By Cary McGovern
An issue is "something that should be considered" within a customer's records-management program. It is not always a problem--it could be a pointer or indicator of a problem. It is a key to resolving a customer's "pain." For the person selling records management, it indicates an opportunity to make money. This article discusses how to identify issues and turn them into profits.
Selling records management is never the same as selling records storage. Records storage is a commodity anyone can offer if he has space to rent. Records management is a system that includes value-added features that benefit the customer and create revenue opportunities for you.
Records management is essentially inventory control, which means knowing what you have, where it is, how to find it when you need it, and when to get rid of it. There is always much more to the system than just putting records out of site and out of mind. Records management embodies four processes:
- Indexing includes identification, classification and description of the records.
- Packaging includes selecting the method, mode and media of filing.
- Locating includes an automated system for tracking and action prompting.
- Disposing includes retention, approval, processing, migration or destruction, and proof of that destruction.
Issues abound in these four processes. Let's look at them more closely.
The only reason we file anything is so we can find it later. Finding the record later is always made easier through appropriate indexing. Indexing is simple. The person most knowledgeable about a record should index it when creating the record unit. The most important part of the index system is standardization--always naming a record series (homogeneous grouping) the same way.
There are seven key identifiers for a box of records: record name (series), dates from and to, sequence from and to, record owner (department or work unit) and destruction date. Almost any record can be found if identified to this index. File indexing can be different for each filing system. Legal files include client name, matter description, billing attorney, date opened and date closed. Medical records include patient name, patient number, date of treatment, date of birth and social-security number. Insurance-claim files include claimant name, claimant number and date of claim. Others can be quite different from these. Simply index based on how you would best find the records.
Using the correct box is crucial to records-management systems. Customers tend to use the closest box at hand--a shoe box or an old copy-paper carton. These are single-use boxes that cause havoc in records-management programs. Boxes need to be made of double- or triple-wall construction. Generally, the standard letter/legal box is the right size. There may be exceptions, but only for odd-sized files such as engineering drawings or X-rays.
Files should be placed in these boxes in the same order they were in the office filing system. It is always wrong to file randomly. There must be some method to the madness. Where possible, files should be maintained in their original filing jackets or folders.
Barcode systems are the best choice for records management. These systems generally require two barcodes, a "what it is" barcode and a "where it is" barcode. The "what it is" barcode references the index of the box. The "where it is" barcode references the location of the record unit.
This system facilitates the two processes that ensure control. File tracking is the check-in and check-out mechanism that assigns a file to a location and updates it when it is changed. The file-action prompting mechanism periodically asks for a removed record unit to be returned to its home location. This is much like a library's method of asking for a book when it is past due. A record that is out of inventory for long periods of time is the one that is most likely to be lost or missing.
Getting rid of records promptly is the key to litigation avoidance. Of course, setting up a legitimate retention schedule that is researched and validated is the first step in the destruction process. That step requires proper identification, packaging and location mapping. Disposal can either mean destruction or migration to another media for long-term storage, such as scanning and archiving records on CD-ROM or DVD-ROM. Destruction requires authorization, appropriate methods and authentication.
The survey process I have described in past articles uncovers the issues. The process includes the questionnaire, customer interview and "walk-about." The questionnaire is always preliminary to the survey and asks the customer 15 leading questions simply answered by a check-off. The interview seeks answers to the prime questions: who, what, when, where, how and why? The walk-about visually displays the problems encountered in the questionnaire and the interview. The key question during the walk-about is, "why?"
Issues as Revenue Opportunities
In the last few paragraphs, I have disclosed the primary revenue opportunities in selling records-management programs. Remember: Selling storage is only the tip of the iceberg. Surveys disclose the pain of the customer. In most surveys, you can uncover dozens of issues, the resolution of which is always a revenue opportunity for you.
Next month, we'll talk about closing the sale.
Regular columnist Cary McGovern, CRM, is the principal of FileMan and FIRMS Services, which offer full-service records-management assistance for commercial records-storage start-ups within self-storage operations. For assistance in feasibility determination, operational implementation or marketing support, call 877.FILEMAN, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; www.fileman.com.