By Katie Raymond
Most snow companies equate preseason inspections with the protection they offer from being wrongfully accused of damage. The reality, though, is that they can offer protection from something much greater than the cost of a one-time repair for damage you did not do. Mobile apps can help manage this process; however, if technology isn’t in your budget, free tools are available.
A Google Sheet can be parsed out by column into the categories that need to be inspected for each property. Multiple people can use the shared spreadsheet at once, and the project manager can assess the completion status at any time. Google Forms can be used to launch multiple-choice surveys about the property. How well staff members use these forms is an excellent indicator of how well they would use software if management were to invest in it.
A huge training benefit is to have the project manager roll out the sheet publicly to the entire team with a detailed overview that covers expectations. This way, everyone is using the same columns to populate results, creating uniformity in the portfolio. One of the greatest advantages of Google Sheets is that it allows photo uploads.
What to photograph
Taking pictures before winter arrives and documenting the photos properly is key to avoiding litigation caused by faulty maintenance habits. It is important to train your staff to know exactly what to photograph to create consistency. Inspectors must give enough context to the photo so that someone unfamiliar with the jobsite could identify the location on site. The other important part of inspections is to create a preexisting damage map to share with the client.
Team members who have completed their Google Sheets/Forms should immediately create damage maps like the one shown above while the inspections are fresh in their minds. One such tool for this is SnagIt software, which captures an overhead image from Google Earth and allows users to drop photos and markings onto it. There are many ways to create numerical data and timestamps for photos. Apps can manage this, or this can be done manually. There is no right or wrong way to organize photos; what is important is that they are organized in the same way for every site.
Share your findings
Another significant step in this process is to ensure customer receipt of your inspectors’ fieldwork. Whether customers prefer certified mail, email (with a read receipt) or fax, ensure that you have written confirmation of their receipt of the preexisting damage photographs and map.
These tools are valuable forms of communication that will reduce liability and can enhance any relationship. Clients have become accustomed to receiving a preseason inspection from their snow contractor, and a differentiator could be that your inspection encompasses risk. Providing a higher-level property hazard appraisal to your client goes beyond staking and taking photos without an intellectual strategy behind them.
Katie Raymond is Manager: Procurement, Compliance & Affiliate Contracts for Case Snow Management and a member of the Snow Business Editorial Advisory Committee. Contact her at Kraymond@casesnow.com.