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The New Frontier

Stuart Rental Company, Sunnyvale, California Susan Kidwell is already realizing the benefits of exploring a new frontier. By setting up a site for Stuart Rental Company on the Internet's World Wide Web, she is connecting with providers, suppliers and planners to collaborate in the event-planning process.

"The Web will allow for more connectivity among different providers, suppliers and planners, which will allow for more input in the planning process," says Kidwell, client services manager. "It may take some time to attract customers on the Web, but the more immediate benefit is the access to information, which will allow more people to add their ideas to an event. For example, you can pull in a designer to provide some conceptual thought via photographs that you can send to [an event planner]. In that way, you can improve the quality of the event much more quickly, and the planner, from a business standpoint, can contribute to more events, and that contributes to his or her bottom line."

The Internet also can increase a business' efficiency, Kidwell says. It won't eliminate traveling, because the rental business is very people-oriented, but it can save time, she says. "I had a client who was exploring a tenting concept and normally I would have to meet with him because it was a very unusual installation," she says. "Instead, he sent me pictures of the site via e-mail, which then allowed me to access the information that same day and make my recommendations." Working with e-mail saved Kidwell the time of having to visit the site to prequalify the client and provide initial input. "Ultimately, the Internet will increase the efficiency and the bottom line as to where a business has to allocate its resources," Kidwell says.

However, she does not see the Internet as the final word on a client's order, but as a beginning. "Eventually a client can fill out the order form online, which will allow them to answer questions at their own pace, rather than over the phone with a representative," she says. The order form will create a summation, which will then be followed up by a call from the company.

But Kidwell won't forget the importance of the human touch, which, she says, adds "that extra level of service you don't have with a computer."

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