Service for All Seasons: Understanding Your Snow and Ice Client
November 18, 2014
For businesses in seasonal markets, winter is an annual threat. It’s the fear of having to shut down after every storm, losing revenue for days at a time. It’s the looming risk of winter-related injuries occurring onsite, resulting in costly lawsuits and bad P.R.
And almost inevitably, winter means a dip in sales for many of our snow and ice clients. Retail, real estate, restaurants—anything that relies on people going outside to purchase is bound to take a hit. In short, it’s not just inconvenient; it’s an uphill struggle for business owners, paved with slippery snow and ice.
If you’re in a winter market, you’re probably gearing up for another season of shoveling and plowing as we speak. But before your crew ventures out to clear its first parking lot, your entire team should understand what your client is feeling about the service you provide. We’ve talked a lot about being in the service industry, not the landscaping industry. And if you want to offer radically personal winter service, you need to see it in the same way. You’re not really in the business of clearing snow and ice; what you’re actually removing is fear.
Winter is one of the toughest times for any business owner. People in seasonal markets may simply take this for granted; but the obstacles are real. When your team goes out to push snow, you need to instill confidence in your customers that you’re pushing those obstacles out of their way, as well. This may seem very abstract and daunting, but it goes back to simple communication.
Here are some ways you can win your clients’ trust by communicating that you can keep their business moving forward even as the temperatures fall. Be clear and consistent about this, and you’ll probably earn some contracts for life.
- Visit the site when you start your contract and decide on a plan. Make sure to open a two-way conversation with your client, discussing exactly what that plan involves and ensuring it meets their needs. Let them know about U.S. Lawns’ prevention services, like ice applications, weather tracking and 24/7 emergency service. The biggest confidence booster is preparedness. And U.S. Lawns has plenty of that.
- The biggest way to reduce fear is to eliminate the surprise factor. Our Constant Contact system allows you to send weather alerts to your client before inclement weather strikes. This provides security and lets them know you’re watching out for their business. Some owners alert their clients as much as 5-7 days before a pending storm. We recommend this level of interaction with all of your snow accounts. You can’t predict the weather, but you can let snow and ice clients know that you’re monitoring conditions, and ready to serve at a moment’s notice.
- Keeping clear records shows that you’re professional, organized, and capable. It also creates opportunities for two-way conversation with the client. Document and share all details with your customer, including accurate tracking reports (Snow and Ice Management Report), photos of the site before and after service, and customized job sequencing forms that detail the special hazards of each site.
- Local Ownership. The U.S. Lawns advantage allows us to offer state-of-the-art weather tools, while also providing local service. That means your clients can talk to you personally, and reach you in an emergency. It also means they don’t have to wait on your crews to arrive from another area. No other grounds care company can provide this kind of security, as both a national company and a local one. Make sure your clients understand.
- Equipment and Services. Your average landscape customer may not care what type of mower you use. But it always helps to reassure clients that your winter technology is up to date. From various deicers to commercial grade equipment to a dispatch service to high-tech software, U.S. Lawns leverages the Power of the Network to bring your clients the very best. Review all of these assets with them, and let them know you plan to use them.
- National Resources. A lot of blogs on the internet are devoted to “choosing a reliable snow contractor.” The truth is, the industry is plagued with shoddy vendors, and your client may have had one in the past. Simply by letting them learn about U.S. Lawns—visiting our website, looking at our marketing materials, seeing your crew in their uniforms—you’ll be earning a lot of trust.
- Common Ground. Radical personalization stems from the connections you make with your customers. You, too, are a business owner in a snow market, and you empathize the way someone from a southern market would not. (After all, you’re forced to change your own source of revenue with the seasons, which can be a bit scary in itself.) That’s why we believe so strongly in a locally owned franchise model. If you live in a community where snow is a way of life, you can relate better to your customers, and the risks it poses to their business. That uniquely positions you to listen, respond, and help them feel secure all season long.