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Questionnaires in Records ManagementA great sales tool

March 1, 1999

8 Min Read
Questionnaires in Records ManagementA great sales tool

Questionnaires in Records Management

A great sales tool

By Cary McGovern

Understanding the requirements of your records-management customers is key to yourprofitability. You should offer the services he needs. The questionnaire is a tool thatidentifies opportunities based on the actual need.

I have used questionnaires for many years as part of selling records management tocustomers. Although the wording can vary greatly from customer to customer, I have drafteda sample that you might want to model in your own operation. You have permission to copythis form and use it in your records-management business.

Structure of the Questionnaire

After thousands of uses, the following questionnaire has proven to be one of theeasiest and most user-friendly methods for customers to communicate their needs. It uses agrading format that allows the questions to be scored by a simple check mark. It takes, atmost, five to 10 minutes to fill out. It can be sent en masse to everyone in a company orjust to key employees. The participant can choose one of five selections as an answer toeach question:

  • Strongly agree

  • Agree

  • No opinion

  • Disagree

  • Strongly disagree

It is interesting to see how diverse the answers can be even within the samedepartments. You should expect to discover a great deal of information from thesequestionnaires. They are quite a valuable tool.

Some Questions to Consider Using and Why:

1. I know where all of my records-storage boxes are stored.

This statement is aimed at flushing out all of the places that are in use. You willfind the good, the bad and the ugly. Most of the time, management has no idea the mannerin which they maintain records. This also uncovers any records at other self-storageoperations and commercial records centers.

2. All records-storage boxes have a complete and accurate description of theircontents written on the outside.

It is rare indeed when we find that a customer does this right. Generally there areseven identifiers that should be on any records-storage box:

  • Record name or record series

  • Department or record owner

  • Date range from

  • Date range to

  • Alpha-numeric range from

  • Alpha-numeric range to

  • Destruction date

3. We have an accurate and fully compliant records-retention schedule.

Even Fortune 500 companies have a difficult time with this one. Retention requirementsinclude regulator requirements (regulatory), litigation avoidance (legal) and soundbusiness practice (internal controls). The addition of an effective retention schedulesaves them a great deal of time and money in the long run.

4. We destroy boxes when they reach the end of their retention period.

All records have a life and, ultimately, death. If records are kept longer thanrequired, it can cause liability issues. Courts have typically ruled that if you have therecord, you must release it when requested, even when past the retention requirement.

5. We only keep records that are required by law or sound business practice.

Virtually no one knows what he is required to keep. I have been involved with companiesthat have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars--even millions--on retention schedules.Worldwide or global companies have to contend with regulators from each country with whichthey do business.

6. We have a manual index or a computer-database reference that accuratelylists the contents of each box in storage.

This is usually problematic for customers. They may have a rudimentary method forfinding files in boxes. Sometimes there is a database, but it is rare to see awell-thought-out and standardized method. Remember from earlier columns that the cost inrecords management is in "the finding of the files" for most customers. If youcan help them identify, index and find files, then you have cut most of their cost.

7. We never lose files.

If they answer "agree" or "strongly agree" to this one, you knowthat they are unaware of how their program actually works. Everyone loses files from timeto time. Finding a lost file can be extremely expensive. If a professional, such as alawyer, for example, has to join in the hunt for a record, the cost escalates quickly.

8. We can access any file within an hour of a request.

Usually the only way that someone can access files that quickly is if the files areindexed and available through a professional records-storage company with an automatedsystem. Some systems allow the customer to search an online database and request the fileimmediately. Some software products also allow for quick and easy access.

9. Ownership of all boxes is assigned to a specific department manager.

Professionals in records management assign each record series to a specific departmentor functional unit manager. This individual is considered the record owner. He is morelikely to understand the need of the record for its primary or secondary uses. Ifrecord-series ownership is not assigned, it is likely that they don't understand the valueof the record to the company.

10. We have developed standard filing methods that all employees know andunderstand.

Standards in filing methods lead to efficient operations. If they answer"agree" or "strongly agree" to this one, then ask them for theirstandards manual. They probably won't have one.

11. We understand which boxes or files contain vital records.

Vital records are records that must be preserved to ensure the continued operation ofthe business. It is rare that companies actually know which of their records are indeedvital. Of course, computer files are always considered vital, but several other records inpaper form are also essential. An example of this is "contract documents."

12. We have individuals assigned in each work group that are responsible forfiling records.

One of the recommended measures to ensure standardization in each department is toassign the responsibility of filing methods to a single individual. If they do not followthis principal, then they are certainly haphazardly filing.

13. We have assigned responsibility to a specific employee as the recordsmanager.

In many companies, the title of records manager is one of the many hats that anadministrative manager wears. It should be assigned to an individual to fix control. Thisperson should report to the chief legal officer or the chief operating officer. A companycannot, under any circumstances, abrogate their records-management responsibility.

14. We know what our record-keeping cost is.

Record-keeping cost is usually much higher than they know or even want to know. Thecost of storage is only the tip of the iceberg. The true cost includes the cost of laborand finding a file. What's worse is the cost of not finding a file. Those costs aresometimes as much as millions of dollars due to regulator penalty or litigation expense.

It is true to say that a poorly managed records-management program is much moreexpensive than a well-managed one. You can easily assist the customer simply by indexingand inventorying the files and boxes in your storage facility.

Regularcolumnist 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-roommanagement and litigation support services for the legal industry. For more informationabout records management, contact Mr. McGovern at File Managers Inc., P.O. Box 1178, AbitaSprings, LA 70420; phone (504) 871-0092; fax (504) 893-1751; e-mail: [email protected] or Web: www.fileman.com.

The Management Questionnaire

Question

Strongly Agree

Agree

No Opinion

Strongly Disagree

Disagree

I know where all of my records-storage boxes are stored.

 

 

 

 

 

All records-storage boxes have a complete and accurate description of the contents written on the box.

 

 

 

 

 

We have an accurate and compliant records-retention schedule.

 

 

 

 

 

We destroy boxes when they reach the end of their retention period.

 

 

 

 

 

We only keep records that are required by law or sound business practice.

 

 

 

 

 

We have a manual index or a computer-database reference that accurately lists the contents of each box in storage.

 

 

 

 

 

We never lose files.

 

 

 

 

 

We can access any file within an hour of any request.

 

 

 

 

 

Ownership of all boxes is assigned to a specific departmental manager.

 

 

 

 

 

We have developed standard filing methods that all employees know and understand.

 

 

 

 

 

We understand which boxes or files contain vital records.

 

 

 

 

 

We have individuals assigned in each work group that are responsible for filing records.

 

 

 

 

 

We have assigned responsibility to a specific employee as the records manager.

 

 

 

 

 

We know what our records-keeping cost is.

 

 

 

 

 

(Copyright FileMan Records Management 1999)

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