Navigating the industry’s various verification systems is a necessary cost of doing business if your snow and ice management company chooses to work in spaces where property managers and owners require them. Investing in such technology is one step. Snow Business talked with Xtreme Snow Pros Chief Visionary Chris Marino, ASM, to get his insight on how his company manages the technology implementation.
Understanding the challenges
Xtreme’s clients require the use of many systems, from third-party applications to signed paperwork after an event, Marino says. Regardless of the verification level required, each presents challenges and potential opportunities.
1. Your team and any subcontractors must be trained on systems and processes. Not capturing and submitting the required data can delay (or even negate) payment. “The biggest challenge is getting our team to understand all the different styles and types of procedures required. This is on top of our processes, which have to be completed regardless of which verification method is being used,” he says. “On top of managing the storm, we have to make sure they are following the procedures mandated by the clients.”
2. Depending on the systems you have to accommodate, it can lead to inefficiencies. Whether it is adding paperwork or trying to make your company’s software “talk” with the client’s to eliminate data redundancies, it could cause headaches for your team. Some snow companies hire code writers to make internal systems work with the various systems. Marino says some of his team members have developed ideas to streamline the process but the clients Xtreme works with do not have open API systems that allow the systems to seamlessly integrate. “At the moment, we have to work with our own methods. It is a duplication of processes, which sometimes leads to confusion,” he says.
Additional paperwork is bothersome since Xtreme tries to run as a completely paperless company, according to Marino. “Some of the requirements force us into using paperwork. This bogs our systems down, but we have created ways to work past it,” he says. “Right now it is a fact of life but we are schooling our clients on paperless ways of providing them verification of work.”
3. Before implementing their technology, you need strong data collection processes. Having strong internal systems is essential in the event that their systems fail. Internal data capture will allow you to still provide the necessary service verification details. “We have very strong internal processes that help our administrators be able to quickly provide the information our clients need,” he says. “Whenever possible, we use online forms that give our teams the ability to upload data or get client sign-offs into our systems so there is no delay in the process.”
4. Proactively engage with your clients to identify better ways to work together. “Contractors need to have a relationship with their clients and make sure their service documentation expectations during a snow event are realistic and can be met,” he says, noting he has had clients demand signatures after each service provided during a storm. “This is not realistic or reasonable to expect our team to wait during a time-critical snow event to have paperwork signed.” In this case, Xtreme was able to leverage its snow software to email the store manager after each service, providing pictures, time in/out, etc. “This took the questions out of the manager’s mind and put them at ease,” he says.
It’s important to strongly consider your business model, target market and current state related to technology and processes before signing contracts with client-mandated technologies. Snow and ice management, and the creation of a quality service verification system, is a marathon, not a sprint. Fully assess each tool and client requirement fully, and involve your administrative and operations teams for feedback. Anything is “doable” when you are in sales mode, but when winter hits, it can be a different story.
Pros/cons of service verification platforms
Nearly every multi-site customer is requiring its snow and ice service providers to use a service verification platform. Consider the pros and cons for customers and contractors when deciding if you’re going to take on a contract.
Service verification benchmarks
Hindsite Software recently completed its 2018 Snow Industry Benchmarking Survey that included data on technology use. Read the survey at www.hindsitesoftware.com.
Chris Marino, ASM, is chief visionary for Xtreme Snow Pros in Mahwah, NJ. Contact him at email@example.com.