How the Construction Industry Moved to Mobile

Episode 45

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Andrea Brugger, Director, Salesforce Effectiveness for United Rentals
Andrea joins Ian to discuss the ways she has helped implement technology and mobile apps to make the construction industry more efficient.

“In our personal lives, we do everything on mobile. You would expect it’s that way in the business space, but it’s not. Especially in construction, I think we’re just catching up in some areas.” —Andrea Brugger #ITVisionaries

Show Notes

Although Andrea Brugger isn’t technically in the IT department for United Rentals (T: @United_Rentals), she has been instrumental in helping the company bring more tech to its employees and customers. Andrea was part of the team that created mobile apps to help workers both in the office and on job sites do everything from rent equipment, locate prospective customers and keep track of all their certifications and licenses with just a few taps.

In her discussion with Ian (T: @ianfaison), Andrea explains how UR looks for ways to make platforms that can bring more efficiency to the workplace and then what it takes to translate those applications into customer-facing tools which help users in their everyday tasks. And, she talks about where technology might be moving in the future, including the ways she sees AI and machine learning having an impact in the construction industry.

Topics Discussed: Construction, mobile, A.I., machine learning, customer advocacy, innovation, telematics, mobile apps, transparency, drones.

Introducing Andrea — (1:30)

  • Andrea joined United Rentals eight years ago working on projects through Salesforce and eventually moved to leading application development on customer-facing platforms.
  • Launched the first online rental platform which allowed customers to rent equipment online — UR was the first in the industry to offer that service.

Technological innovation within the construction space — (3:00)

  • Trying to drive customer advocacy was a major goal for Andrea and UR.
  • “With our customers, it’s all about job site productivity. They’re building great infrastructure and doing great things so it’s about how they can drive efficiency on the job site. We’re always trying to say, ‘How can you rent less and do more? How can we drive technology to make them more efficient?’”
  • UR is currently looking at the drone space and other emerging techs to introduce to job sites.  

How to build a mobile experience that works for UR customers — (5:25)

  • “In our personal lives, we do everything on mobile. You would expect it’s that way in the business space, but it’s not. Especially in construction, I think we’re just catching up in some areas.”  
  • When they started rolling out mobile phones to their field of customers just five years ago, many were still using flip phones.
  • UR had to get people used to using their mobile devices as more than just phones, and then introduce and help them adopt applications that made their jobs easier, such as renting equipment on the go.
  • The strategy was to give their sales team the tools first and then allow them to teach their customers how to use it as well.
  • UR was playing around with single-use apps and is now trying to find a way to combine those into one experience.

How mobile has led to an increase in speed and accuracy for customers — (10:05)

  • A lot of what a mobile app is doing is taking the place of interactions that used to be phone calls. Providing self-service creates more bandwidth to solve bigger problems because you’re not having to use up so much time on phone calls that could be automated experiences.
  • “It’s been an evolution of ‘first, get the base level of adoption where people are using the tools’ and now it’s ‘How are we driving usage that results in revenue growth for us?’”
  • They used the Dominos pizza delivery technology as an example: If you can track your pizza’s route to your house, why can’t you track the status of your rental equipment?
  • Giving transparency and ability to the customer allows for a building of trust.

How customers drove UR toward mobile — (13:55)

  • UR tends to start by building tools and applications for its sales team. Once that is successful, they begin to think about how those tools can transfer to customers.

Where do AI and machine learning fit into the picture? — (14:55)

  • Using AI and machine learning to make sure that all the correct questions are being asked and that requests and solutions are handled on time consistently and efficiently are the ways Andrea sees AI and machine learning becoming tools in the future.

What are telematics? — (16:05)

  • Location and GPS are being used to locate equipment. On large job sites, this is a useful tool when something goes missing.
  • UR is working on utilizing telematics in new ways to aggregate data about where equipment is and how/if it’s being used. If the data shows a piece of equipment hasn’t moved in three days, that suggests maybe you don’t need it, and that data can be delivered straight to the user.

The mobile apps Andrea has worked on — (17:30)

  • One is called SOClose, which is sales opportunities close by.
  • Uses GPS data and visualizes what opportunities might be near you to prospect.
  • Also uses Salesforce and has built a custom Voice-to-Text follow-up notes application to help with keeping track of how calls go.
  • Built an app to give users a “wallet card,” which keeps track of all the training and certifications that a user has obtained and stores the data in one place. It’s called United Academy 1.0

How to work with IT and CIOs to create partnerships — (23:20)

  • It’s about trying to find the overlap between different operations and divisions to make sure that as a company, UR is doing all the right things to serve its customers.

What’s next? — (25:55)

  • Andrea is most excited about customer 360 and utilizing all the data points that touch the customer into a 360 view to help serve customers better.
    • If you want to learn more about creating a 360 costumer experience, go here.
  • Automated intelligence is going to be important in making sales processes more efficient by utilizing the mountains of data they have access to, which will lead to guided selling,
  • “I think there’s a lot of opportunity for use with AI and guided selling to start to help salespeople prioritize.”

Who is making UR’s mobile apps? — (27:30)

  • A combination of working with small partners they outsource to and doing some of the development in-house has been beneficial for UR.
  • They know their strengths and weakness and are always looking for partners to help them move forward.

Lightning Round — (28:40)

  • Hoping for a world where she can have an AI executive assistant that is consistently good and useful.


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Andrea Brugger, the Director, Salesforce Effectiveness for United Rentals, joins Ian to discuss the ways she has helped implement technology and mobile apps to make the construction industry more efficient.

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