How to Secure Wins and Motivate People – Records Management as Customer Service

All these questions loom large in the pursuit of creating, growing, and maintaining a records management program. The common denominator is people.

Short of those individuals who either report to you or who you work with directly, you are surrounded by potential “problem children”— those unwilling to release their records for archiving or disposal— and prospective records management converts.

The inherent question for many records managers tasked with running an effective records management programs in a decentralized records management environment is, “How do I motivate people to listen, participate, and manage their records?” The good news is most people already have the groundwork to begin this process. It all boils down to…..our first jobs!

Wait, what?

When it comes to employment, we all start somewhere. We depend on that first job to show us the ropes of the working world.

Building a foundation…

Through those earliest positions we build foundational experience that will launch us onward to bigger and better things. Bigger and better might be where we landed, but it doesn’t mean we should forget our roots from which we came.

Everything you learned about working with people and providing customer service can be gleaned and applied to your records management responsibilities.

Recall and incorporate skills that provide stellar customer service:

  • Be aware – keep your eyes open
  • Be curious – keep your ears open
  • Be friendly – build relationships (with everyone)
  • Be patient – wait for the right time

Empathy and Understanding

“Why won’t they let go (of their records)? Why won’t they give in (to records management)?” 

Apart from the few who are truly obstinate, there is normally a reason why employees can’t or won’t do a certain action, whether that’s transferring their records, reaching out for classification and retention assistance, or organizing their records and information in an agency-approved fashion.
Begin by really asking yourself these questions and consider the answer. Empathy and understanding are your friends here, so put yourself in the shoes of the individual, become curious, and turn on your awareness:

What do they believe? What are their concerns? What are their experiences?
“All of these records are important.”

“I need to keep them here JUST IN CASE.”

“My organizational system works for me; I know where everything is.”
If I give records up, can I have them back?

Will they be kept on-site?

Are you going to throw them away?
New employee – may still be learning and needs help

Long-time employee – “Not my job!” or crummy previous RM experience

“Somewhere in the middle” employee – lacking time, resources, or desire  

Communication and Transparency

Next, focus on connecting and communicating with your customers, i.e. everyone. Build on what you’ve already established via empathy and understanding. Familiarize yourself with common refrains (dare we call them “excuses”) in order to successfully connect and build relationships with your customers. Counteract and combat reasons for non-compliance with the reality of the records program while being open and transparent.

“Where do the records actually go?”
“What does it mean to send records to disposition?”
“What is records management?

Each question has an answer; follow through with people (especially when they engage with you). They’ll remember and at least be more open to records management in the future.

This phenomenon is echoed in a recent Forbes article, “10 Predictions for Customer Service in 2019”. A paradigm shift is occurring within customer service where support is provided in “the earlier phases of the customer journey” during “information-gathering exploration in the decision-making process” (Forbes). Although the article’s predictions are originally geared toward e-commerce and retail, much like the principles of our first jobs, the ideas and themes can be applied to roles in records management.

Incorporating patience and friendliness is key as you answer and send emails, take phone calls and return messages.
Does a situation call for an in-person consult? Invest the same time and attention with people you’re expecting in return when it comes to records management.


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