HSS offers 'real time' rental online

By Murray Pollok28 May 2009

HSS chief executive Chris Davies, left, with Jonathan Hickey, HSS key account manager.

HSS chief executive Chris Davies, left, with Jonathan Hickey, HSS key account manager.

HSS Hire in the UK has launched what it believes to be the first ever online renting service that allows selected customers to on- and off-rent equipment in real time over the internet, as well as access a wide range of other information on their rented equipment.

The company's LiveHire system - developed over 18 months with online shopping specialist e-inbusiness - will initially be offered to between 200 and 300 of HSS Hire's largest customers. As well as offering customers the ability to order equipment and off-rent existing tools, the system will incorporate all the customer's existing pricing arrangements, including discounts, for particular sites and products.

The secure site will allow customers to control assets by site or by account and to change any details at the touch of a button. Users can also view and manage financial statements online in real time. Customers will be presented with key information on the front page of their extranet site, including details of equipment on rent and alerts when equipment is due for off-rent.

For Chris Davies, HSS Hire's chief executive, the system is about saving customers money and increasing the transparency of the relationship; "We think the system will build a much stronger relationship based on openness and trust." He told IRN that he wanted the rental industry as a whole to get away from the business model of competing on low rental rates "and then trying to get something back later, which happens a lot."

Mr Davies said; "Our aim is to give our customers better management of the equipment they have on hire, driving efficiencies and helping them to bring their costs down in the process...We intend to stamp out some of the bad practices in the hire industry; practices that can leave customers out of pocket because they bear the costs that arise from not having complete visibility of the thousands of items on hire in their inventory or because they don't have real-time control over the hire periods."

He acknowledged that giving the customers the ability to off-rent at the click of a button may well lead to a reduction in the average rental period, but said the system would help retain key customers as well as attract new ones.

He added that the information available to customers - including all invoices - would help reduce the administrative burden on HSS staff; "I hope it adds customers", he told IRN, "and allows us to transact more business with the same number of staff."

The 200-300 major customers in the first phase of the launch represents around 40% of HSS's business, but Mr Davies said that in the longer term the company may offer a version of the system to smaller customers as well. In addition, the company is looking at other ways to use the LiveHire technology, such as an asset management tool for third party companies with large fleets of equipment at multiple sites.

The system will allow customers to hire equipment for the next day if ordered by lunchtime, although it will be quicker if companies want to pick up tools themselves.

Jonathan Hickey, HSS Hire's key account manager, told IRN that another benefit of the system will be to reduce administration, with customers able to specify equipment orders for multiple sites with a single online transaction.

HSS is also looking at further developing the system by integrating it with technologies including signature capture, with delivery drivers able to capture proof of delivery (POD) notes and upload them into the system so that customers will be able to view invoices and POD
certificates online.

HSS already operates an online rental system that is targeted manly at domestic customers and small builders, although that is not a real time on- and off-renting system.

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