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Six Questions You Must Ask Before Buying Rental Software

Kate Miller Kate Miller

If you’re considering purchasing rental software, it’s crucial to have a clear vision of your business’s needs in order to choose the right package. But this isn’t quite as simple as it may sound. If you buy rental software that falls short of your business needs, you can end up making a costly mistake that inhibits success. On the flip side, if you're armed with the right information going into the purchase process, you’ll be better able to choose a technology solution and vendor that enable you to run a successful operation. Here are six questions that can help guide you.

1. What does your business consist of?

Is your business do traditional homeowner, contractor, party or AV rental? Do you sell equipment in addition to rentals? How about repairs to customer equipment? Maybe your business does just one of these things, or all three. Not all software options will accommodate all of these models, so make sure you know what you’re looking for before you start researching different options.

Another important thing to think about: is your business walk-in or is everything done by phone? Some packages are built for walk-ins but aren’t as good for phone or deliveries. When you see a product demo, make sure the software can do all the basic things you need it to. For example, if you run a phone-based business, ask the vendor to show you how the software would handle a telephone call coming in for a rental.

Finally, if you're moving from another system, don't assume other systems you're considering do everything your current system does. Review all of your requirements.

2. How might your business evolve over time?

It’s wise to consider what your business looks like today and what it might be five years from now. Perhaps you’ll transition from pure rental to selling equipment. Sales of equipment could be an avenue you may pursue down the road, and you might not even know it yet. But you would be in a tough spot if you chose software that doesn’t support sales but you wind up in that business. Or, maybe you have one store right now. Ask yourself if there is a possibility that you’d add a branch or buy out a competitor. If that’s the case, you’ll need multi-location capabilities. It’s easy to get wrapped up in thinking about very specific requirements that matter right now, but it’s just as important to think about the future of your business and how it may grow over time. You’ll want software that supports, not hinders, growth.

3. What are your accounting needs?

Regardless of whether you need software that tightly ties to third party systems like QuickBooks, or if you choose an ERP for integrated accounting, there’s one crucial factor: the software should be proactive in helping you produce revenue, instead of merely keeping history. If somebody is looking to rent a piece of equipment like a backhoe at a certain date and time, and the system says there’s no availability, then when will one be available? Or, alternatively, where is the equipment, and could it be made available? Maybe a tent is scheduled to be delivered on Tuesday morning for a Wednesday evening event because the truck will be in the area. Well, if somebody wants to rent the tent for a Tuesday afternoon event, you probably won’t want to miss out on that rental. The system should enable you to change the delivery scheduling, or at the very least, give you the information you need to make the optimal decision and avoid missed rentals. A system that gives you the right data enables you to maximize revenue without adding inventory investment.

4. Are you getting a full or stripped down version of software?

Some vendors offer “lite” versions of software. This means you can get up and running for a low price, but you don’t get all the functionality of the standard offering. Instead, you only get a small snippet of the software. If your business is very simple, a stripped-down system may be sufficient. But for most businesses, lite versions can fall short. At InTempo, you get all the same functionality whether the solution is hosted at your location or in the cloud. Make sure you know exactly what features you are — and aren’t — getting with the software you choose. 

5. Are the vendors you’re looking at reputable?

First, do they have experience in computerizing businesses that are similar to yours? Some software options were originally designed for specific rental companies and won’t fully support the way you do business.  Second, are they going to be around for the long haul? Vendors come and go, so longevity is an issue. There are a few major rental software companies, including InTempo, whose solutions have been around for 30 years or longer.

6. What are your customer support needs?

First thing’s first: does the vendor offer customer support that covers your operating hours? If you only have an hour overlap of when your business is open and when support is answering calls, differing time zones may prove to be a problem. Second, what methods do you have to communicate? In addition to an 800 number, can you submit a ticket online? Are there self-help mechanisms? And, most importantly: Does the support team have deep experience in rental — will they get your business? And how responsive are they? As you get closer to choosing a vendor, you can ask for references and speak to customers directly.

No matter what your final decision is, your choice shouldn’t just be about the technology. Yes, the system absolutely needs to work for your business. But when you purchase software, you’re also committing to a relationship with a vendor. And you’ll want both to last a long time. So make sure you ask yourself all the right questions before you dive into the purchase process and do your due diligence throughout. As your business grows and becomes more efficient, you’ll thank yourself for doing the legwork.

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