By Cary McGovern
Choosing the right courier as a resource partner for your records storage and management business is an essential element of your business success. This article discusses the important considerations concerning pick-up and delivery services for records management. Each alternative is reviewed and discussed.
Resource partnering in today's service-based economy is essential. Knowing what you don't do well and finding those that do is a key ingredient. Businesses of all types outsource non-core activities to those who do that activity best. It is very common for an office building to outsource its maintenance and ground care. It is common for a law firm to outsource its copy center. Equally common is a commercial records center that outsources its courier service. Although this is generally true, there are several ways that it may be structured, ranging in scope from outsourcing overflow work only, to outsourcing the entire range of pick-up and delivery service.
Selecting your resource partners is a decision that should be made carefully. After the initial sale of your service to a records-management customer, the person he sees most often is the courier. The relationship between you, your courier and your customer can help you cross-sell services and strengthen your customer communications.
Range of Services
The range of pick-up and delivery services includes the following:
Initial pick-up of records: This service usually requires the skills that are more akin to the moving business. It's common to pick-up hundreds and even thousands of boxes from your customer. This event is always scheduled and carefully planned to accommodate freight elevators and parking.
Regular on-call delivery: The most common and regular service that you provide is delivery of files and boxes on demand. Usual service in most markets is: call before 10:30 a.m., receive before 5:00 p.m.; call after 10:30 a.m., receive the next morning before noon.
Emergency or "STAT" delivery: This is sometimes a problematic service that requires you to have on-call couriers who can respond quickly, usually within one or two hours of the customer request.
After-hours, weekend and holiday delivery: Medical-records customers and sometimes others may require this type of service. Know your customer's requirements before you quote prices.
Regular pick-up service of new records to storage: This event is always a scheduled event. Your weekly or monthly pick-up can be scheduled for a courier on a day that usually has the least delivery requests. All customer pick-ups are scheduled in an order, along with a route sequence for the courier to follow.
Delivery of new "empty" cartons, labels and other supplies: Unless the customer has an immediate need, these are batched in bundles of perhaps 25 boxes and delivered within the regular pick-up schedule.
Remember that file delivery, box delivery, large pick-up requests and emergency or weekend deliveries may require different courier types. Knowing who to call for a specific service will strengthen the relationship with all of your couriers.
So, what types are there? Most couriers today are sub-contractors to courier-service companies. Most regular courier services in metropolitan areas are operations that have central dispatch and scheduling services. They are the focal point for the customer to place the order. Normally, the actual driver and van or truck belongs to a sub-contractor. These subs are typically independent or retired individuals who may work part time or full time. The normal cut between the dispatch company and the courier is 40 percent to the dispatcher and 60 percent to the courier. The following is a list of the different courier types:
- Quick-dispatch downtown couriers: These are people with small pick-up trucks (usually with a camper top as an enclosure) or sometimes bicycles. They like to carry envelopes, pouches or in some instances, limited boxes, although boxes often slow these folks down. They are generally quick, in-and-out couriers. Box deliveries usually require freight-elevator access in many downtown locations.
- Downtown-delivery hub couriers: Some metropolitan areas have couriers that utilize a downtown delivery and pick-up hub. It is a place to drop and transfer among several couriers that have a regular delivery route.
- Box-delivery couriers: These couriers usually have a van or a small step-up delivery vehicle. They are used to the demands of box delivery and pick-up. They know their way around the freight elevator and understand the logistics of the community.
- Large pick-up services: Usually like the local moving companies. In many communities there are independent and others operate like off-duty firefighters.
You can act as a central dispatcher for your quick pick-up and deliveries. You keep 40 percent of the revenue for yourself and give 60 percent to them. Your only overhead is order taking. In some instances, you may have a relationship with a courier that will add value to the courier. He may use your facility as his own dispatch service. Look into the possibilities of shared revenue.
Remember that the more couriers you have access to, the better. Forge relationships with the independents and use dispatchers for emergencies that you can't fulfill yourself. You may make less money on that delivery, but you will have much less hassle.
This is absolutely market driven. As you can probably imagine, the rates for Manhattan couriers are quite different from those in Peoria, Ill. You need to know what the rates are for your area before you begin pricing your service. This process is actually quite simple. Follow these steps:
- Identify all potential local couriers, independent movers and freight-delivery sources.
- Shop them and ask what their specialty is. They will tell you what they do better than anyone else.
- Find out what they won't do.
- Price each service.
- Average the pricing by courier. Remember that volume will always change the price.
- Select your resource partners, and negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. (If a local sub-contractor wants to have a regular route, he may make concessions and trade-off with you.)
- Set your pricing.
Remember that you control the business and, therefore, have the leverage to negotiate the agreement with the courier service.
Norm Brodsky is a frequent speaker at Inside Self-Storage Expos and a monthly columnist for Inc. Magazine. Brodsky owns and operates a commercial records center in Brooklyn, N.Y. His column in the September 1998 issue of Inc. was both timely and important for all who desire to be in the records-management and storage business. The column, entitled "Size Matters," discusses the advantage of running a small operation in the records-management and storage business.
If you would like a copy of this article, you can access it on the Internet and download it from Inc. On-line at www.inc.com/incmagazine/archives/09980311.html, or you may call (877) FileMan for a forwarded copy reprinted with permission by Mr. Brodsky.
Regular columnist Cary F. McGovern is a certified records manager and owner of File Managers Inc., a records-management consulting firm that also provides outsourcing services, file-room management and litigation support services for the legal industry. For more information about records management, contact Mr. McGovern at File Managers Inc., P.O. Box 1178, Abita Springs, LA 70420; phone (504) 871-0092; fax (504) 893-1751; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or Web: www.fileman.com.