The Four Pillars of Commercial-Records Centers: Expanding Self-Storage Services

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Today’s commercial-records centers continue to diversify and expand service offerings to accommodate the growing needs of their clients. This diversification has helped balance businesses by reducing dependency on one source of revenue, i.e., “the box on the shelf.”

Additionally, it translates into more revenue opportunities with existing clients, and offers another means of entry into a prospective client’s door for the salesperson. For example, the first pillar, or “core” service, of a commercial-records center is managing cartons of information, usually paper records. If the prospect is already vended or has a current solution, such as a storage space, then for the records center it is conceivably a dead end.

There is no real sales opportunity, at least until the lease expires or the current vended contract is up for renewal. In the case of the latter, the records center may have an opportunity to close the sale, if they have maintained contact with the prospect.

In-Demand Services

So how do you ensure you get the chance to participate in the renewal process? First, determine if there are other areas in which you can service their business needs. For example, what services can you provide that complement the “box on the shelf” service where you can utilize the same vehicle, driver and office staff?

Many records centers are adding supplementary service offerings, or “pillars,” such as scheduled shredding services, offsite tape rotation or imaging services. These are in-demand services from the business sector, especially with current legal provisions to protect consumers’ personal financial information, credit transactions and health records.

The second pillar supporting the commercial-records center business is the offsite storage of magnetic media or computer tapes. If the customer is currently storing and managing tapes in-house, then the offsite storage of computer tapes is another avenue where you can perform a service and potentially open the door for further business.

Computer tape backups can be as simple as a small case that rotates once a week with just a handful of tapes, or it can be as complicated as interfacing with the customer’s tape management system (TMS) and performing individual tape transactions, such as pulling and refiling tapes into individual slots. The number of slots for storage and the amount of transactions is driven by the customer and can range from a couple hundred individual tapes to thousands of tapes in inventory.

For larger tape customers, purpose-built software exists to handle the interaction between the customer and the offsite vault. In certain situations, if the paper records are stored with your competitor, then tapes may represent a sales opportunity, as the company may not want both items (paper and tapes) stored in the same location.

Electronic vaulting (e-vaulting) is another option today’s records centers are offering customers as an alternative to tape backup—or in addition to—depending on the information and business requirements. E-vaulting has grown in its appeal for all sizes of businesses due to the massive amounts of data being managed, regulatory demands, and competitive pressures to ensure quick recovery of information when needed.

Following the Paper Trail

A third pillar supporting the commercial-records center business is scheduled shredding services, which involves emptying containers, such as consoles placed in the client’s place of business. Consoles are typically secured, locked cabinets with slots for inserting paper or larger locked containers with wheels.

The servicing of the container typically follows a recurring schedule. Some examples may include weekly, every two weeks, every four weeks, monthly, etc., and is typically controlled through a software program designed to manage the schedules, routing and invoicing. The schedule of activity depends on the client’s needs. The collected material is either shredded onsite with a mobile shredding truck or the material is returned to the records center, where it is either shredded onsite, known as a “plant-based operation,” or outsourced to a local operation.

The fourth pillar supporting the commercial-records center business is imaging. For those still living in the land of dial-up modems, imaging is the act of taking a picture of a piece of paper and making the picture available on a computer. Fortunately, for all the records centers out there, we still have paper and, quite frankly, lots of it, despite how much information is transferred and stored digitally. It’s just a fact of life.

Why is all this paper still kicking around? Because imaging is generally very labor-intensive, and it can be expensive to convert boxes of paper to images. Where imaging plays an important role is when you need to either make available certain information to multiple people simultaneously, the information needs to be readily accessible to support a job function such as a call center, or there is an opportunity to streamline a job function. Some records centers have also added digital archiving to their mix of information-management services.

Digital archiving is related to imaging in that it involves the storage and management of electronically created data. However, it is distinct from digital dissemination. Digital archiving is the process of ensuring the data is preserved for the future in a format that can be migrated as and when operating systems and software applications change. If you’re offering digital archiving, be aware that it involves continual investment to ensure the data is maintained in formats usable on current media.

Working Together

The interesting part about these four different pillars is that each pillar can stand on its own or they can work together to successfully complement the records-center business. Some companies have built extremely successful businesses by focusing solely on hardcopy records storage, offsite storage of magnetic media, shredding, or even imaging.

But imagine if you could walk into a prospect’s office—or into an existing customer’s office for that matter—and say, “We can manage your shredding services, magnetic media services and imaging needs, relying on one vendor rather than four. Better yet, we can reduce your costs by utilizing the same delivery truck and driver to pick up and drop off all items pertaining to the four pillars. At the end of the month, we will provide you with one invoice detailing all the different services provided, broken out by each individual department, if you wish.”

One vendor, one invoice, expanded client base—all achieved by building your commercial-records center business upon the four pillars. It makes perfectly good sense.

Scott Bidwell is president and chief operating officer of Andrews Software Inc., which provides software services and products to commercial-records centers, media vaults and document-destruction companies. For more information, visit www.andrewssoftware.com.

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