How to create a working partnership with a certified snow professional and what to look for.
By Lee Reinhold
Snow management is an essential and unique task that can have major impacts on your daily operations throughout the winter months, and choosing the right snow contractor is critical to your winter operations. As you are aware, winter weather poses many challenges for the retail and restaurant businesses, from maintaining clear lots for your customers and employees, ensuring smooth site operations, as well as reducing any risk of slip-and-falls. These challenges can be overcome by establishing a true working partnership with your snow contractor to ensure you have the proper snow program in place.
What to Look for When Selecting a Snow Management Professional
To ensure that your sites are serviced with the quality that your business needs and deserves throughout the winter, it is helpful to look for several characteristics in your search for the right Certified Snow Professional (CSP). Not only is the CSP interested in keeping your location clear and safe during storm events, but they should also place emphasis on the following components of their business:
- Service network area
- Proactive site analysis and approach
- Concise and transparent channels of communication
- Integrated Service Management Systems
- Meteorology basics and forecasting technology
- Emphasis on continued education
- Ability to understand and manage external factors
Tailoring a specific solution for your snow program prior to the season and following through with concise communication throughout the execution of the snow season will help to foster a working relationship and ensure that your sites are serviced and safe throughout the winter months.
Areas of Service Network – Self Perform vs. Service Providers
Often one of the first questions posed to a potential multi-site snow contractor will be: “Do you self-perform?” While smaller portfolios may be best suited to self-performance, a CSP with a network of providers that maintains a localized presence can often offer the most efficient serviceability. Snow management is unique in that it cannot be scheduled in with drive time routes such as a recurring service. Slippery conditions can create emergency situations, which is why your CSP should have a local presence within a 10-mile radius of the service site to ensure that the response time be within 30 minutes.
Maintaining a Balanced Partnership Network
Companies who subcontract work in the snow industry are often viewed as “brokers,” who can keep the contract price low due to sheer volume. These low prices can come with added risk though as simple supply and demand on the subcontractor side can lead to service failures. For example, the cost of shutting a store or restaurant due to disruption of services can cost upwards of $10,000 a day.
The manner in which your CSP manages their relationships with their service provider network is a strong indicator of the quality of product. True partnerships between CSPs and their service providers will optimize serviceability at your sites to ensure quality. When selecting a CSP it is paramount that field management works in tandem with the network of service providers to ensure the quality of service is rendered. With your new CSP understand how the work in your area is going to be completed and what is factoring into the cost of your contract.
Continued education of best practices and new technology in the industry allow a CSP to pass along value to its customer. Industry associations such as SIMA (Snow & Ice Management Association) and ASCA (Accredited Snow Contractors Association) are strong forums for being up to date with the most efficient practices. It’s imperative for a CSP to Maintain certification as it is recognized as a standard for professionalism and excellence in the snow and ice management services.
Proactive Site Analysis & Approach
A quality CSP has the full understanding of each client’s needs and crafts the safest and most cost-efficient site service plan possible. This requires in-depth analysis of the scope of work and communicating with local store personnel at each site visits to understand historical issues. Slip-and-falls can often be prevented by recognizing potential store issues such as drainage in the lot or roof overhangs near entrances. A proactive CSP will make sure that the correct service crew is educated about all site nuances:
- Drainage and stacking areas
- Hazards such as utilities and Hydrants
- Operational areas (i.e. Dumpster corrals, entrances/exits)
- Drive lanes, plow lanes, fire lanes
- External factors (i.e. abutting lots, high-traffic entrances, municipal walkways, local wind patterns)
Forecasting & Meteorology
To be able to be your “eyes and ears” in the field, your CSP needs to be aware of the weather patterns 24/7. Utilizing a certified climatologist allows constant updates to ensure serviceability and safety at all sites. Even on days with no precipitation, hazards can occur such as fluctuating temperatures and having a proactive CSP greatly reduces liability for your locations. When a major storm system is impending having the forecast allows for the proper resources to be allocated to ensure that your business does not have any disruption of services and or damages. Being informed is always the best way to protect yourself from winter weather.
Integrated Service Management Systems
An Integrated Service Management System is crucial in the modern business landscape. Not only should the CSP adhere to the client’s work order system but it is beneficial for them to maintain their own. These systems provide quick and accurate data for generating reports and analysis. When operating hundreds of locations, having the ability to pull site data on any specific location quickly is essential for decisions. An Integrated Service Management System should cover the following areas:
- Work order management
- Time savings through accurate streamlined invoicing
- Work verification through site photos
- Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
- GPS tracking allowing for minute-to-minute updates for clients
Clear & Concise Channels of Communication
Communication is key in any business; however, in the snow industry keeping communication flowing smoothly from field to client is crucial. It is customary to designate a single point of contact standardizing the communication process. Integrating industry standard practices with a strong field network coupled with a Service Management System will eventually falter without strong lines of communication.
Forging Partnerships (Conclusion)
Due to the nature of the snow service industry, your CSP should enter into a true partnership with you. From the initial meeting through the stages of an RFP and throughout the season you should look for a CSP who clearly understands your needs and expectations, provides clear and transparent information, and looks out for the best interests of your business.
— Lee Reinhold, CEO and president of North East Winds, brings with her over 20 years of experience in the snow and ice management business. North East Winds is a leader in snow and ice management throughout the New England and Mid-Atlantic regions. The North East Winds team can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.