Cold snaps test our mettle
Winter 2022-23 has been reported by meteorologists as average; for Ground Control it was anything but.
The winter was characterised by three periods of intense cold and snowfall, a stark contrast to the last two winters.
Unusually for many parts of the UK, we saw temperatures fall to 10 degrees below zero and some days never rising above freezing, which was also in some instances combined with snowfall. While these conditions were testing, our customer service, operations, supply chain, and 220-plus gritting teams demonstrated we had what was required to deliver outstanding service to keep car parks and roads safe and clear.
In all, we made more than 405,000 site visits this winter, distributing over 60,000 tonnes of salt in the process, with customers receiving service over 34 nights on average. We cleared a lot of snow, often in parts of the country not accustomed to snowfall. All of this is evidence that this is an enormous task despite the reported average conditions.
I am pleased to say even on the toughest of days – one in particular when we received more than 500 calls – we were still able to help and were always striving for more. Our success is down to the pre-season planning we always carry out and the dedication and resilience of our local field teams. They are critical in enabling us to deliver great service. With our help desk team’s support, our network is designed to provide resilience, so when the weather gets rough, there is an equipment breakdown or a driver is ill, it means we can still guarantee service.
We continued to take significant steps forward in our technology that will help us deliver even better service and reduce our carbon footprint. Our app allows us to evidence visits we have made almost instantly, which reassures site managers their needs are being met. And we gave a first run-out to the electric gritter we purchased last year. I’m delighted to say it exceeded expectations, delivering service across 30 city centre sites in Leeds. This proved a great opportunity to learn how best to deploy EVs; we will continue to assess how to optimise performance in the coming season.
Above all, customer satisfaction is our priority and these improvements show we are committed to making our service better every year. I am pleased with how we performed this winter, reinforced through my personal engagements with customers large and small. To make sure we continue to go forward, we have introduced a new customer relationship management system. This handles our interactions with customers, making our renewals seamless and handling new customer mobilisations and other changes more efficiently and effectively. I am confident our customers will see real benefits next winter, while the system will help us carry out our pre-season planning more effectively too.
Despite April ending feeling a little colder than usual, the weather is now changing and summer will soon be upon us. So while we are always asked ‘what do you do in the summer?’ the answer is that we use this time to drive a continuous cycle of improvement. Our planning for next winter has already begun equipment is being serviced, salt is being planned, all while our teams are out supporting customers with our fast, efficient, cost-effective pothole repair service.
Conditions change and there’s every chance the coming season could be the same as last or even colder. That is why we are here for our customers year-round, to be ready for wild weather when we are needed to keep sites safe and open.