Everything you need to know about Shared Mailboxes

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What is a shared mailbox?

Any inbox which is accessed and managed by a group of members known as a shared mailbox.

Typical examples include inboxes such as [email protected] or [email protected] which are always managed by more than one person.

The fundamental idea behind shared mailboxes was to stop people in a team from forwarding emails to each other. Everyone on the team gets access to the emails arriving at the shared mailbox.

Teams that use shared mailboxes enjoy the following benefits:

  • Everyone on the team has access to emails arriving at a common email address.
  • Different members on the team could start replying to emails in real-time.
  • Because there are no forwarded emails, team members have less clutter in their inboxes.
  • There are fewer CCs and BCCs when everyone on the team has access to the same information.

When do we use a shared mailbox?

We use a shared mailbox when we want an entire team to shoulder the responsibility of incoming emails.

Shared mailboxes work great for teams that have to deal with a lot of emails on a regular basis. A classic example is support teams. There is always a stream of emails hitting the [email protected] inbox, and one person can obviously not handle all of them.

Hiver Shared Mailbox

Almost all teams in an organization have a shared mailbox to keep communication centralized. Sales teams would have a [email protected] shared mailbox where prospective customers reach out. The accounts team would have mailboxes like [email protected], [email protected], and [email protected] The operations teams would have [email protected] HR would have [email protected] It’s all-pervasive.

What is a Collaborative Inbox?

You can use your Google Group as a Collaborative Inbox. In other words, it’s a way to manage your Google Groups.

Collaborative Inboxes help teams take care of emails arriving at shared mailboxes (inboxes managed by a team). The moment an email arrives, everyone who is a part of the Collaborative Inbox gets notified.

Members have two options: They can either ‘take’ the email or ‘assign’ it to another member in the same group. The good thing is that everybody knows who is working on what.

You can use Collaborative inboxes to distribute and track responsibility of topics or emails among group members.

Then why aren’t Collaborative Inboxes popular?

Google Groups or Collaborative Inboxes — both will take you outside Gmail to access shared mailboxes — to an interface that does not look or function like Gmail (that we’re all so familiar with).

You will have to spend considerable time and energy to train your team to use the Collaborative Inbox. Not just that, your teammates will have to keep switching between their Gmail and the Collaborative Inbox quite frequently. It is by no measure a decent way of managing emails.

What is the difference between a shared mailbox and distribution list?

A shared mailbox is a full-fledged inbox. It has a separate Inbox, drafts, and sent items. Every email sent to the shared inbox can be accessed by users with access.

Users have the permission to change their ‘send as’ field — they can send emails from the shared mailbox address. The moment you delete an email, it will be deleted for everyone.

Distribution lists (such as Google Groups),on the other hand, are a list of users who receive the same email in their inboxes. The same email is reproduced for everyone who is a part of the distribution list. Simply, it is a group of email recipients with the same email address.

When replying, the users can only use their personal address and not the address of the distribution list. When one user deletes the email they received because they are a part of the list, it does not affect the emails for the rest of the users.

How to use a shared mailbox for customer support?

A shared mailbox can help you with this, in the following ways:

  • Centralize all customer queries under one email address. Improve accessibility and collaboration across the team.
  • Delegate customer queries to specific frontline agents. Drive ownership and accountability across the team.
  • 360-degree visibility into the status of all queries. Track which queries are ‘Open’, ‘Closed’, and ‘Pending’ instantly.
  • Use internal notes and mentions for establishing context, looping in another team member, or asking for help, to resolve a specific query. This approach to collaboration ensures support teams can avoid making use of Ccs and forwards.
  • Set collision alerts to avoid multiple agents replying to the same customer query. Sometimes, it can so happen that two or more agents end up working on the same query, and send different responses to the customer. A shared mailbox tool helps you circumvent such instances by providing real-time alerts if an agent picks up a query that their colleague is already working on.
  • Specify conditions for automatic query assignment. For eg: Queries related to product returns can be assigned to one support staff while refunds can be assigned to another.
  • Organize incoming queries using tags. For example, all time-sensitive queries can be tagged as ‘urgent’ while all product-related queries can be tagged as ‘product’.
  • Leverage insightful reports and analytics to measure agent performance and discover bottlenecks if any.
  • Set deadlines for customer issue resolutions by creating SLAs. This ensures timely resolution of customer queries.
Hiver customer support

How do I create a shared mailbox in Gmail?

In Gmail, you can use a Google Group as a Collaborative Inbox.

Collaborative inboxes are especially useful for technical support or customer service teams. For example, you could create a group with the address [email protected]

You could then add your support staff as group members, and allow people outside your organization to send messages to the group. Your support staff would then receive customer messages and take any of the following actions:

Assign responsibility for topics to group members

  • Mark topics as resolved
  • Edit tags associated with topics
  • Filter topics according to tag, resolution status, or assignee

How do I access a shared mailbox in Gmail?

This is where we hit a major roadblock. Google does not allow you to access shared mailboxes inside Gmail.

The Collaborative Inbox that we just talked about — forces you to go outside Gmail to manage shared inbox emails. It’s unfamiliar. Your team needs training. There’s a lot of to and fro between Gmail and the Collaborative Inbox. It’s not an intuitive way of managing emails.

And that is why we built Hiver. It helps you manage shared mailboxes right from your Gmail. There is hardly anything to learn. And you put an end to the incessant to and fro. Learn more.

Do shared mailboxes have passwords?

A shared mailbox does not have a username or password. Users access shared mailboxes by accessing their Gmail profiles, or their desktop browsers using permissions

Do shared mailboxes require a license?

Shared mailboxes do not need a separate license as such. But every user who is a part of the shared mailbox must have a G Suite license.


Does a shared mailbox need a user account?

Shared mailboxes don’t require a separate user account. They can be created by any user with a G Suite license.

Can you log into a shared mailbox?

You cannot log into a shared mailbox like typical inboxes (with a username and password). Users will be able to access the shared mailbox when they are logged in to their Gmail account.

Can a shared mailbox send emails?

Yes, if you are a part of a shared mailbox, you can always compose emails from the shared mailbox’ email address

What are the benefits of a shared mailbox?

A shared mailbox can help you with this, in the following ways:

  • Achieve complete visibility

    Managers can view all email queries in one single place. This helps them make quicker decisions on which employees should work on what queries while also establishing accountability within the team.

  • Never miss an email

    Most shared mailboxes have a separate section where all unassigned email queries first arrive. Here, you can see the emails that nobody is working on and proceed to assign them to yourself or to someone in your team.

  • Distribute workload with ease

    Your agents can start working on the emails as soon as you assign it to them. This way you establish end-to-end ownership of every email while helping your team gain complete clarity over which emails they are working on.

  • Avoid duplication of responses

    Your team members get real-time collision alerts when they start working on a query that one of their colleagues is already working on. Such alerts ensure no two employees work on the same query.

  • Collaborate with context

    The default way to collaborate via email is through Ccs and forwards. But with a shared mailbox, team members can write contextual notes to their colleagues - to ask for help and discuss specific email queries. This reduces the number of internal emails your team has to send and makes collaboration smoother.

  • Track every metric

    Individual mailboxes don’t provide insights into the performance of team members. With a shared mailbox, you can look up various types of reports, and track critical metrics such as first response time, average resolution time, and more.

How are shared mailboxes different from the Microsoft 365 shared mailbox?

  • If you’ve got an Office 365 user license. you can use a shared mailbox for free.

  • With relevant access permissions, a shared mailbox allows multiple users to manage the same email account from their respective email IDs.

  • Accessing a Microsoft 365 shared mailbox is exclusive to Outlook users, which means people that operate on Gmail, Yahoo or any other email domain cannot access the shared mailbox.

  • It is recommended that the number of users accessing the shared mailbox be kept under 25.

  • In case an employee leaves your organization, you can convert their Microsoft user mailbox into a shared mailbox to gain access to their conversations and pick up from where they left off.

  • You can access your shared mailbox via Outlook web and on iOS and Android Outlook apps.

Learn more about Microsoft 365 shared mailbox

Google Workspace

  • If you have a Google Workspace account, you can use Google Groups to create a Collaborative account. The moment an email arrives, everyone who is a part of the Collaborative Inbox gets notified.

  • Members have two options: They can either ‘take’ the email or ‘assign’ it to another member in the same group. The good thing is that everybody knows who is working on what.

  • You can use Collaborative inboxes to distribute and track the responsibility of topics or emails among group members.

  • It allows members to set the status levels of conversations such as complete, duplicate, or no action needed.

  • You can add labels to conversations to help agents to filter and search for conversations instantly.

Learn more about Google Collaborative Inbox