By Cheryl Higley
So winter is finally over. But there is still work to be done. It’s May and customers may be ready to put the winter behind them; but it’s a perfect time for snow and ice management professionals to lay the groundwork for next season:
How’d we do? Check in with your customers (in person if possible) and talk about the season. Thank them for their business and ask whether you met their expectations. If not, ask them how you can improve for next season. “If you did a great job for customers, what a great time—while those successes are fresh in their minds—to lock them up for next year,” says Rick Kier, CSP, owner of Pro Scapes. “Don’t wait until fall when everyone is soliciting them, especially if you’re their hero. They might forget it all by then.”
Map your business. Take a look at where you stand with all of your business. Identify which contracts are expiring and work on renewals now. Until you have a solid view of returning business, you cannot properly address capacity and know where and how much you can grow. Getting an early jump translates to better planning for equipment, routing, staffing and training. “Clients can drag you out and you may not know you have their business until the last minute. They may think you’re trained and ready to go at the drop of a hat,” says Michael Merrill, CEO of North Country Snow & Ice Management. Kier says it’s important to explain the benefit to the customer of renewing early: “Explain that it allows you to plan and be prepared to deliver outstanding service.”
Size up your portfolio. Striking the right balance of contract types to protect your company is essential. As you evaluate your current portfolio, make sure your risk isn’t out of sync. “We have a balance so our fixed costs are covered by seasonal contracts and variables are covered by per-event income,” Kier says. “If you live in a market where you have some control over contract types, that’s a great thing. It’s a great time look at that balance and make sure it’s in line.”
Proceed cautiously. Neal Glatt, CSP, an account executive with Case Snow Management, expects a lot of new work to come into the market because a lot of people were unhappy with their service after a brutal winter. He cautions contractors to look closely at the potential client to make sure it’s a good fit for both sides and that the customer isn’t making a decision based on emotion. “It is important to know why the customer is unhappy and that if you plan on taking the business you will be able to perform to his expectations,” he says. “Contractors come and go for several reasons but if a potential client has had a new one every year that is a red flag. They are either always chasing the lowest bid or they have set expectations so high that not even the best contractors can achieve it. I am not sure I want to dive deep into those unrealistic expectations.”
These are a few tips to consider – what else is on your to-do list for May when it comes to customer interactions?
Cheryl Higley is editorial director of Snow Business magazine.