10 features equipment or tool hiring software must have
Based on our experience, here are the top 10 features required in the equipment or tool hiring booking software system. This list is true whether you are in the business of renting small number of specialized power tools or in the business of construction machinery or earth moving equipment hiring.
1 Ability to add or remove equipment to booking system easily
Equipment hiring companies inventory list changes often. Users should be able to create new equipment in the booking system and make it online quickly. Equipment hiring business user should also be able to remove an equipment or tool from online booking without IT support. Adding or removing equipment or tools from online booking can be temporary or permanent. Users may have to disable booking for a period of time for repair or preventive maintenance or other operational reasons.
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2 View availability in real time.
Customers need to know the availability of an equipment on a specific period of time. Equipment hiring or rental companies sometimes have multiple items of the same type or specification. For example if there are 5 air compressors or centrifugal pumps of the same capacity or specifications, then the system should show these equipment as available until all of the items are hired during the specified period.
If availability is not provided to customers and you need to do back office manual checking before the online hiring can be confirmed, its not a great customer experience and reduces your productivity.
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3 Prepayment , post payment and quote.
Equipment hiring business requirements vary. Some equipment rental businesses need full upfront payment. This is especially true for smaller equipment such as grinders, sanders or drills. However large equipment such as generators or earth moving equipment may need deposit or recurring payments or invoice or purchase orders.
If a customer needs make full payment, then online credit card payment is the most simplest option. Whether its online credit card or debit card payment or payment made by bank transfer or other means, it means payment methods may need to be integrated with your existing accounting systems. The integration automates the accounts receivable entry. For example customer may pay via credit card online and the payment is processed by the credit card processing gateway. Upon booking and payment confirmation, an accounts receivable (AR) entry gets created in the accounting system.
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4 Automate complex customer communication
Messaging is often on overlooked feature in equipment hiring. Take for example the need of customizable messaging needs of a equipment hiring business. Some communication may be via Email, some via SMS and some via phone call. Some communication is about payment reminders or return of equipment to avoid fines. Some message may need payment receipt or perhaps promotions. Ability to define What message to send, How to send it , Who to send it and When to send it proves to be invaluable for your equipment rental business. Good messaging system is key to good customer experience and proves to extremely valuable for back office operations. Missing notifications or messages which cannot be customized can create recurring issues with customers, staff frustrations and resulting inefficiency and bad customer experience.
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5 Multiple locations , branches or franchisees.
Many equipment rental businesses operate from multiple locations. In some cases its franchise operations. The inventory of equipment or asset available for booking varies based on location of the office or franchisee. It is important customers should be able to search for the desired equipment or tool closest to the pick up or delivery location or office.
Onboarding staff, provisioning equipment including providing specification and inventory list can be time consuming process. Each franchise or local branch equipment list needs to be provisioned and configured. Though it is a somewhat time consuming task especially if there are multiple franchisees or locations, the process can be simplified by good equipment or tool hiring or booking software. For example instead of entering the data one at a time, data can be imported from an excel or csv file.
6 Integration with other systems
Equipment hiring system or for that matter any business system cannot provide all the functions a business need. For example an equipment rental booking system may need to work with accounting system such as Myob, Xero, Reckon, Quickbooks, Netsuite, Sage and so forth. Equipment rental software system may need to work with your CRM tools such as Salesforce or work with email marketing tools such as Mailchimp. Business requirement and software needs of every business vary.
Equipment rental software system should be able to integrate with other business systems such as accounting software, CRM / ERP software or inventory management software. Equipment rental or booking software system should provide well documented APIs or integration with other business operational or database systems.
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7 Data and user security
When a user hire an equipment or tool from you, there are various sets of data which is importance to you. One of the key information is the customer details itself. However in many cases, the you may need more information than contact details. For example you might be interested in what type of equipment a user typically hire. Is it farming equipment, is it power tools or construction or demolition equipment or is it earth moving equipment. This information may help you with targeted messaging or promotions. Businesses are also becoming more security conscious for a good reason. Data security and privacy is also important for legal and compliance perspective.
Equipment hiring or booking system should support advanced security features using federated login or single sign on without using various passwords. For example instead of creating account, users should be able to login via their Google or Facebook accounts without creating a separate password. This will avoid passwords being stored in the equipment rental system avoid hackers and security issues.
Your staff may need different access control. This is typically managed via roles and permissions. Security features enable your staff to view information or create reports otherwise not possible.
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8 Total control of your data in cloud or on-premise
Cloud software is convenient and it is important that equipment hiring software should be accessible without complex IT team, configuration and deployment. This will allow you to focus on the business operations without complex IT cost or custom build software. However in some cases, it is important for a business to ensure that their data is totally isolated and independent. In some cases, it is even mandatory that customer data resides in the customer country.
In some cases, the accounting system may be on-premise and the equipment rental software system need to work with the accounting or CRM systems. This may need a hybrid setup where by some of your business applications may be on-premise and some are cloud based. What ever the case, it is important that you have control on your data. Equipment hiring businesses should be able to decide how to implement the solution and consider the security or legal compliance of a country.
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To make decisions based on reports, equipment hiring software solution must provide reports. It is rather difficult to create generic reports which meets the needs of a specific customer. Customers often want to slice and dice data to meet their specific reporting needs. Equipment or tool rental software must provide reports which users can export into common file formats such as Excel. Excel is an ubiquitous application. Allowing data to be exported to Excel allows the user to view the data in the way they like. This allows the users to use the Excel formulas they are used to or they can use more advanced features such as pivot tables. Certainly dashboards and other forms help. However our experience tells us that most small and mid-sized equipment rental businesses gain more from raw Excel data.
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10 Self service for your customers and support
Ask anyone from contact center or customer support experience, they will tell you that most incoming calls are about the same questions. It might be about cancellation, or getting a copy of an invoice or checking availability of a specific tool or equipment. It is very expensive to operate 24/7 customer support and hence the need of self-service capability. Most common issues can be resolved by providing self-service to customers. Every customer who makes a hiring with you must automatically provided access to self-service portal where they can view their hiring history, view invoices or even cancel bookings. Self-service should be easy to use and should be highly secure. Self-service can also be used to edit contact details or delivery address and so forth.
Self-service reduces customer service cost and provides a very positive experience to your customers.
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