Choosing a Virtual Mail Solution? Start With These Questions.

By Zachary Rimlinger on July 25, 2018 

Organizations of all sizes and industries are increasingly using technology and outsourcing to modernize their offices. Today, mail and document management looks a lot different than having clerical staff in-house.

We witness this digital transformation every day and have helped thousands of businesses increase their efficiency by automating their office mail. If you haven’t already, think about the time your company spends on clerical work, manual scanning, and mail management. Or perform a quick exercise by asking yourself: would valuable information survive if your building flooded or a fire broke out? If you’re panicking, it means you need a system to move your files into the cloud. 

If you’re reevaluating your current approach (or lack thereof) here are the questions you should be asking to choose an appropriate virtual mail solution:

  1. What addresses do you have? One of your first considerations will likely be the locations where you are able to set up a virtual address. But it is equally important to consider your business goals to determine the type of address to use. If you’re looking for a virtual address to redirect business mail, a PO box can suffice. If you’re wanting to expand your business’s market share to a certain region or city, consider using a more professional real street address. Or if you’re looking for an address to register your company, chances are you’ll need a real street address. Be sure to ask if your state has any specific requirements.
  2. How do you handle different mail volume needs? For organizations that receive high mail volumes or those with mail seasonality like in the tax and accounting industry, you’ll need a vendor with the infrastructure to process documents quickly and reliably. Be sure to research how long their business has been operating and inquire into their technology and service operations.
  3. What actions can I take on my mail? To get the most value for your investment, demo their interface to understand the scope of functionalities available to you. If that’s not possible, be sure to ask: 
    • In what format will I be receiving my mail?
    • How do you treat packages and checks? 
    • Can I easily export my information to other applications?
    • What are my options for organizing my information? 
    • Can I have multiple users in an account?
    • How can I search for my documents within the app?
  4. What network and physical security measures do you take? It’s vital that you ask vendors if they rely on partners (such as local postal shops) for mail intake, or whether they have independent operations. While local partnerships might increase available the addresses available to you, service times and security measures will differ greatly. Also ask about the technology and back-end security measures they take to keep your data safe.
  5. How quickly can I access my information? One of the major benefits of using digital mail and document solutions is accessing information quickly and in a more useful format. Ask how long it takes to see your mail contents from the moment you request an item to be scanned, or if there are options for automatically scanning all content. What about timing for mail forwarding? Depending on your needs, speed could be the deciding factor for which service you select.
  6. What is included in the pricing? Inquiring into pricing details can almost go without saying, but it’s important to note that most mail management solutions will require that you pay to scan your correspondence. But do they charge for mail received? If you’re a high-volume user or if you’re using an address strictly for business use, inquire about options and pricing for automatically scanning your contents. 

When choosing another business tool, assess how it will interact with your team, existing processes, and other solutions. The more you’re able to do with one tool, the better. 

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Connecting Tools for Efficiency: 3 Things You Need to Do Now

Guest post by Tara Witterholt, Chief of Staff at Elevation Solutions.  

Email, chats, video conferences, document sharing, CRMs, phone bridges—we have no shortage of tools to power our businesses. We have unlimited options for tracking work, collaborating on documents, and managing our workload. The difficulty starts when all these items are kept in disparate places, usually the place most convenient for the person who started the communications, document, or activity. The risk is people giving up on broken systems, starting yet another system for tracking or collaborating, and the time-sucking cycle repeating all over.

Our management and technology consulting firm is engaged regularly to implement software that solves productivity problems. It’s our bread and butter. However, we prefer to come in before you implement the next great productivity tool. We work to understand operational pain points and the humans around the table before we move into the cloud.

Below are some key steps you can take to figure out what productivity tools you actually need and how to maximize the ones you keep. 

1. Inventory all the tools you’re using now, including anything used for document creation and storage, workflow and project management, scheduling and invoicing, etc. Then, get real… 

Organizations large and small are lured in by tools that look fun, shiny and new. They promise to increase our productivity, make us more effective, do our laundry, and cook us dinner. And they rarely deliver. You need to examine the tools you are using and ask yourself if they’re solving the problem that drove you to adoption.

I once had a client ask me to implement a productivity tool that had a Google Drive connector, a calendar (separate from their Outlook or Google calendar), and a task assignment feature. It could be branded to their company, shared easily with their teams, and adopted at a low cost. They were beaming at the possibility of having more time for strategic work. 

They wanted to tackle the fact that projects weren’t getting done on time and they didn’t have visibility into what work people were doing. It turns out they didn’t have standard expectations for project delivery and relatively few consequences when deadlines came and went with no results. The cloud-based solution had rave reviews, but it didn’t solve their root problem: accountability. In the end, I helped them create a better system of accountability rather than throwing new software at the problem. This included agreements on deadlines, progress updates, and what happens when people don’t get their work done. The executives were happy with the increased insight and their teams were more willing to communicate progress with the new, clearer expectations.  

2. Agree as a team what you will use for project management, internal and client-facing communications, and document creation and storage, then get rid of everything else.

And stick to it! No going rogue. Agree that you won’t suggest a new or replacement tool until you all have had a chance to talk about these key things: who will use it, what the benefits are, and what problem you are trying to solve.

We recently did this with our project management tools. We had 3 different ways to track projects and what we used differed by the client. At a strategy session (in the mountains, because, hey, it’s Colorado) we committed to using Trello to track progress on our implementation projects. We can assign tasks and provide access to internal and external users. Clients can see exactly what work is happening in real-time, as well as where we need their input.  Now, when we have questions about status and progress, we have one source of truth. It’s been a game-changer.

3. When you figure out which tools to keep, make sure they talk to each other.

Just like you encourage your team to collaborate, ensure your productivity tools are talking to each other! Our team has recently implemented an email connector that works with our Salesforce instance. We can set up meetings easily by sending suggested appointment times from our Google calendar, and the recipient can choose what works for them. We have also connected our project management tool to Google Drive, Slack, and our billing and project time-tracking software. When needed, our productivity tools enter information automatically into Salesforce. No more searching and wondering—it’s all in one place.

The above suggestions take time to work through. You have to get the team together, ask tough questions, and find out what people are really using and how it’s working, including what’s most effective for your clients. But rest assured, the amount of time you will get back when you finish these steps is worth it. And if you do decide to try something new, we can help you implement what you truly need with style!

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Tara Witterholt is Chief of Staff with Elevation Solutions, a rapidly growing management and IT consulting firm with clients and employees in every time zone. With over 15 years of project management experience, Tara works tirelessly to streamline processes and help people focus and be productive. She lives in Denver, Colorado, has a college-aged daughter, a cyclist husband and a very lazy but adorable cat. 

Check out their Business Impact Story to learn how Elevation Solutions leverages Earth Class Mail to streamline their back office.