Lost Campers' Nick Thomson says he uses TSD's Rental.net, a Web-based rental management program, to manage the company's San Francisco and Los Angeles locations.
Nick Thomson isn't your traditional car rental operator. For one thing, he doesn't rent cars. He rents camper vans - a hybrid of a minivan and a traditional recreational vehicle - equipped with enough camping supplies for up to five people.
So it's no surprise that Thomson, along with his wife Emma, manage their San Francisco-based company, Lost Campers, in an unconventional way. The couple relies on a Web-based rental management solution and a "mobile office" to handle many of the traditional rental counter functions, such as booking reservations, processing payments and printing contracts, outside of the physical office.
Thomson says they chose to use Web-based software because it appealed to their on-the-go lifestyle. "Both my wife and I are very mobile people and if we had to generate rental contracts we could generate them on the road from our printer," he says.
Thomson's way of doing business is not unique to him, but a growing trend among franchise and independent car rental operations. The advent of Web-based software and more affordable hardware (laptops, printers, smart phones, etc.) has been helping the "mobile office" concept gain ground in recent years. This new way of doing business offers rental operators better connectivity, flexibility and mobility.
Adopting Web-Based Software
For proof of the growing popularity of the mobile office, just take a look at three of the major rental software providers - TSD Rental, Bluebird Auto Rental Systems and Rent Centric. All three companies offer Web-based rental management solutions, which allow operators to handle everything from fleet management and reservations, to sales and revenue reports.
The purpose of Web-based solutions is not to make rental counters obsolete, but to meet the increasingly mobile needs of rental operators and customers.
"The goal isn't to eliminate your need for a traditional rental counter," says Nick DiPrima, sales manager for TSD. "I think there are operators who will always be most comfortable with that setting...what we're really doing is making the software more flexible to support whatever applications our customers have."
Angela Margolit, president of Bluebird, agrees. "[Operators] can be on top of what's going on without having to physically be in their office, whether that's being out on the lot, picking up cars or customers, or dropping off cars and customers," she says.
Rental operator Sarah Romanowski is one of the early adopters of Web-based software. She started in 2001 with Bluebird's NetRent, the company's first incarnation of a Web-based program, and now uses the software provider's RentWorks Mobile solution to co-manage six rental locations in New Jersey and Pennsylvania with her husband Steven.
Romanowski says the software allows her to travel with her husband without having to feel pressure about being in the office. "We go away most weekends," she says. "I can really be in the office when I take my laptop with me...because I know I can login and do [work]."