Choosing software to manage your rental business is a complex decision, you need to know what you want it to do, what you are trying to achieve and who is going to implement it. You also need a supply you can trust and who is empathetic to your business.

Anyone who has been in business in the last 20 years must have suffered at the hands, either directly or indirectly, of a software package that did not live up to expectations. The disappointment, frustration and disillusionment can sometimes outweigh the financial repercussions.

Today standard computer platforms make software delivery more reliable and the internet and intranet make it easy to share information both within your organisation and outside. But software developers still have to stay on top of the rapid parade of technology, which has taken us from the pager to the smart phone in just a few short years.

Mark Taylor xxx inspHire advises vendors to check out the credibility of the provider: what is their experience and expertise? Is it a stable company?

You need to establish what you want the software to do and work out what your non-negotiable top requirements are. Does the software cover all of your top requirements? Is it using latest technology? Do the providers constantly innovate and put great new features in the software?

Allocating resources to implement the new system is also vital, "Never under estimate the work required to implement the new solution," says Mr Taylor, "Always remember you only get out what you put in."

He recommends allowing two days a week during the implementation phase for of a member of your team to ensure all the work required gets completed, "Appoint a super user and ensure they are passionate about gaining efficiencies by using software solutions, this will mean you get the most out of whichever application you choose."

How long it takes to fully implement a new software system depends on a number of variables:

the complexity; number of user, locations, assets and countries involved. The mode in which you choose to implement the system will also impact on the time it takes. A phased roll out of the system, for example starting with rental and sales and moving to workshop and purchasing at a second stage might take longer than if you go for a big bang - going live with everything at the same time.

Mr Taylor says that often companies use a new implementation to review current processes now that they will have new tools at their fingertips, and again this can prolong an implementation - but for the right reasons. "A new implementation should mean you can do things in a new and more efficient way so you should take advantage of that. Your solution provider should also be an expert in rental systems and should have implemented several hundred systems so they can advise you on what has worked for others and what hasn't, this expertise alone could save you thousands of pound and many man days by helping you avoid costly mistakes."

Of course you well expect the new system to help improve the efficiency of running your business, but what additional benefits might you enjoy? Mr Taylor says, "There has been a lot of focus in recent years on better servicing the customer and providing them with a pleasant user experience. Applications in the market place are moving more towards this as oppose to focusing wholly on ROI (return on investment) on assets and utilisation."

ROI and utilisation are still vital to the efficiency of a business and will inevitably drive up profits when controlled through the efficient use of the software solution to manage workshop, service and maintenance of equipment such as scheduled servicing, routine maintenance and legal testing and certification. "But, "says Mr Taylor, " in times when new business is harder to come by, focus is on retaining your current client base and the only way you will do this is to provide exceptional service at a reasonable rate, notice I haven't used the word cheap as the sweetness of low cost is short lived against the bitterness of poor quality."

Software solutions such as inspHire can help provide a higher level of service with very little processing effort; for example users can automatically provide a copy of the test certificate every time they print a delivery note or provide a spec-sheet with every proposal. Any associated document or photos for a site survey can be stored against each contract and automatically printed off with the delivery note or hire contract along with any location maps.

Once this is set up in the system it all happens without the hire coordinator having to get copies from a filing cabinet, copy them and attach them to the contract. "Giving customers access to information 24/7 through a something like inspHire's web portal helps build customer loyalty," says Mr Taylor. They know they can get access to reprint test certificates and associated documentation like spec-sheets, view what is currently rented, historic rentals, reprints of invoices, view pictures of equipment and much more. The client wants to work with an honest and open rental company and by providing these tools you are creating a trusting relationship."

"Using CRM (customer relationship management) to manage and plan a continuous communication with your client base will ensure you never miss a trick and are always up to speed with what the client is doing," says Mr Taylor,

You will know if customers are unhappy and rectify the situation before it gets out of control. Regular contact lets clients know you have listened to their requirements and problems and you can build on your current offering to help them resolve regular issues. "Using CRM to automatically create follow up calls after deliveries or off hires to gauge the customer satisfaction will show you care and are on the ball," says Mr Taylor. "Automatically sending an email to the customer confirming that everything's back from the rental will give them reassurance and confidence that you are working with them."

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