Cover story: Mobile Ready
Cover story: Mobile Ready

Benefits and consequences of using mobile technology


It seems like the mobile bug has exploded everywhere, including within the equipment rental industry. Every company wants you to click this icon, download an app or watch a video. Phones, once used solely for verbal conversation, are computers in their own right, letting you manipulate documents, search the Internet or accept payment for services. Texting and email trump phone calls, most of the time, and if you want to “get away” you’d better be in the middle of nowhere, because almost every part of the world has mobile phone service and Wi-Fi.

How has the mobile technology we use every day affected the rental industry? How are people using it and has it helped business? The answers are different for everyone, but for several, the changes have been positive.

Terry Turner, CERP, president, All Occasions Party Rental, Knoxville, Tenn., says going mobile has helped the industry. “We have instant contact with drivers, 24-hour accessibility for customers and faster responses to email and text messages,” he says.

Will Holditch, CERP, chief financial officer, Marquee Event Group, Austin, Texas, says mobile technology has allowed the company to reach a new level of communication. “From a salesperson’s standpoint, there’s more contact management. I can have photos of events I’ve done on my iPad and now I don’t have to print a book that will cost $500 at the copy place. I can’t tell you how great it is to have delivery drivers on email. That’s the best way to keep up with everyone. I can update everyone at once,” he says.

Smartphones on the job are generally used for communication, but Steve Kohn, president, Miller’s Rentals, Edison, N.J., says he also uses them for Google Analytics, remote connection to his PC, checking manufacturer sites for manuals and instructions, and providing “call before you dig” latitude and longitude coordinates for tent installations.

“Mobile technology adds to our efficiency and keeps us on the cutting edge,” he says. “It’s very important to stay current with today’s technology in the business world.”

Holditch adds that customers drive the need to keep up. “I believe your technology is just as important as the equipment you have. That’s going to either propel you forward or hold you back,” Holditch says.

“If you’re not using technology to your advantage, your competitors are or will. If you have a competitor beating you up on price, beat them up on service and technology. It’s like looking at washing machines, tent washers and dishwashers. We finally bought a tent washer. Now, I keep asking myself, ‘Why didn’t I do it three years ago?’ It’s saving us so much money. You can invest a lot in technology between phones, servers, firewalls and whatnot, but you have to look at how much money it’s going to save and how much it’s going to bring back to your business. A table is a table, so how is mobile technology going to make the rental industry more profitable and more efficient? That’s going to be the divider,” he says.

“Mobile technology is still in its infancy in terms of its impact on rental software technology,” says Rob Ross, president, Alert Management Systems, Colorado Springs, Colo. “That being said, it’s hard to believe the original iPad was released a little more than two years ago — April 3, 2010 — considering its profound impact on consumer behavior and the high expectations for the future of commercial applications generally. Looking forward, we expect mobile technology to enhance and replace PCs as some of today’s software and bandwidth limitations are overcome. Here at Alert, we have already developed first-generation apps as well as helped our customers experiment with their own ‘custom’ implementations. It will be an ever more important part of the industry’s software investment moving forward.”

Ross says the rental industry has been helped by mobile technology. “Many of its customers, such as construction contractors or event professionals, are among the most savvy mobile technology users. The most important concept, in terms of both the cost and revenue potential, is the expansion of ‘self-service’ opportunities, so your customer can get the equipment and services they need in the most convenient manner. At the same time, self-service frees up your most knowledgeable staff members to provide the ‘high touch’ customer consulting experience that can help you overcome price objections and improve customer loyalty,” he says.

Paul Chapdelaine, president, RMI Corp., Avon, Conn., says mobile technology has improved his company’s business. “Being able to see
up-to-the minute information and being able to update that information from any place at any time has to help us be better at what we do. Being completely paperless with full access to signed documents that are created and stored electronically makes us that much more efficient, which is certainly a good thing. Mobile technology removes the tether that kept us tied to our desks. With it, we are free to work with our customers on a more intimate level. That’s all good as far as I can tell,” he says.

Clark Haley, CEO, BCS Prosoft, San Antonio, says mobile technology has helped create the expectation of instant access. “Consumers today expect to be able to access information anytime and anywhere, using smartphones. Our customers are no different in that they expect to be able to access customer and equipment data whenever they need it. Whether they are at home after midnight or at a customer’s construction site in the middle of the day, they expect to be able to get instant access to the information they need,” he says.


Take that credit card payment right on your smartphone

Several services are now available that offer the ability to swipe a credit card from your smartphone or tablet, but the two most well-known services today include Square, a free service, and Intuit. Both offer a free card reader with their service. Also, both readers work with iPhone, Android or iPad, and you can have the readers deposit funds into the account of your choice. Both readers work with Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover credit cards.

With Square (, you go to the website and sign up with your name, address and email to get a free card reader. The site also will ask for the last four numbers of your social security ID number, as well as your birthdate, to confirm your identity and include verification questions. Square is a free service and has a standard charge of 2.75 percent on each transaction.

Intuit ( has both free and paid options. The free option charges 2.70 percent on each transaction, whereas the paid option, which costs $12.95 per month, charges 1.70 percent per transaction. Signup begins with your email and includes your address, phone number and financial details, as well as a verification process.  — Whitney Carnahan