Everyone seems to have differing opinions of what critical features are most useful in their rental store’s rental management computer system. Event rental stores insist that delivery truck routing and overbooking is critical to their business. Heavy equipment rental stores argue that maintenance and long-term billing is the key to their efficient workflow. With opposing views and countless features to consider, what is a prospective buyer to look for when purchasing a new rental management software package? We have distilled the opinions to six primary concerns which everyone can agree makes the best rental management system money can buy.

Flexibility. An obvious necessity when so many stores have differing needs and opinions, flexibility is a must. Is the rental management software reputable among party and event stores as it is among general rental or heavy equipment stores? Flexibility in the system to serve an array of needs points to the integrity of design which will make it adaptable to your store. As you well know from your colleagues, no two rental stores are the same, and even among the same type of stores, each management department has particular ideas about business workflow. Does the rental management software you’re considering offer an extensive array of parameters which enable you to conduct business the way you want or does it push you into a cookie-cutter system?

Ease of Use. Getting your staff up-to-speed quickly on day-to-day rental operations is critical to customer satisfaction and therefore to your bottom line. Easy-to-use features in your rental management system become a necessity when they save valuable time on key business tasks. When you receive a software demonstration, notice main functions such as contract writing, reservations, quotes, and repair/work orders. How long does it take to write a contract? Is it easy to modify if the customer changes his or her mind on an item? Is the method used logical and straightforward? Or, does the sales rep have to navigate different quirks in the program to get the job done? Look for rental management software utilizing Microsoft Windows rather than lesser-known or outdated technology platforms. The familiarity of Windows-based software makes an instant difference in how easy it is to learn; this, in the long run, will greatly affect your store’s overall productivity.

Power features. Besides fast and efficient contract writing and modifying capabilities, a quality rental management system must be able to manage inventory well and allow you to see business performance at a glance. Does the system include real-time and accurate inventory tracking, as well as repair/work order tracking?  Make sure that the Accounts Receivable module is real-time and provides the ability to print detailed statements by PO number, job number/name, items rented and items sold. Depreciation, income accounting and an interface to most PC based general ledgers such as QuickBooks, Peachtree, Microsoft Dynamics, Sage, and MAS 90 are also common functions to look for in rental software. Other significantly helpful features to consider are signature capture, OCR reading and imaging of driver licenses, mass e-mailing of statements, Purchase Orders integrated with rental/sale inventory, credit card processing, and GPS integration & delivery dispatching.

Reporting Capabilities. Powerful features do you no good unless you can extract the information they retain. Make certain the equipment rental management system is able to generate reports which will help you analyze your business in detail. Don’t just take the sales representative’s word for it; ask for reports generated on specific data you count on to run your business well. A good system should store ten years worth of data which is automatically used to harvest information such as income reports, asset depreciation, ROI, utilization, salesman reports, customer and inventory analysis reports, etc. The list should be as long as you need it to be, so find a rental management system with the capability of generating all the reports you depend on.

Reliability. This feature is a no-brainer and one you would expect from a system you sink thousands of dollars into. However, it’s worth mentioning because not all rental management software systems are created equal. Having your rental system constantly lock up or, even worse, crash in the middle of a customer order or other basic function could be very damaging to your business operation. Do your research. Check online forums such as ARA’s member forum or other rental related groups. Ask for a complete list of the software company’s users and call them. Contact not just one but at least half dozen references with different size operations (e.g. multi-terminal, multi-store, etc.).  Reputation matters, and good reputation only happens one way. So check to see if the vendor has a solid presence at major rental shows or conventions such as ARA’s The Rental Show, and ideally, take an informal poll of your colleagues there.

Support. Even with the most reliable system, when dealing with computers, you will have issues even if it’s simply a mistake made by your own personnel. When you do have trouble, you want to know that help will be there when you need it. For that reason, support must be an integral part of your rental management system experience. Many software vendors offer monthly support subscriptions which include toll-free phone support (preferably seven days a week), free software updates, access to a users forum, etc. Compare costs. Beware of being enticed by a low system price tag, but then having to pay exorbitant amounts for ongoing support. Also, poll the companies who already use the software. How do they feel about the software support they have received? Were phone calls answered immediately or did it require a returned call hours or even days later?  If the support department can only be contacted via email, be prepared to spend many frustrating hours waiting on replies. Last but not least, make sure that training on the rental software is available at either your store or at the vendor’s training facilities, and ask if additional training or seminars are offered on an ongoing basis.

To learn more about our equipment & party rental management system and how it can help your bottom line, please visit pointofrental.com/demo.