Levels of Service

Cary McGovern Comments
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Records-management in self-storage operations has always included minimal service options. Today, with new methods and technology, you can offer higher levels of service if you choose. This article discusses the value of adding services to your records-management portfolio.

If you are in the records-management business, you must provide a minimum of three levels of service: storage, retrieval and delivery, and indexing. These services separate you from simple records storage. There are additional levels that can be added to your service portfolio. Each can contain many variations and be delivered in several ways. The following paragraphs define and explain each service level, along with their components and your options for implementation.

Storage

The most obvious of the service levels is, of course, storage. This is your base service and where the annuity value of the business is found. Since records tend to stay in storage for long periods of time and retrieval fees deter movement, the base of storage grows each month from existing and new client accounts. There are several storage service options:

Box storage is the most common records-storage type. It is the simplest to provide and easiest to control. Box storage is usually charged by the cubic foot, and boxes vary in size. Odd boxes are charged at a higher rate than standard ones.

File storage is typical for medical records. These are maintained on open shelving and in the same order the medical client has maintained them. File storage provides less dense storage and is, therefore, charged at higher rates than box storage.

Film-media storage is very common. It includes microfilm, microfiche, X-ray files and videotapes. It is advised that this storage be maintained in air-conditioned space, since temperature and humidity have dramatic effects on the quality and rate of degradation of the film. It is also common for clients to not want to pay for air-conditioned space; consequently, many records centers store X-rays in open warehouse space at the request of the client.

Data-media storage is by far the most volatile records-storage medium. Data media is usually considered a vital record and acts as a back-up and history of computer systems. Casual storage of data media is not recommended by anyone. Storage of this media requires stringent controls and high costs.

Retrieval and Delivery

Retrieval and delivery services are relatively mundane and generally simple when controlled with a barcode records-management tracking system. This level of service generally includes four services, all of which can be outsourced if managed properly:

  • Retrieval is the act of pulling a box or file from existing storage while maintaining a history of the activity and receipting for the unit of storage.
  • Delivery is provided to the client on a standard, emergency or after-hours basis, depending on the level of service you define in your agreement. Nonstandard deliveries are always charged additional fees. Standard delivery is typically next-day service.
  • Pick-up service is best provided as a scheduled event to pick up new items and return items to storage.
  • Refile service is the replacement of items back on the storage shelving. This is usually done at scheduled times. Boxes are not generally returned to their original location, although files are always returned to their original box.

Indexing

Indexing services, sometimes called cataloguing, can be provided simply or in complex form. They are the primary difference between records management and records storage. Indexing is the means of finding record items, and it can vary in quantity and value to the client.

Numbering is the simplest form of indexing. Assigning a unique number to each item is absolutely required. This necessitates the client keep his own information database about the contents. This is a minimal service level and of relatively low value to the client.

Standard indexing is the best way to index a box. Generally, there are a standard number of fields entered into the client database relative to the item being inventoried. This could include record name or series, dates from and to, ranges from and to, owner or department, and destruction date. This has high value to the client and generally excellent profit margins for the records center.

File indexing is provided to some file types that are difficult to arrange in an orderly fashion within a box. Some record types require file-level indexing, the most common of which is legal files.

Document indexing is provided on a rare basis, when the indexing of key documents may reduce the cost of another business process. Litigation support is an example of this.

Professional Records-Management Services

Professional records-management services (PRMS) range greatly from mundane to highly sophisticated. These have the greatest value to the client and higher yield and margins to the commercial records center. Many of these services can be outsourced to records-management professionals in your community. A few of these are listed below. This is not meant to be a full catalog of PRMS services but merely a sample:

  • Repackaging is a warehouse service, but it can assist in the management of the records, since improperly packaged records are difficult to handle.
  • Re-indexing and homogenization services are very valuable and give the client a better understanding of what records are being maintained. This service has high value and high yield to the client and the records center. This activity can easily be outsourced.
  • Retention-scheduling services may, at first glance, seem antiproductive to your storage goals. Indeed they are not--attention to retention issues ensure long-term relationships with clients.

The list goes on and on and on. There are perhaps 100 or more PRMS services that can be offered through your center.

Digital or Electronic Services

The future of commercial records management does not exist within the paperless office, scanning or enterprise document management. The future for commercial records-center automation is already here. The value is in providing services valuable to your client and profitable to you. Records-management software already contains the solutions that bring this high value and improved profitability. These are simply a few of the more obvious services--there are many more:

  • Internet-based access to client information is perhaps the most important innovation in commercial records-center history. It is available in the primary software products on the market.
  • Scan-on-demand service includes the retrieval of indexed files, scanning them and sending them via e-mial as a file attachment. This avoids delivery by courier and is high value to the client and high profit to the center.

There are many other services that allow commercial records centers to become one-stop records shops for clients. The service levels you offer are entirely optional. The higher the service levels, the higher the value to the client and the more profit to you.

Regular columnist Cary McGovern, CRM, is the principal of FileMan Records Management, which offers full-service records-management assistance for commercial records-storage startups, marketing assistance, and sales training in commercial records-management operations. For assistance in feasibility determination, operational implementation or marketing support, call 877.FILEMAN; e-mail fileman@fileman.com; www.fileman.com.

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