In 2018, roughly 281 billion emails were sent and received every day. The figure is expected to rise to 347 billion daily emails by 2022. An average worker receives 120 emails every day. The email overload problem is for real — even more so when you’re a part of a team that manages a shared inbox like info@ or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why are most shared inboxes messy?
Almost every company has shared inboxes like info@, support@, or sales@ to communicate with customers, prospects, or partners.
Shared inboxes are easy to set up, and work wonderfully when teams are small. But as the number of incoming emails goes up, problems start creeping in.
Building accountability on the team gets difficult. Team members might struggle to be aligned on who is responsible for what. Email resolution slows down. And worst of all, some emails fall through the cracks.
Well, the good news is — all of the above can be prevented — by managing shared inbox emails in a systematic manner.
Here are a few best practices you can follow to make sure you are always on top of shared inbox emails.
Best practices to manage G Suite shared inboxes effectively
Managing a shared inbox effectively is not rocket science. It just requires teams to follow a “system” of managing emails. The “I saw it first so I started working on it” approach is not the best way of going about handling emails.
The first step in the process is to establish a few ground rules:
- Assign each email to one individual so that everyone knows who is handling that email, and there is no risk of multiple team members replying to the same email (if you are a customer, how would you like receiving two or more emails, each potentially saying different things or asking you the same information again)?
- Figure out the status of each assigned email without having to check individually with the team who replied, what they said, etc.
- Equip team members to consult with each other without exchanging emails. Internal emails add to inbox clutter and also introduces the risk that someone might forward an email thread with internal discussions to the customer or a prospect.
- Monitor how well each team member is doing using parameters other than the number of emails s/he has sent in a day/week/month.
Let’s look at how teams that use shared inboxes can truly acquire and sustain a high-performance orientation.
1. Assign emails easily (without adding to the clutter)
With G Suite, to assign an email to a teammate, the only option you have is forwarding. It adds to the already-overflowing inboxes of your team members.
And forwarded emails have a way of growing: more people get Cc’ed, threads become long and confusing, and information gets buried. Forwarding is by no means an efficient way of assigning emails.
2. Drive accountability within the team (and never miss an email again)
When a group of people is collectively responsible for the same task, it gives way to diffused ownership. It is a common problem with shared inboxes. “I thought someone else would have responded” or “I did not see that” are unfortunately all too common in teams that use shared inboxes.
The feeling that “somebody will attend to it” needs to be eliminated and with it, the risk that some emails go unanswered also decreases.
With Hiver, accountability shifts from the team at large to specific individuals because managers will know clearly whom each email was assigned to.
At the same time, your team will always be on top of emails. Inside a shared inbox powered by Hiver, the default view is ‘unassigned’ which shows only those emails that nobody has started working on.
Managers can easily ensure every message gets picked up by someone.
3. Smart enablement of continuity (with rule-based assignments)
Large or strategic customers need priority attention. The easiest way to enable this is to set up rules so that all emails from these customer domains get assigned directly to team members who have worked with them in the past or have developed a good rapport etc.
Rule-based assignment is also useful to implement the “account management” concept within your team — so that specific individuals are made responsible for specific customers.
This ensures continuity in customer interactions based on team members knowing the background and context, which helps the cause of customer satisfaction.
You can use Hiver to automatically assign emails based on rules such as the sender’s email address, the subject line, and more.
4. Keep work duplication at bay
G Suite allows everyone in the group equal opportunity to respond to an email. But in the absence of the team automatically knowing which emails have already been handled, there is a very real risk that two (or more) agents reply to the same email.
If that’s not bad enough, the situation can get messier if each agent has said something different in his/her reply. This nightmarish situation is not improbable if shared inboxes are managed only using G Suite.
Hiver’s Collision Alerts make sure two people never end up replying to the same email. It neatly eliminates the risk of duplicate responses to the customer or prospect.
You’ll love this: The most common questions teams have about shared inboxes — we’ve answered them all here.
5. Hassle-free status tracking
If you are responsible for managing teams that work with shared inboxes, you should be aware of: how many emails have been assigned, how many need to be assigned, how many are work-in-progress, how many have been resolved, etc.
With G Suite, tracking such data is not easy. Only when an agent copies the group email address in his/her reply will others in the team (the manager included) know that it has been attended to.
This creates the risk that an email to which a reply has been sent (but not copied to the group) may give the impression of being “pending” unless you ask around to find out if it has been attended to and by whom.
Hiver neatly categorizes emails as Open, Pending, or Closed, making it easy to track their status at a glance.
6. Automate email assignment and reduce manual work
Irrespective of how many emails come in, every email needs to be replied to in a time-bound manner. This may be easy to do manually if the volume of emails is low.
But when you have hundreds of emails coming in every hour, assigning them manually so as to balance work-loads can be a cumbersome (and error-prone) process.
Hiver enables the above through automated round-robin assignment.
7. Internal discussions made truly easy
Being part of a team means you get the benefit of asking colleagues for advice or information or even a way to phrase an email response.
If people sit next to each other, they can have a quick chat. But if there are remote team members involved, the options are apps like Google Hangouts or Slack. But this means spending lots of time in setting the context for the other person’s benefit.
Gmail itself can be used, but the process necessarily relies on the back and forth of emails. Not only does this add to the volume of emails, but it also increases the risk that an agent may accidentally forward the “internal” thread to the customer.
Hiver’s Email Notes feature allows users to chat; the exchange is right next to the email thread but is not a part of the thread. Notes can even be used to instruct a colleague while assigning a task.
Not only is the time not wasted to build context, the risk that “internal” discussions become part of the email thread that goes to the customer, even inadvertently, is reduced.
Notes also support Knowledge Management within the team. They remain right next to the email, so when agents need on-the-job advice or new agents need to be trained, colleagues can simply point them to the notes.
8. Get the data you need to manage individual and team performance
Your team’s overall performance depends on the responsiveness with which emails are handled (time to first response), how long it takes to address a customer issue, and of course, how many emails are disposed off every day.
Such data is useful to identify training needs for specific team members, as well as to manage individual performances.
But G Suite only provides information on how many emails are sent/received by the group, while with Hiver, you can easily get data for the above metrics.
You can figure out who needs training or maybe a one-on-one pep talk. Just as easily, you can find out who has been doing consistently well and is perhaps ready for that promotion.
9. Promote a culture of fairness, transparency, and performance
Every team aspires to be a high-performance team. Every manager wants to be recognized for his/her skill in building and nurturing such teams.
But unless the manager (and the team) are empowered with the tools that can help them in their journey, they will be hard-pressed to deliver.
Hiver’s features not only make managing workflow and workloads easy and efficient, but they also allow a culture of accountability and fairness to be built and sustained.
Everyone in the team can see data in real-time. This creates a high degree of transparency, minimizing accusations of favoritism, etc.
Team members can track their own performance metrics and work on self-improvement. Everyone in the team is enabled to take responsibility for his/her own contributions to the team (and hence, the organization).