Time is of the essence in every business, but few of us have actually quantified the amount of time we spend on various tasks throughout the day. Studies of several business sectors have demonstrated that people consistently underestimate the amount of time it took to do something. For instance, when the lost time is quantified in an industry like legal services, the consequences can be costly. GP Solo estimated that if lawyers lose as little as six minutes each day, at $200 per hour, it amounts to a whopping $4,792.50 each year. The same is probably true of your business. Whether you are a freelancer, small business owner, or an employee of a large corporation, time equals money.
Researchers analyzed data about how Americans spend their work hours and concluded that tasks involving traditional and electronic mail eat up several hours of employee time each day.
The research concludes that despite the drive for paperless offices, physical mail remains a key data source in every business, and that employees use valuable time managing the mail.
Every minute spent opening and handling physical mail is a minute you cannot spend serving your customers. Thankfully, there are third-party solutions that help businesses and employees handle mail in a timely and cost-effective manner. Corporate mail solutions can help process physical mail, manage e-mail, and even archive the data. There are five key benefits to using a third-party service for handling mail.
Back-office tasks include all of the administrative work which is required to run the business, rather than the activities that provide direct services to customers. Back-office work includes accounting, accounts payable, maintaining files, regulatory compliance, sorting mail, scanning records, archiving mail, and depositing checks—and that is just the beginning.
Although the market has shifted away from traditional mail and toward immediate communication through e-mail and messenger services, many businesses still receive and send daily physical mail, which must be opened and processed. For large businesses or individuals who travel frequently, handling the mail is a major hassle. Small businesses often do not have the manpower to spend so many hours processing the mail and completing all the other tasks necessary for running the business. Larger businesses are often swamped with mail and shipments.
One way to help a business grow is to use corporate mail services to streamline some back-office processes, including automating business mail. This frees up employees so they can direct their efforts toward the company's business functions.
By outsourcing the mail, these time-consuming tasks are handled by your designated corporate mail service. Many third-party services will give the business a physical address where all mail will be sent. This outsources the back-office process and introduces automation by eliminating manual processing.
How much time and effort can you save? According to statistics, businesses in the banking sector which have converted their traditional back offices into automated systems, have generated an improvement of over 50% in customer service and productivity.
Another benefit of using a corporate mail service is the potential to reduce or even eliminate most of the overheads of running a small business or freelance enterprise. Some corporate mail services also offer virtual office services. Rather than paying for a physical office, which entails rent, insurance, utilities, and other monthly costs, many businesses are forgoing an office in favor of a virtual office space. Virtual offices provide a physical location for a business whose employees actually work from home or off-site. Mail will be sent to the virtual office location, where it will be handled in accordance with your wishes.
There are many different virtual services available at a reasonable cost. The mail service that is right for your situation depends on your company's needs.
For example, the UPS Store provides businesses with an actual street address that is not a P.O. Box. It also accepts shipments from any mail carrier, sends text notifications when mail arrives, and will let you know when you don't have mail and don't need to make the trip. This type of service is good for freelancers who travel frequently, or for small businesses that do not have a permanent office address.
There is a difference, however, between corporate mail services that provide a virtual office address and the concept of a registered agent. In most U.S. states, a business must designate a person or entity to receive service of process when there is legal action involving the company. Having a registered agent, therefore, is a requirement under the law. The registered agent must have a physical mailing address in the state in which the business is registered. In most states, a P.O. Box cannot serve as a legitimate address for a registered agent because there is no one at the P.O. Box to accept legal notices.
The confusion between corporate mail services and registered agent services stems from the fact that for both services, you may be paying for a physical address. A corporate mail service can provide you with an address—often called a "virtual office"—but this does not necessarily mean the address is to be used for the registered agent. There are third-party registered agents who will give you an address for service of process, and also provide the other mail management services for a fee. However, most registered agent services are not there to sort and process your mail, or give you notifications about packages and deliveries.
If you are a business that needs a little more help than just having a physical address or virtual office, then it is advisable to take the next step up by hiring a corporate mail service to actually manage your physical mail. Companies like Earth Class Mail streamline back-office processes and create more efficient systems by scanning your mail, archiving it, and discarding junk mail, all at your direction. Unlike the mail box stores, these corporate mail services directly handle your mail for you; they open, review, scan, forward, discard, shred, and upload your mail, all for a monthly fee.
The benefit of scanning and archiving mail is that it eliminates the problem of having multiple data sources in several locations, for example on hard drives, networks, in the cloud, and in physical files.
Once important mail is scanned and archived, you can search for what you need, just as you would with your e-mail inbox.
If your business handles a significant amount of traditional mail or does direct mailings, then you probably know that automated processes save considerable time. Automation saves the U.S. Postal Service several handling steps. According to USPS, mail that is presorted and bar-coded is delivered about 24 hours earlier than mail that is not prepared automatically.
Services like Earth Class Mail can handle all of these actions for you, at a fraction of the cost of leasing or buying the machines.
Businesses are always looking to grow, but in order to truly thrive, it is crucial to closely monitor expenses and focus on core competencies. Often, gaining a competitive advantage is just a matter of improving an internal process. Working with a third party to coordinate mail services leverages the power of a distribution network, lowering your costs and improving your overall efficiency. A corporate mail solution can help your business grow by:
To reap all the benefits of a corporate mail solution, you should consider the following characteristics when you assess your mail needs:
First of all, you should always select a service that provides hi-res, OCR-enabled search. This means that your mail will be converted to a PDF file that is fully searchable. The power of searchable mail means you will be able to quickly locate what you need, even when dealing with snail mail.
Second, forwarding mail and packages can be a great option for people who are on the go. With corporate mail services, look for those who let you see your mail electronically online and then forward the mail anywhere in the world with a variety of mail carriers.
Third, go paperless by connecting your physical mail to your other cloud storage. This is how you will be able to use your physical mail just like e-mail, making it searchable in seconds, with no hands-on research necessary.
Fourth, consider whether you receive enough sensitive mail to require secure paper shredding off-site. Many corporate mail services can do this for you confidentially and safely, eliminating that pile of mail in your office that sits unattended for months, all the while containing sensitive private information.
Fifth, decide whether you need to get serious about archiving. Although you can scan and archive your own mail and store it on your own servers, this can eat up your storage space. A corporate mail service will store the mail on their servers and will provide greater security than most businesses can afford to set up on their own.
Sixth, determine how deadline-driven your deliveries are and whether you need real-time updates. Tracking services are good for the business and the customer. If your customer can locate a delivery by using an online tracking system, then it will reduce customer service calls.
Seventh, evaluate how often you need to pick-up and deliver mail. Once you know the frequency of your mailings, you can figure out how much time you spend on mail processing and how much time could be spent doing other important tasks.
Some companies may have different needs than those outlined in this article. Set up a meeting with the corporate mail provider and talk to them about what kind of business you do and how you handle the mail. They will help you identify what additional services are right for your situation.
For many businesses, it makes sense to outsource some operations. Don't overlook the importance of handling the mail effectively. By using a third party to handle the mail, you can pay more attention to the core purpose of your business.