Using weather forecasting tools can help snow & ice companies manage operations in several ways, including pre-storm preparation and mobilization, service or snowfall total verification, billing support, customer education and more. Following are recommendations from WeatherWorks Inc.’s Frank Lombardo on how to choose a weather service:
Define your needs
Before starting your search, clearly define your company’s needs. Review how your company currently uses weather tools and how it plans to use them in the future. Make a wish list of all your weather tool or service requirements, even if you think it may push up against some budget constraints. In some cases your list may be as simple as searching for the latest mobile application of weather radar or the latest weather gadget or widget for your desktop. More elaborate lists may contain personal telephone consultation, long-range outlooks, pre-storm notifications, post-storm summaries, certified snowfall totals, etc. Knowing what you need will help you identify the companies who can best provide service.
Automated or customized?
Determine a rough budget and ascertain whether your list requires an automated or a customized service, or a blend of the two. The difference in both cost and the level of service delivered can be significant. Automated services are those most available to the general public and have lowest costs associated with them. However, they’re not as reliable in terms of accuracy for the snow & ice contractor, who needs precise, market-specific data. Customized service brings in the personalized element, with someone analyzing weather data specific to your company’s needs and property sites.
Look for a local or regional company first to see if it can satisfy your requirements. To start, I usually recommend including any company within about a 250- to 500-mile radius from where most of your work is conducted. The most important thing is to narrow your search to a company that is familiar with snow & ice in your area and can demonstrate its ability to offer you most or all of what you need.
Ask the right questions
If you’re choosing a vendor to provide a customized service, once you have narrowed your search, ask the following questions before making a decision:
- How long has the company been in business and, more importantly, in the snow & ice industry?
- Can you visit their facility?
- How reliable is the product, and what type of redundancy does the company have in place to make sure your services are not interrupted?
- How is the product different from the automated online products that are virtually free or prepared by the National Weather Service?
- Who is delivering your services? Is a meteorologist on staff?
- Is the service available 24/7, and will you be dealing with a degreed meteorologist all the time?
- What is their level of experience in your local market?
- Can they offer you all or most of the services you require?
Make a wise choice and check references
With the growing presence of weather service providers, there has been an increase in companies that offer services to the snow & ice industry. Check references and thoroughly review the deal before signing. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Source: Frank Lombardo, WeatherWorks, Inc.
Five Things to Look for in Weather Service Coverage
1. 24/7 protection. Extreme winter weather can happen at any time, so you need on-demand access to sound meteorological advice. Look for a weather services provider that has meteorologists on staff around the clock.
2. Localized forecasts. These go beyond the local news with forecasts for specific locations. Severe weather can have varying localized effects, and staying informed is the difference between driving business and driving into disaster.
3. Customization. Customized forecasts designed to meet the needs of your specific business can help you achieve a proactive advantage. Whether your concerns include freezing temperatures, light hail, moderate snow, or a full-blown blizzard, you need experts ready to help you head off whatever is coming.
4. Snow & ice industry knowledge. A weather company that understands your business is essential to meeting your specific needs. Work with meteorologists familiar with your challenges who can help you determine the conditions that will impact your operations.
5. Experience. Experience makes the difference when making a difficult forecasting call. When you need to make a decision that can affect your people, property and profits, don’t take a risk on the lowest-cost solution.
- Source: Casey McGeever, Chief Commercial Officer, AccuWeather