- Workspaces that offer virtual office mailing services are under threat from digital mail scanning apps
- Digital mail is also an opportunity for workspaces to speed up their mail operations and improve client retention
- “Virtual offices don’t work without an efficient mailing service. We need to embrace the technology, now” — Mike Sullivan, Alliance Virtual Offices
For flexible workspace operators, there’s a huge revenue opportunity in providing virtual office services. Unlike the limitations of a physical workplace, even the smallest center can have dozens, if not hundreds of virtual office clients utilizing their business address, receptionist services and meeting rooms.
However, one service that’s absolutely integral to a virtual office is your ability to receive, store, and forward mail to clients. Your success as a virtual office operator — along with your revenue — is only as good as your mailing efficiency.
But even the most efficient virtual office centers are facing a considerable challenge.
Sending and receiving mail via your center has been acceptable, until now. For some clients, it will continue to be acceptable simply because they’re not aware of the alternatives. Sooner or later, traditional mail forwarding practices will for the most part be phased out in favor of faster, smarter digital solutions.
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Clients don’t want the hassle of contacting their virtual office provider to ask if they have mail. They want to know if that important document has arrived and they want to see the contents immediately. They don’t want to drive into town to collect it, or wait days to receive it.
Mail forwarding is a slow, time-consuming, labour-intensive process that’s prone to human error. If you don’t have a bulletproof process that eliminates the potential for error and delays, your center is likely one that is struggling in this area.
Mail centers are going digital to speed up their operations
Mail handling isn’t the core focus of most business and coworking centers, yet it’s absolutely vital to the virtual office service. And to compete in the virtual office arena you must also compete with mail centers, such as UPS stores — and they’re heavily focused on receiving and forwarding mail. They’re well practiced, they do it incredibly well, and now they’re adopting the latest practices, such as digital mail, at a much quicker pace than coworking and business centers.
“We’re seeing a very noticeable uptick in the number of clients requesting a digital mail scanning process. That’s only going to increase over time” — Mike Sullivan, CMO Alliance Virtual Offices
Spot the danger here?
“The biggest problem I have [with my virtual office] is the way that mail is handled. It is very sporadic and I do not always get notices for all mail that comes in. As I am in a business that requires instant responses when I get notification by mail, this obviously does not work for me.”
This feedback came from a virtual office client — and it’s not an isolated incident. This client easily represents every business owner on the planet and it only takes one bad experience, one failed notification or one piece of lost mail for the client to cancel their contract, switch virtual office provider or worse, give up on the virtual office service completely.
“Looking at the support tickets we receive from clients, around half of them are related to mail,” says Mike Sullivan, CMO at Alliance Virtual Offices. “They’re not necessarily complaints; they’re messages from clients who are contacting us to ask if they have mail waiting for them.
“Those clients have taken time out of their busy day to contact us, ask about the mail, and then they have to go out and collect it. It takes up their valuable time. Even if they ask for it to be forwarded they have to wait another day or two to receive it. It’s time-intensive and crazy.
“This is a real competitive threat, I can’t stress that enough,” Sullivan added.
“Clients are no longer content to wait around for their mail. It’s inconvenient and outdated. It’s a process that was started last century and for the most part, it hasn’t moved with the times.
“It’s time for change.”
Digital mailboxes let clients handle their mail more efficiently
The solution — as well as the competitive threat — lies in digital mailbox services.
It’s a service that scans incoming mail, notifies the client when their mail has arrived, and allows the client to view images of their mail via an app. Through services such as Earth Class Mail, iPostal1 and Anytime Mailbox, clients can have the mail opened, trashed, or forwarded.
“When you consider the number of calls a center receives from clients asking if they have mail, the time and expense to forward it, and so on… it’s easier and less expensive to manage mail digitally” — Matt Going, Anytime Mailbox
Matt Going, founder of digital mail supplier Anytime Mailbox, says that the big draw for clients is the ability to view their mail from their smartphone at any time of the day or night.
“The benefit is that the recipient does not have to physically receive the mail either through mail forwarding or stopping by the office to pick up the mail,” he said.
According to Going, digital mailbox addresses are now being offered by a wide range of mail center operators and the pricing is aggressive, which is putting virtual office providers at an immediate disadvantage.
So why aren’t more coworking and business centers signing up?
“There is a concern that converting your mailroom operation to digital mail is cumbersome,” said Going, “but we’ve found this does not play out as expected.
“When you consider the number of calls a center receives from clients asking if they have received mail, the time and expense to forward mail, the time it takes to send an email alerting a client of what they’ve received, tracking, and so on… it turns out it’s easier and less expensive to manage mail digitally.”
For Sullivan, digital mail is clearly the way forwards.
“We’re seeing a very noticeable uptick in the number of clients requesting a digital mail scanning process,” he said. “That’s only going to increase over time.
“Virtual offices don’t work without an efficient mailing service. Our sector needs to be more proactive or we’re going to lose clients, fast. It’s a serious threat. But coworking centers have a huge opportunity to take the initiative and give clients a better, faster, and slicker service.
“It’s a no-brainer. We need to embrace the technology available and we need to do it now.”