By Cheryl Higley
While more companies are taking the initiative to add liquids to their ice management toolbox, some remain on the sidelines for various reasons. Of the nearly 60% of State of the Industry respondents who did not use liquids last season, 27% who said they considered it but ultimately chose not to cited client pushback. Respondents said their clients were either unwilling to permit their use or were unwilling to pay for the service.
Many companies that are using liquids successfully say the responsibility for shifting those perceptions is on the snow contractor.
“Clients who fully understand the benefits of liquids are happy to include it in their snow/ice management programs. They are hiring a professional to manage the safety and risk of their sites. How you get to the expected outcome should be up to you as the contractor,” says Jim Turcan, CSP, president of Cornerstone Partners Horticultural Services in St. Charles, IL.
Taking a proactive approach to education is essential.
“I’ve seen some reluctance from our customers but it’s because they weren’t educated on how good of a product this actually is,” says Mark Aquilino of NH-based Outdoor Pride Landscaping & Snow Management. “If you’re a company that promotes innovation and is astute to the environment and has an understanding of where the industry is going, there shouldn’t be any hesitation from your customers that you aren’t able to properly put at ease.”
That education should center not only on the benefits liquids can provide in performance and cost savings but also open conversations for why RFPs should be questioned if products are required that may not be in their best interest.
“We do a needs assessment when we’re asked to respond to an RFP. We want to know why they’re asking for one - is it to price shop, are they unhappy with their contractor, etc.?,” Turcan asks. “That opens the door for us to present the benefits of liquids.”
He noted a client required the use of calcium chloride pellets in the contract but it was creating a nightmare in the building with slippery marble floors, ruined carpet, additional cleanup, etc.
“We informed them of a liquid deicer that could be used but pointed out where this would not comply with the specs. They made the switch and there was no going back,” he says. “We’ve used that scenario in multiple presentations to new clients.”
Liquids as a differentiator
Rick Kier, CSP, owner of Pro Scapes in Jamesville, NY, says contractors may be missing an opportunity to present themselves as a differentiator by caving to misinformed clients.
“If you can present it in a way that shows its positive attributes and that it’s something no one in the market has, it’s one more tool to take money out of the equation,” he says. “We are always looking for ways to compete on things other than money. If you can show the customers how you are going to cut their salt consumption by using brine it can be a valuable differentiator.”
Mark Arthofer, CSP, owner of Skyline Construction in Dubuque, IA, says once the education is received, customers are more willing to loosen the reins and realize the extra cost may be worth it in the long run.
“We had resistance for added cost but the benefits have far outweighed them; and now customers have come to expect the added protection they get from us pretreating and using treated salt,” he says.
Turcan says as the hired professional, contractors have the responsibility to decide the best products and methods that result in safe properties. He will itemize service costs for clients who want to pay that way (which shows the lower costs of liquid treatments), but his lump-sum contracts include the cost of liquids applied at Cornerstone’s discretion.
“They tell us to do what we need to do. The bottom line is they don’t want to come into snow and ice and they’re trusting us to get it done.”
2018 State of the Industry survey results
Cheryl Higley is Director of Education and Content for SIMA. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 262-236-9972. Kathie Zipp contributed to this report.
- 19% = Respondents who said customers were unwilling to pay for liquid applications.
8% = Respondents who said customers would not permit use of liquid applications.