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Interview Questions

The Client-Needs Assessment
The most crucial component of selling records management

By Cary F. McGovern

The survey, or client-needs assessment (CNA), is the most important component of consultative selling for records-management services. Many of my customers have asked me to develop a list of questions to be asked during the interview phase of the survey process, which is comprised of three steps: the questionnaire, the client interview and the walkabout. Each is an essential component.

The questionnaire should be designed to draw out issues to discuss in the client- interview and walkabout phases. It represents a way to generate more meaningful questions during the survey. For more information on this step, see "Questionnaires in Records Management" from the July 1999 issue of Inside Self-Storage. The article may be accessed online through the ISS article archive or at

The client-interview questions should always include these basic inquiries: who, what, when, where, how much, how often and why. Some suggested questions are listed below for your use.

During the walkabout, you are primarily interested in validating the answers received in the questionnaire and the interview components of the survey. This is where you check reality. The principal question in this segment of course is, "Why?" It is the "why" question that draws out the differences between perception and reality in any business process.

Interview Questions

I have designed the client-interview questions in a building-block approach. We begin with the basic element of the box (or storage unit) and build the questions through the client's records-management program.

The Box (Records-Storage Unit)

1. What kind of box do you use for records storage?
2. Is there a "standard" storage box? If so, is there a policy regarding use of the standard box?
3. Why did you choose that particular sort of box?

The Box Index (Contents)

1. Who in your operation is responsible for indexing (labeling) a records- storage box?
2. What are your standards for indexing a records-storage box?
3. At which point is a box indexed prior to transfer to off-site storage?

The Transfer to Storage

1. Who is responsible for the transfer of boxes to storage?
2. What events trigger files to be purged from filing units?
3. . How many boxes per day/week/ month/year do you transfer?
4. How often are boxes transferred to storage?
5. Is there someone who maintains a control or inventory list of transferred boxes?
6. Are the files identified or listed within the box? If so, how is that done? Is there a database?
7. What is the form of the database (Microsoft Access, Excel, other)?

The Storage Location

1. Do you use a commercial records-storage vendor? If so, which one?
2. Are you pleased with its service, price and dependability?
3. Are your records self-managed? If so, what is the location of the storage?
4. Can we visit all storage locations?
5. Are the records secure and confidentially managed?
6. Does the storage area provide clean and safe working conditions?
7. What is the cost of storage?

Retrieval and Re-Files

1. Who retrieves items from storage?
2. Do you retrieve files or only boxes from storage?
3. How are files or boxes controlled when out of storage? How are they noted to be returned to storage?
4. Who is responsible for ensuring files or boxes are returned to storage?
5. How often are files retrieved per day/week/month/year?
6. How often are files are boxes returned to storage per day/week/month/year?
7. How do you measure your retrieval and re-file costs? If there is no measurement, then how do you manage the cost?
8. How much does a file or box retrieval cost you? Consider employee time (salary, benefits and overhead) and transportation (vehicle, mileage or fuel).
9. How much does a file or box re-file cost you? Consider employee time (salary, benefits and overhead) and transportation (vehicle, mileage or fuel).

Records-Retention Policy

1. What is your records-retention policy? If there is an existing document, may we have a copy to review?
2. Do you have a records-retention schedule? If so, may we have a copy to review?
3. Who is responsible for retention policy? If it is a records-management committee, may we meet the members?
4. Who maintains the accuracy of your retention policy and schedule? If someone is assigned that responsibility, how does this person maintain accuracy?

Records Destruction

1. Is there a records-destruction policy? If there is a document, may we have a copy for our review?
2. Who is responsible for initiating the destruction or migration (transfer to digital form) policy?
3. Who approves the destruction of records from storage?
4. What method is used for destruction?
5. Do you use a commercial destruction service? If so, who is the resource?
6. Do you create a destruction certificate for each record series that is destroyed? If so, who maintains the certificates?

Other Records-Management Issues

1. Are missing or lost files a problem in your organization? If so, how long do you search for missing files before giving up?
2. Have you ever not been able to locate a file? If so, please tell us about the circumstances.
3. What was the longest time or largest effort you spent to locate a missing file?
4. Are there any benchmarks or standards of performance in your records-management program?
5. What is the cost of your records- management program? If you don't know, how do you manage the program?

There is no such thing as a complete list of questions for any client-needs assessment. In many cases, one answer leads to another question. Be aware of the issues you uncover. Remember that issues are the crux of revenue opportunities for you in your records- management business.

Regular columnist Cary McGovern, CRM, is the principal of FileMan and FIRMS (FileMan Internet Records Management Services). If you have questions about the survey process or how to develop a commercial records-management business as part of a self-storage operation, call 877.FILEMAN or e-mail [email protected].

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