By Cheryl Higley
Preseason site visits are a key detail in winter preparedness and serve a dual purpose. They present a great opportunity for customer engagement. If possible, meet with the client on-site to discuss expectations, educate them on your service plan and identify any extenuating circumstances or areas of importance that need to be managed. Site walkthroughs also give the snow contractor the opportunity to document any existing damage or trouble spots. This can prevent the contractor from being on the hook for damages that weren’t caused by their company, and it also allows the company to appropriately plan site service execution.
Areas to review
Alerting the client to damages or identifying hazards (whether or not they were caused by your team) will add a layer of trust and may lead to additional billable hours for you (See sidebar, page 26). While mitigating your liability is a key concern, frame the conversation in such a way that it’s more about customer service than covering yourself.
Following are areas that should be reviewed:
1. Staging & On-site storage
Plan where you will stage equipment, salt bins, site markers, etc. If you aren’t hauling, where will you stack snow? Understanding the site will allow you to dedicate the appropriate equipment and labor to successfully deliver service.
2. Site inspection
Identify any problems or damage you see (rusting bollards, broken drain seals, concrete/pavement damage, etc.) and document with photos and written descriptions. When taking photos, make sure you take an uncropped photo to show the surroundings as well as close-up views. Compare to your postseason walkthrough documentation to see if the damage is new or has worsened. If the damage was your team’s doing, make plans for repairs in advance of winter operations. If you are not the year-round service provider on the site, note the damage as well. Craft a report detailing all damages and provide it to the client, keeping a copy. They may toss it in a file, but at least you’ve done your due diligence in the event of future claims.
3. Infrastructure Status
Evaluate concrete conditions and look for steel impregnation. Similarly, identify asphalt conditions, documenting “alligator” pavement, peeling, potholes, etc. Plan to use proper equipment, and plowing and deicing techniques that won’t do further damage if the property manager doesn’t plan to make the necessary repairs.
4. Safety hazards
Alert the client immediately to any significant damage or issues that could pose a safety hazard.
5. Proactive & informed
Train employees on how to avoid damage and also how to report it. The last thing you want is an irate client coming to you to report damage that your team knew about but didn’t (or was afraid to) report. Every dollar you save in repair costs goes straight to your bottom line, so be proactive with training.