A-Plant extends seamless 'web services' to customers
By Murray Pollok22 June 2010
A-Plant in the UK has developed software that will allow its customers to order equipment directly using their own internal IT systems. The ‘web services' offering goes beyond the standard extranet solution where customers use an external website managed by their rental supplier.
Andy Wortley, A-Plant's IT director, told IRN that the idea for the new service came following the company's development of an iphone rental application (‘App') for its own staff.
"If an iphone can communicate with our central system then so can an external customer's IT system", said Mr Wortley. The system that A-Plant has developed for the iphones can easily be adapted to allow customers to connect to A-Plant's central IT system.
Extranet's are commonly used by A-Plant's customers - around 20000 of its 60000 live accounts currently do so - and are also offered by many other rental companies. However, Mr Wortley said that customers would make efficiency savings by being able to deal directly with their rental suppliers using their existing IT infrastructure.
Mr Wortley said customers would be able to do everything that they can currently do on the extranet, including making orders, viewing the catalogue and obtaining account details.
"We can offer web services to our customers now", said Mr Wortley, "For me, the first target is to get an order in from a customer's system. It will make dealing with us much more efficient."
The new service is also part of a trend towards transparency in the UK rental industry, with customers increasingly being given reports on what they have on rent and other detailed information that allows them to manage their costs. A-Plant now requests an expected ‘off-hire date' with every transaction, with the company sending an alert (by e-mail, text or phone call) to remind customers when the date is approaching.
Meanwhile, Mr Wortley said the introduction of the iphones to over 200 A-Plant staff at the end of 2009 had been a great success. One of the prime aims behind the introduction of the smartphones was to try to exert a greater control on pricing.
Sales staff can complete quotations and orders using the phones, but they are given detailed pricing information during the quotation process, including average prices, best prices, worst prices and a ‘suggested price'. The suggested price takes into account utilisation rates as well as regional availability of the product.
"It has worked", said Mr Wortley, "We have seen a 2.6% price uplift on quotations raised through the iphone."