inventory,
installation tools and truck capacities. 
And what if it could reconcile it all in a matter of seconds.”
— Ramsey Duqum, CEO, Forcey

Forcey utilizes AI to deliver an auto routing system that Duqum says “takes information from the linear flow in which it’s received and puts it in a bucket. The bottom of the bucket is not hard; it connects to another set of systems behind the scenes, so it’s not just siloed information. It is information that connects circularly and synoptically to other information sets.”

The tech behind Forcey takes the complex set of variables of a rental order and “satisfies them intuitively and more simply,” Duqum says.

Photo courtesy of Party Track

Duqum is not only the developer of the product. As CEO of AAble Rents in Cleveland, he’s also a client. “We integrated [Forcey] in 2019 and it was forged in the fire of the boom of 2021-22,” Duqum says, adding that the system has enabled him to run “an almost no-fail rental business.”

Chatbots. The team at Quipli, Atlanta, also has harnessed AI to develop a chatbot tool that was beta-launched in February 2024.

“With Quipli Mate, customers can get 24/7 real-time feedback and training on how to use our software, how to make updates to orders, and have a trusted source of information when rental companies are operating in real time,” says Kyle Clements, Quipli CEO.

Clements says the chatbot represents a significant step in leveraging new technology that enhances rental software’s capabilities. “We believe AI will transform how rental software is used within equipment rental companies over the next five years, especially as the technology is directly integrated into rental software core workflows,” he says.

Clements expects future innovations from Quipli to also utilize AI in pursuit of an enhanced customer experience. “Our broader strategy includes regular feature updates and customer feedback sessions to refine our offerings,” he says.

Mobile accessibility. The principals at WebbRes, Anchorage, Alaska, recognize that today’s rental customers demand software applications that are available anytime, anywhere.

Photo courtesy of WebbRes

Alaster Kerpel, WebbRes head of growth, says the company has spotted the trend of “mobile accessibility spurred by the pandemic. Our customers want accessibility whether they’re at the office, at home or on the go. Desktop applications no longer suffice, and customers want SaaS [Software as a Service] applications and mobile app companions.”

Kerpel says the latest iteration of WebbRes’ product includes leading tech that expediates communications through SMS messaging with approvals, booking confirmations, payments, requests for signature and more — all sent to mobile devices and designed to “cater to the mobile-savvy generation.”

Like Duqum’s Forcey, WebbRes also shares a genuine kinship with its customer base.

“Britton Webb, our founder and CEO, operates a full-service rental, sales and service business that is a user of WebbRes, which enables a quick feedback loop and contributes to enhancements,” Kerpel says.

Streamlined processes. Doug Levy, CEO of TapGoods, Dallas, says, “76 percent of buying decisions start online, and customers expect powerful, agile tools that enable them to do business in a way that works for them. Businesses require online convenience, too. They’re looking for technology to streamline processes and ease their workload.”

These factors have motivated TapGoods to develop rental segment-agnostic products that streamline every stage of the rental process for both business and customer.

TapGoods Storefront, a customer-facing tool, eliminates antiquated online experiences by offering “a modern, customized, inventory-integrated shop that is always up-to-date and accurate,” Levy says, while TapGoods PRO provides rental businesses “automation of daily tasks for warehouse, accounting, customer communications, automated booking, pricing calculations and more.”

Levy suggests that many rental businesses have not leveraged new, online technology that can result in increased efficiency, happier customers and increased profits. These companies, he says, will find themselves left behind.

“A single, smart, online system that allows for ample customization given the unique practices of rental companies is at the forefront of the latest tech,” Levy says. “Most rental companies are still using old technology or no technology. This shift is what’s next.”

Business-to-client communication. “The way stores communicate with clients is the focus for the next year or two,” says Mary Crosslin, co-president/chief operating officer, Alert Rental Software, Colorado Springs, Colo., of the direction rental software innovations are headed.

Crosslin says it’s important for rental stores to lean on tech to make life as easy as possible for their clients. “That’s the trend I see — stores are operating with fewer resources and need to leverage technology. They recognize the benefit in offering clients easier ways to make a reservation, sign T&C [terms and conditions] pages, pay, pick up and return equipment, and get receipts,” she says.

The Alert Rover mobile app was designed with ease of use in mind; specifically, to create a smoother channel of communication for all parties. The app aims to reduce friction between the business and the customer by enabling resources like e-signatures, automated emailing of receipts and the ability to attach photos to tickets to reduce conflict over damages.

Photo courtesy of TapGoods

“This will be the jumping off point for even more functionality through our mobile app,” Crosslin says.

Party Track, Clermont, Fla., also has made strides in client communications through its integration with DispatchTrack, a California-based intelligent routing system.

DispatchTrack analyzes traffic patterns — hourly, weekday vs. weekend, and even looking back for weeks to predict future patterns — to enable Party Track’s event rental clients to accurately communicate to consumers when an order will arrive.

“It optimizes thousands of routes in minutes, producing ETAs that drivers meet with 98 percent accuracy,” says Larry Weeman, Party Track president, adding that with the AI behind the program, “The routing engine gets better every day as machine learning gathers real-life data about the traffic, driver efficiency and service times. Customers receive text and/or e-mail updates on the status of their delivery and the app provides the ability to capture the customer’s signature and photos for proof of delivery.”

Weeman says that with this tech, “A major customer benefit is the communication. We can tell customers their order’s ETA, when it’s on the truck, even the driver’s name and bio.”

Crosslin adds that all this tech ultimately helps the rental operator meet clients where they are. “Enhancements to texting, web portals, automating updates, etc., will be driving most of the change,” she says. “That is what rental software companies will allow stores to do more effectively in the future.”

Fleet intelligence. Harnessing technology to better manage rental assets is largely a matter of linking old school human data, like manually-keyed information on items returned or damage reports, with machine data like equipment fault codes — and delivering it through an instantaneous, easily accessible portal.

“We are working on the next tier of technology, all the way down to tire pressures and massive amounts of feedback from rental assets. It is a game changer when that [machine data] is used with the human data,” says Dale Hanna, CEO, Foresight Intelligence, Scottsdale, Ariz.

Foresight delivered a breakthrough in this arena when it launched its Fleet Intelligence app at the end of 2023.

“It is the world’s first AI-powered voice command app,” Hanna says. “Rather than typing or looking at a paper, a driver can speak, in any language, things like, ‘Where is this piece of equipment?’ or ‘Where should I drop this item? Take me there.’ You can have an audio response or see it on a screen. The key element is that it’s using AI and all the [human and machine data], making it extremely easy for customers to use.”

Applications like this result from Foresight’s merging of human and machine data to the tune of “probably billions of data points every week,” Hanna says. The result is a well-managed fleet that gives customers peace of mind and a consistent experience with their rented equipment.

Photo courtesy of Foresight Intelligence

When embedded in rental software, AI also can deliver predictive analysis of fleet health.

“It provides insight and suggestions for incoming issues before users are placed in front a problematic situation,” says Patrice Boivin, president, Orion Software, Montreal.

Orion’s Sirius e-suite integrates AI to help operations run smoothly and without surprises. “It crawls the database to look for potential issues and provides suggestions to the user. It will do predictive maintenance when the GPS reader identifies that equipment on rent is due for maintenance. It will also check a unit that is due to be shipped but requires maintenance before it can be delivered. Those insights make users’ jobs more efficient: Instead of searching for potential issues, Sirius is proactive and advises users in advance,” Boivin says.

E-commerce. In a marketplace dotted with billion-dollar organizations boasting large marketing and technology departments, independent rental operators are looking for software that can give them an e-commerce edge — something that delivers a web presence that can drive revenue like they see in their larger competitors.

Point of Rental Software, Fort Worth, Texas, is fielding this demand from its customers and has noticed a common dilemma among smaller operations.

“They don’t have a staff that can read through manuals and key information like engine capacity, fuel type, etc., into an e-commerce platform,” says James Morley, Point of Rental’s head of product. “That’s a big onus for our customers to do that amount of data entry. But all of that metadata is the difference between being found [online] and getting business.”

Morley says Point of Rental is developing a new e-commerce solution that blends AI and data culled from manufacturers to help its customers overcome the obstacle of manually curating massive amounts of equipment metadata.

“We’ve partnered with AI and machine learning tools to be an API [application programming interface] connection,” Morley says, explaining that the tool will “autocreate an online presence on a piece of equipment. If a customer is looking for a concrete-cutting circular saw, rather than just having a description with the size of the blade, they will see all the tech specs and link to the owner’s manual, and none of that took any extra time from you and your staff. This is AI and machine learning with an applicability that drives more revenue and more rentals to your business.”

The greatest opportunity with this tech, Morley says, is that it can help independents “level the playing field against big competitors that have the ability to pull all of that information and have a staff that keys it in.”

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