Virtual Memberships and Client Relationships: An Interview with SphereMail’s Hasan Mirjan

For Hasan Mirjan, Founder and CEO of SphereMail, said that, as a virtual membership service provider with a background in the coworking industry, the challenges posed by COVID-19 hit close to home.

“I know what’s going on, and I felt the pain when the whole country shut down,” he said.

He compared our current moment to the 2010 recession, which also posed substantial challenges for the industry—and be believes that by focusing on relationships within the industry and with our clients, we can weather this challenge just like we did that one.

“We remade it, and we increased our customer base through the virtual offices,” Mirjan said of the 2010 recession. At the time, Mirjan was a coworking space owner and operator himself, with two locations in San Francisco and two in Sonoma County. He began exploring virtual memberships then, and, once he realized the demand was increasing, he worked quickly to make virtual membership tools available to other people in the industry.

“What we believe in is the relationship,” he said.

Mirjan said that, for him, the pandemic exposes the need for coworking spaces to pivot toward virtual options—without sacrificing relationships within the industry or with clients. By blending easy to use tools with flexibility designed around coworking space’s needs, Mirjan explained that SphereMail can help support the type of personalized relationship with clients that so many coworking spaces build their client base on.

“You’re not tied into the square footage of your space,” Mirjan said, explaining that, using their platform, coworking spaces can easily have 1,000 to 2,000 customers with a 600 square foot space.

Going virtual through SphereMail’s all in one virtual offices platform allows the coworking space’s relationships with clients to scale regardless of whether the space is open or not. It makes it easy for existing clients to shift virtually, aiding client retention, but Mirjan said the switch often goes the other way, with virtual options creating more interest in the space’s physical location as well.

It’s a perfect option for responding to the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, offering ways to attract new clients and also retain relationships with clients who are now working from home.

“You keep one foot in the door, always, and you’re always making revenue,” Mirjan said of virtual membership offerings—especially when, he added, SphereMail offers not only virtual mail services but also live answering/receptionist services and automated virtual phones with any number from anywhere in the world.

Tailored to the Industry

SphereMail’s platform was developed by people in the coworking industry, for people in the coworking industry. Mirjan said that when he started SphereMail, it was because he saw the need for virtual mail and offices increasing, but that there was no tool designed specifically for the needs of coworking spaces.

“Our background is very, very experienced in the coworking industry. We built the system on our experience—based on my personal experience, (and) we built the system based exactly on the coworking experience,” Mirjan said.

Mirjan said he encourages owners and operators to think about virtual membership offerings the same way as they think about their physical space’s offerings: it’s about experience and client relationship, not just about a list of services. That’s why he said he and his team designed SphereMail to provide an experience that fully integrates with top tier coworking spaces. He said he sees their platform as a premium service that reflects the same level of experience a client would find in the physical location.

Growing through Crisis

In some cases, having virtual offerings—especially virtual mail—can be a deciding factor in a coworking space being able to keep their doors open.

“Running mail in a coworking space is an essential business,” Mirjan explained. Being able to keep your members using your address for their mail and business registration, then, can help keep your business running even through shutdowns—and it can let you do it safely.

“Our statistics show that for every 100 customers…it’ll cost you an hour to an hour and a half of operation with our platform,” Mirjan said. As various reopening plans make demands for social distancing and low occupancy for buildings, the low overhead cost and low workload of virtual memberships make it easy to not just keep doors open, but to continue growing your coworking membership.

Mirjan explains that, in addition to revenue generated from the memberships themselves, SphereMail partners also make additional income from processing, overage limits, mail scanning and forwarding, and mail storage. There are also additional services, such as live answering services and virtual phone numbers, which SphereMail operates and manages from a logistical side but that the coworking spaces can mark up as they see fit.

SphereMail is also working on growing these types of services for their partners. Mirjan said that although he can’t disclose details yet, the company has a number of new features in the works for the next year.

“We have some things that are going to completely blow things out of the water,” he said, noting that they will be releasing new technologies for virtual offices and mail services.

And, because Mirjan knows from his experience that cashflow is often a concern, he said SphereMail’s policy has become to charge per customer—and that fee goes down the more virtual clients you have. That way, the revenue goes into the coworking space’s account in real time. Then, the spaces are billed at the end of the month for SphereMail’s fees. There’s no waiting for a revenue share or a payout from SphereMail, Mirjan said.

“Funds immediately, in real time, go from the subscriber directly into their bank account—the full account, and then SphereMail charges the space separately for each user,” he said. Depending on the number of virtual members, that fee can be under four dollars per user.

Partnering with SphereMail

In addition to having been developed by people familiar with the industry, Mirjan said SphereMail is dedicated to providing support that is equally tailored to coworking spaces. Becoming a partner takes as little as 4 hours from sign-up to a live listing, and some new partners have virtual clients as early as the next day.

SphereMail provides the customer-facing platform as well as the backend platform for staff, making the entire process streamlined on both ends without sacrificing the flexibility that often helps coworking spaces build long term relationships with virtual and physical clients alike. SphereMail also provides personalized training, demos, and support to coworking staff at no extra charge, and can also help educate customers. Their current customer support response time is 4 to 6 hours, and Mirjan said he’s working to reduce that down to 2 hours.

SphereMail also offers options tailored to coworking spaces, such as streamlined migration to virtual plans for existing members at the physical location—an important feature, Mirjan said, for members who are moving to working at home until the pandemic is over.

Mirjan said that although SphereMail is taking care of marketing and sending virtual clients toward their coworking partners, the company completely supports spaces transitioning those virtual members to physical memberships as appropriate. For him, that’s just another way SphereMail can support our industry.

“With the whole economy turning in the other direction, you’re going to see more and more people starting small businesses than working for big companies, and virtual membership is recession-proof,” Mirjan said. “Right now, you need to unpack this and go quickly.”

Mirjan said he and his team are happy to discuss options for navigating this transition with virtual membership, or their other services, including how they can help coworking spaces offer their clients live answering and automated virtual phone numbers from anywhere in the world. Please contact SphereMail through their website.

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