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AI can do your homework and help you rent more

By Josh Nickell, ECP-SM

October 4, 2023

I tried to use an artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot, ChatGPT, to write this article for me, but unfortunately, it couldn’t. That means I will not be replaced yet…whew! Despite that, I already use AI in many ways in my business today.

Before we dive into that, let’s take a step back and better define AI. I’m not talking about artificial general intelligence (AGI), also known as the Terminator. Right now, useful AI tools do only very specific tasks. The one making headlines right now, ChatGPT, can chat and respond to questions with striking accuracy. Another notable release last year was Dall-E 2, which generates images from text descriptions. You likely use many other tools with some form of AI built in, like Waze, Duolingo and Grammarly (which I used when writing this article).

For now, I would focus on ChatGPT for the average equipment rental company to learn about AI opportunities and improve my ability to use the technology. Like other tools, what you put into the AI or request significantly affects the outcomes. Think of it like your iPhone camera. With a bit of magic, it can make major improvements to an image, but a random picture of the inside of your pocket will be pretty poor, no matter how much magic it applies. It takes time and practice to learn the best use of the tools. Just like learning to use an encyclopedia, library card catalog and Google, the results improve with your ability to utilize the tool entirely.

Here are some ways I would use ChatGPT today and some things I’d be testing and trying in the future.

Blog posts. This is the best use case I’ve found for ChatGPT. We all know quality blog posts with the top keywords are critical to your site’s ranking in Google and can also be repurposed in marketing to encourage future rentals and projects. With a good question and some minor editing, you can crank out quality blogs in 1/10 the time of writing them from scratch. For example — “Write a blog post for SEO about planting a garden using a rental tiller.”

Brainstorming. Are you in need of some new promo items for contractors? What about some slogans for a marketing campaign? ChatGPT has yet to write a home run for me, but it usually gets a hit that helps me think of great ideas for the final product.

Social media. Just like with blog posts, you can quickly generate multiple social media post ideas that, with some quick editing, can make short work of your company’s Facebook page.

Equipment repair and troubleshooting. This feature isn’t ready for prime time, but if you try it out, you’ll be able to see the potential immediately. Multiple companies are working on integrating AI tools to help your staff and customers troubleshoot equipment failure. This could help prevent a weekend warrior from getting frustrated while you are closed or assist a new staff member in checking the most common solutions before escalating the repair order.

Artificial intelligence isn’t going to take over your business today, but in the immortal words of Arnold, you can already hear it on the horizon saying, “I’ll be back.” Now is the perfect time to get ahead of the curve and start working with these tools. They can already save you time and provide value while preparing you to utilize the more robust functionality that will be coming.

Josh Nickell, ECP-SM, is the ARA vice president, equipment segment. He can be reached at