by Neal Glatt
On July 14, the last bit of snow in Boston finally melted after an epic winter dumped over nine feet of snow in just six weeks. For retailers, managing the weekly snow storms in the Northeast proved to be an overwhelming challenge as parking spaces disappeared and invoices piled high. As a result, smart property managers are already planning to prepare for winter maintenance to avoid many of the issues that were faced last year.
What most retailers don’t realize is that the snow and ice management industry has matured substantially in just a few short years. It used to be that snow was the most difficult exterior maintenance service to manage because of the unpredictability of storms, the lack of communication from vendors, and the need to manage many small snow vendors to ensure all stores in a portfolio receive service. With advancements in technology, a changing insurance landscape, and higher expectations, solutions that used to work simply aren’t sufficient anymore. So what should a good snow management program consist of?
First and foremost, a good snow program starts with lots of planning. Contracts should be executed before summer ends and allow plenty of time for site visits to occur and snow response plans to be created. This means that RFPs must start even earlier to allow procurement enough lead time to have vendors selected. If a snow discussion hasn’t occurred yet, the risk for failure increases dramatically with each day that passes.
No program can be successful without a solid communication plan. The communication plan should outline how job site details are passed to field crews, how call backs or service requests are handled, and what the escalation process will be. Key people should be identified from both sides of the table for various issues that may arise.
Good snow contractors have invested in technology to allow for job accountability. Using a system as archaic as signed service slips is not only inconvenient for contractors and retailers alike, but it provides no proof that service was actually even performed. Savvy snow management companies can now provide GPS and photo verification of services from in-field smartphones. In addition to saving tremendous costs in administrative time, it is now possible to have instant reporting to know what sites were serviced when and the total costs for the snow event.
In any industry, those who are serious about performing at the highest level earn certifications to expand their knowledge base and prove their commitment. Snow and ice management is no different.
Many companies employ advanced snow managers and certified snow professionals on staff to gain an advantage in managing winter’s worst storms. The best companies have actually earned an ISO SN 9001 certification validating that their business processes are sound. Property managers who want the best service demand their snow and ice contractors have these certifications because they understand the value.
While knowing what to look for in a vendor is important, it is useless if property managers aren’t able to locate them. Fortunately, there are two industry organizations to provide guidance. The Snow and Ice Management Association (SIMA) and the Accredited Snow Contractors Association (ASCA) are trade associations that are always willing to help property managers locate snow contractors in their market for any need.
By exploring new opportunities, many property managers are surprised to learn the amount of support available to them that didn’t even exist just a few years ago. For anyone who thinks they may be able to improve their snow and ice maintenance program, now is the time to reach out and implement something new. After all, who knows what this winter will bring?
Neal Glatt, CSP, ASM, LEED Green Associate, is an account executive with Case Snow Management, Inc. in Attleboro Falls, Mass.