Shared Mailbox: Detailed Guide and FAQs

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What is a shared mailbox?

A shared mailbox is an inbox which can be accessed and managed by a group of employees. Some typical examples include inboxes such as [email protected] or support@company which are usually managed by more than one person.

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

Teams today use shared mailboxes because:

  • Everyone has access to emails arriving at a common email address.
  • Different members of the team can start replying to emails in real-time.
  • Since there’s no need to forward emails, team members have less clutter in their personal inboxes.
  • There are fewer CCs and BCCs when everyone on the team has access to the same information.

Who can use a Shared Mailbox?

Shared mailboxes are ideal for teams that deal with a high volume of emails – for example, customer support teams. Customers often email businesses with their queries and complaints. These queries arrive at a common support inbox, from where they are assigned to different agents.

Similarly, Finance teams would have shared mailboxes such as payables@ – to streamline communication around cash collection – and @receivables – to handle all invoice-related queries from vendors. Human Resources teams would have hr@ or jobs@, to centralize all queries from employees and candidates.

Hiver Shared Mailbox

How does a shared mailbox work?

Here's how a shared mailbox works in Google Workspace.

  • Access the shared mailbox: Users need to be granted access by the administrator or owner of the mailbox. Once granted, they can access the shared mailbox by logging in to their own Google Workspace account.
  • View emails: When a new email comes into the shared mailbox, all users with access can view this email. Each user will be able to see which emails have been read or replied to by other users who have access to the shared mailbox.
  • Assign emails: If a user wants to assign an email to another team member, they can assign the email to the desired user or add a note in the email.
  • Reply to emails: When a user replies to an email, their response will be visible to all other users with access to the mailbox. This ensures that everyone on the team is up-to-date on the status of each email conversation.
  • Archive emails: When an email in the shared mailbox is no longer needed, it can be archived to keep the mailbox organized. Archiving an email removes it from the inbox view but retains it in the Archive folder for future reference.

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

Shared MailboxDistribution List
A shared mailbox is a full-fledged inbox that multiple people can use.A distribution list (such as Google Groups) is a list of email addresses.
Every email sent to the shared inbox can be viewed by users who have access.When an email is sent to a distribution list, it goes to all the email addresses under that list.
Users have permission to change their ‘send as’ field — they can send emails from the shared mailbox address.When replying, the users can only use their personal address and not the address of the distribution list.
The moment you delete an email, it will be deleted for everyone.When one user deletes an email, the copies of this email in other users’ inboxes do not get deleted.

Recommended Read: Distribution List vs. Shared Mailbox: What Are the Differences?

How do I create a shared mailbox in Gmail?

Google Workspace does not have a native shared mailbox app. The alternative, therefore, is to try Google’s Collaborative Inbox.

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

The next step is to add support staff as group members. They would then receive all customer emails sent to [email protected] and can 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 has an unfamiliar interface. Your team needs training before they can start using it. Even after that, there’s a lot of back and forth 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 inbox. There is hardly anything to learn. And you put an end to the incessant to and fro. Learn more.

Recommended Read: Gmail Shared Mailbox: Inefficiencies, and alternatives

How to use a shared mailbox for customer support?

Google’s Collaborative Inbox is quite limited. You can only assign queries and track statutes of customer queries. However, customer support teams need more features and functionalities to deliver efficient support. And that's where a shared inbox for your support team plays a role.

With a shared inbox platform like Hiver, you can power up your customer support team with more capabilities such as:

  • 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.
  • 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 using 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 those related to 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 can different teams, such as IT, HR, and Finance, use a shared mailbox?

A shared mailbox is a great way for different teams - IT, HR, and Finance, amongst others - to streamline communication and collaborate effectively. Let’s find out how:

IT Support:

A shared mailbox can help IT support teams streamline employee queries on technical issues, software and hardware problems, network connectivity, and more. By using a shared mailbox, IT Service Management teams can easily delegate tickets, collaborate when they need help, and resolve issues faster. Consequently, tech support becomes more efficient, and business disruptions are minimized.

HR Operations:

HR teams use a shared mailbox to centralize all communication with employees and candidates. Employee queries – on policies, benefits, leaves, and more – that arrive in a shared mailbox can be routed to the right team member. It’s also possible to track the status of all queries. A shared mailbox for HR teams also ensures that no candidate application gets missed. Complete visibility into emails that arrive at hr@ or jobs@ ensures that teams can follow up with candidates in a timely fashion and close open positions faster.

Finance Operations:

A shared mailbox helps finance operations collaborate on invoices, expense reports, and due payments in a seamless way. You get to streamline all communication with vendors, customers, and other internal teams. It becomes easier to respond to vendors on time, follow up with other teams, such as legal or sales on expenses, and accelerate conversations with customers on cash collection. The best part of using a shared mailbox in finance operations is that it limits access to sensitive communication only to team members.

Do shared mailboxes have passwords?

A shared mailbox does not have a username or password. Users can access a shared mailbox only if they are given permission (by the admin) to do the same.

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 Google Workspace 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 Google Workspace 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 part of a shared mailbox, you can always compose emails from the shared mailbox’s email address.

What are the benefits of a shared mailbox?

A shared mailbox can help your team 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 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 respond to 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 is Google Workspace shared mailboxes different from Microsoft 365 shared mailbox?

Microsoft 365 shared mailboxes:

  • 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 a common email account from their individual 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 the iOS and Android Outlook app.

Learn more about Microsoft 365 shared mailboxes.

Google Workspace shared mailboxes:

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

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

  • You can use a Google Workspace shared inbox to distribute work 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 team members filter and access information instantly.

Learn more about Google Collaborative Inbox.