By Cheryl Higley
Postseason site closeouts give snow & ice contractors a last look at what the winter season had wrought and allows them to begin planning for what’s to come. Snow & ice management company owners Doug Freer, CSP, of Blue Moose Snow Co. in Cleveland, OH, and Michael Merrill of North Country Snow & Ice Management in Glens Falls, NY, offered the following tips and advice while doing a recent site review:
1. Remove equipment, pushers, materials and bins (unless structure is permanent) according to the schedule you set with the client. Remove any trash or debris.
2. Identify any problems or damage you may see (rusting bollards, broken drain seals, concrete/pavement damage, etc.). Compare to your preseason documentation to see if the damage is new or if it progressed over the winter.
3. Know your clients’ levels of expectation and tolerance for damage and communicate and document accordingly. Visual cues (chipped curbs that have been painted, the site’s maintenance levels, etc.) can help you identify the level of tolerance. Those with a higher tolerance for damage may not want to know about every knick and scrape. Alert the client immediately to any significant damage or issues that could pose a safety hazard.
4. Evaluate concrete and document steel impregnation. Once the steel is in the pores of the concrete, it will continue to spread. Similarly, identify asphalt conditions, documenting crumbling, alligatoring, peeling, potholes, etc. Alert the client and make sure as you plan for next season to use proper equipment, and plowing and deicing techniques that won’t do further damage.
5. Train employees on damage identification and create a reporting process. 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.
6. Review parking bumpers that have been in place all winter for damage, cracks, movement, exposed rebar, etc. Whenever possible plan to remove them for the winter.
7. Identify any landscape damage, particularly near curbs and push points, and determine whether better site staking could have prevented the damage. If so, plan to implement the change for next year. Curb damage near push points could indicate you need to re-evaluate whether you need to push snow up and over the curbs or if storing on a flat surface is sufficient.
8. Once the snow piles melt, trash, aggregate and other debris is left behind. Make sure it’s clear who is responsible for site cleanup, not only where piles have melted but also along curb lines, etc.
9. Track all site damage that occurs and the labor and associated costs that go with repairs. Every dollar you save in repair costs goes straight to your bottom line, so evaluate your equipment and processes to see where possible changes could help limit damage. Consider an incentive program for employees to help prevent damage.
10. If possible, have your client on site during the posteason closeout. It’s a great time to get feedback on the season and to ask questions on how you can improve or deliver better service. Alerting them to damages, or identifying hazards on-site (whether or not they were caused by your team) will add a layer of trust and may lead to additional billable hours for you. While mitigating your liability is a key concern, frame the conversation in such a way that it’s more about customer service than to cover yourself. If you’ve taken the proactive approach and have been open and honest about damages and site conditions, the timing is perfect to set the stage for the contract renewal process.
Cheryl Higley is editorial director of Snow Business magazine.