No! Not yet more software that is going to complicate your working life? This has become an almost reflexive response for anyone working in an office when the idea of introducing new software of any sort is raised. Particularly if it is software that they don’t consider directly related to their core business function. No matter how excited you may be, and how great you think it will improve the business, when you first mention the idea of a shared inbox to your team, you are likely to find yourself up against a bit of resistance. Why? Because they don’t know what it really is, let alone what it can do for them – yet.
What Is A Shared Inbox?
If you have used something like Gmail’s group collaborative inbox or worked with Microsoft Exchange server, you might already have an idea of a group email system. Shared inbox software works in a similar manner but is far more efficient.
Generally, a shared inbox is the easiest way to manage a group email such as the help@ or sales@ type of emails. You could, of course, just give everyone who needs access to these emails the password and let them set them up on their own devices however they need. But this quickly becomes unwieldly, as another email folder to check, and makes it hard to people to really understand who has responded to which query. With a shared inbox anyone can respond to the email message, and the reply will look like it is coming from the same email.
What’s The Big Deal?
In a small company with fewer than five employees, all who work together at the same time, in the same office space, it is perhaps not so difficult to quickly holler out and see who is responding to the email query that just came in.
However, people are more frequently found working remotely, interacting through different time zones, and whether a company has only two people or two thousand, trying to keep track of who is dealing with which particular client and which individual query of each particular client can quickly get out of hand. https://remoteyear.com/blog/top-8-remote-work-tips
So, this becomes one of the biggest reasons to look at a really efficient email software solution. You need something that will be easy to use, as no one has time to spend hours learning how to use something that is not easily intuitive. If the software doesn’t make everyone’s life easier, then it won’t get used in the way it is supposed to (in much the same way that making people change their password every month just means that every office worker has sticky notes under their keyboard with their latest password – which is not really the security improvement that the IT department was hoping for).
What Should Good Shared Inbox Software Do?
Obviously, it should make everyone’s life easier. Email is about communication (see here), whether it is a client asking for a new product, a salesperson sending out a quote, a designer updating a logo format, a manager soothing a supplier or just a friend saying they were thinking of you by sending a cool cat picture. It is always communicating something, and clear communication is the key to really excellent customer service.
With a shared inbox that is being managed by a team, all queries that come in can be answered by the first available person who is most appropriate. Emails can be assigned to certain individuals, so that if you have a gatekeeper in charge of filtering through the emails as they come in you can ensure that the emails are always being read and are going to be actioned by the right person. This also means that any emails that come in which are critical can be quickly filtered and bumped up the chain, rather than sitting languishing in a neglected, and over full, inbox.
A system of management for a shared inbox will allow for reminders to pop up, and particularly for a team leader, the software will normally allow some form of reporting to see what emails are still sitting in the inbox waiting for further action. A good filtering system will allow for checks and balances to be taken. Ensuring that emails have been replied to with at least an initial response, but also that if there needed to be a follow-up email that this has also happened. If the email was a request for further work a team leader is able to see where the job sit within the companies workflow, and see the history of where the email has been assigned in the process.
Can I Share My Inbox With Anyone?
If you are familiar with Microsoft Outlook in a business environment, you may have encountered shared inboxes early on. This is a slightly different scenario that the group shared inbox, and Outlook now refers to this as delegation. Under this system you could delegate another person who could read your emails, edit your inbox and send emails on your behalf. Generally, the recipient of the email would be receiving something like “your name [send on behalf of inbox owner]”. Although this system is still available, and is an option in most email software, including Gmail, it is not the group shared inbox experience. It is really simply a more secure way of giving someone your email password (click here if this is what you are after). There is no easy way to assign an email to a person and hitting reply-all will send the email back to the client as well as everyone else they have mentioned.
Which brings us to a great aspect of proper shared inbox software – notes. Although you can forward emails, assign them, save them just as normal, with good software you are also able to leave comments or notes for other staff members about the email or the client, maybe you have spoken to the client on the telephone for example. Most importantly, these notes will never be sent accidentally to the customer so there is no potential for embarrassment if the note is written in shorthand or contains sensitive pricing information.
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