Smart decision, we say. As many businesses have realized, shared inboxes are like a magic pill for efficiency and productivity. So here’s a quick look at the best practices for implementing shared inboxes for your team.
Why would you want to share an inbox?
You probably know this, for anyone still wondering why shared inboxes are such a big deal: Support and sales teams, contractors, and vendors… Email is how everyone communicates.
Even within your organization (and within small teams), and despite the growth of messaging services, email remains an essential part of the workflow.
Shared inboxes add the power of collaboration to this, making your work email accounts powerful tools that help boost productivity.
Easy task delegation, no duplication of work, internal discussions kept clear of the main thread, performance tracking, automation, advanced filters, collaborative drafting, analytics — get your shared inbox strategy right and you’ll get to see so many benefits.
Lending your Gmail password to others isn’t a smart idea
The ‘easy’ way of sharing an inbox with your team? Not quite. This might seem pretty straightforward, but you’re at two pretty big disadvantages if you go the ‘share my email password’ route:
First, you don’t really gain any collaborative features. Email threads will still grow to unwieldy sizes thanks to clutter, there’s no way to track who’s working on what… You get our drift, right? You want ‘smart’ email? Then you’ll have to look elsewhere.
And second, Google might just lock you out of your G Suite account. No, they aren’t being malicious, but they might do so for security reasons. Even if they don’t do that, you know well that sharing passwords is probably number one of a list of ‘worst security practices’.
Delegate Gmail? Don’t expect a productivity boost
G Suite offers a ‘Delegate Gmail’ option. You can add up to 25 users who have access to your email. But what if your team’s bigger than that?
Even if you’re heading a smaller team, you can’t escape the fact that Gmail delegation doesn’t get you any collaborative features.
You have the same disadvantages of handing out your password out (with a lower likelihood that Google locks your account) — no additional collaboration-specific features, no new ways of streamlining your work responsibilities.
So you think you’ll try out Collaborative Inbox? It’s not that collaborative
Google also offers a Collaborative Inbox but it’s really lacking in true collaboration-friendly features. You can read more about this on this blog post, but here’s a shorter, TL:DR version:
- There’s no way of getting status updates on email threads (which will eventually lead to duplication of work)
- There’s no secondary communication stream so you need to put everything on email — even a short query you might have (some threads can grow to absolutely unreadable lengths)
- You don’t have any access to performance tracking
- The interface is completely unlike Gmail (adding an extra layer of complexity that hurts efficiency). Here’s how it looks:
In a nutshell, the same drawbacks as sharing your password or delegating Gmail access: No collaborative features, no automation, unwieldy email threads, no separate channel for internal discussions.
What do you really want from a Shared Inbox?
You need to be clear what you’re looking for.
- What do your managers want in a shared inbox?
- What would your users like to automate?
- Do employees feel email takes up too much of their time?
- Are you tired of email threads growing to unmanageable sizes?
- Do you wish you had access to a tool that would let your team focus on their core responsibilities?
- Do you feel the need to improve intra-team communication?
- Can you use shared inboxes to improve how your team responds to client requests and sales leads?
- Would you say it’s important any solution offers a no-friction, easy-to-deploy roadmap?
There’s plenty there to ponder about, but for now, here’s what we think users, managers, and IT bosses would like in a shared inbox tool:
Make delegation straightforward
As many experienced managers would say, effective delegation makes for effective teams. But email, or at least ‘traditional’ email, doesn’t make allowances here: You’re probably looking for a tool that provides easy, one-click delegation of tasks, with vital information available to managers and their teams.
For example, think of your sales team that’s welcomed every morning with queries from existing (or prospective) clients.
With traditional email, it would be up to you to forward messages to your team. But that’s slow, clogs up inboxes, and doesn’t give you a way of keeping track of case status.
You could always let your team select new leads on their own, which is risky as it could lead to dissatisfaction, and could make your company appear unprofessional if (or more likely, when) multiple team members ever reply to the same query.
If that’s true, we’re guessing you’d want a shared inbox tool that lets a manager assign tasks (or emails) with a single click.
Another feature that might be on your wishlist is the use of alerts to warn your team if they’re about to start working on a query that’s already been handed to someone else.
No more “are your working on this” calls (or yelling) across the office floor, no more missed emails (and angry customers), no more forgetting about tasks that have been assigned.
And finally, it’ll be so useful to have access control methods and user roles that keep information secure, yet gives managers and project leads access to all the capabilities their role demands.
Use automation to save time
IT tools are supposed to aid automation. Regular email doesn’t do much here. But what if you could make special filters and automate tasks that are, to be perfectly honest, a waste of time for your highly paid (we hope!) employees?
Auto email filtering based on content, automatic tag application for priority cases, automatic round-robin task distribution — these, we think, are features that can turn ‘boring’ email into a powerful customer support tool.
Clarity in internal communication
According to one study, employees can spend up to 40 percent of their time dealing with internal email. That’s ‘wasted’ time, time your employees can’t spend on their core responsibilities.
Email was supposed to help, not become a responsibility in itself. We doubt anyone would argue with this. And that’s why we think there’s space for a parallel channel of comms that can take internal discussions off email threads. And yet, is linked to emails.
A system where you could tag team-members only when you need their input (instead of creating that most hated of all workplace tropes, the never-ending email thread). A system where you can add notes and comments to ongoing email discussions without creating clutter.
Focus on what’s important
As we mentioned in the previous point, taking internal discussions off email threads reduces clutter.
But there’s one more feature that might make a shared inbox solution a lot more attractive, especially if your team finds itself working on multiple projects at the same time — filters that you can combine to create ‘custom email groups’ that let you cut out all distractions.
Want an easy way to check up on all customer emails your team is yet to attend to? Or perhaps you keep coming back to check up on open tickets for a specific client and want a way to ‘save’ this as a shortcut?
Maybe you’d want to go through all emails pertaining to an upcoming project? Custom shortcuts would sure come in handy for this — just click and see just what you need.
Analytics and performance tracking
How do you track performance or help new, inexperienced team members get up to speed? Traditional email doesn’t give you any way.
But wouldn’t it be nice if you could have a shared inbox where you could check up on case status, or see where new employes are finding it tough going? What if your email system could itself track if you were meeting SLAs? Or predict crunch times when you could do with all hands on deck?
Easy onboarding for new team members
Great companies pay attention to the onboarding process for a reason — do it right and you could boost performance by over 70 percent.
What if your email could make this easier by offering a way you could, right from your desktop, walk new hires through challenging situations.
For example, you could ask more experienced team members (no matter where they might be located) to assist your newest hire on writing a sales pitch. That’s right, drafting an email together without having to schedule a call or getting lost in an email thread.
Or, you could make life easier for someone in their first job by automatically delegating low-fuss, low-risk support cases till they gain the confidence
A familiar interface and easy deployment
As with any other business IT tool, ease of use and deployment can make the difference between a happy team that exceeds targets, or a grumpy bunch of employees who are (rightfully) upset about spending time on non-productive tasks.
Want to really make life easier for yourself? Pick a tool with a familiar interface and workflow (as close to Gmail as possible would be ideal for many people. How about you?) — something that lets you dive into your work, without any distractions, and offers deployment/administration experience without any hand-holding, unnecessary downtime, and as few helpdesk tickets as possible!
Pretty certain about what you’re looking for in a shared inbox solution? You might want to check out Hiver.
Easy to use, easy to deploy, and brimming with features that enhance collaboration and reduce email fatigue, Hiver’s Shared Inboxes have helped many businesses change the way they work and communicate.