5 Team Email Problems That Hurt Productivity (And How to Fix Them)

business team sorting through emails on computers

It’s an unfortunate truth: Most systems that we have in place to make our lives easier and more productive can also have the opposite effect.

This is never more true than with email. At its best, email can help teams work better collaboratively, make everyone more productive, and function as an invaluable customer service tool

But at its worst, email can be a drain on everyone’s time and productivity, cause confusion both within teams and when communicating with customers, and make it hard to provide stand-out customer service. 

Fortunately, many of the problems businesses encounter when it comes to better managing their team email systems are near-universal. The upside of having common problems? 

There are solutions.

Here are five of the most common team email problems businesses face; see which ones ring true, and then keep reading for our solutions. 

5 common team email problems

1. Important emails slip through the cracks

Does your shared inbox feel like a black hole? Urgent emails seem to get lost, overlooked or even deleted by accident. Meanwhile, customers get angry or hot leads turn cold as your team tries to figure out what went wrong. 

This is a common problem when you manage multiple inboxes or have several team members responsible for answering incoming emails. It’s easy to assume someone else is taking care of something, or for an important message to get lost in the shuffle. Unfortunately, a lack of communication can degrade your customers’ trust in your business.

2. Duplicated responses make you look bad

It’s an honest mistake: a team member replies to an email inquiry, not realizing that someone else had already responded to that message. Worse yet, the response they gave contradicts what the first team member said. 

Not only is this confusing to your customers, but it can also make your business appear unprofessional. It’s also a waste of time—one of the team members could have been doing something else, instead of responding to an email that had already been taken care of. 

3. Inboxes cluttered with FWDs and CCs

It’s not uncommon to need to discuss an email before you send out a reply. So, maybe employees regularly CC the entire team to keep everyone in the loop, or they forward emails around to get input on a response or to find the right person to deliver the reply. 

Either way, you end up with endless emails about emails. This quickly clutters up inboxes, and it’s a major waste of time.

4. Slow response times and email backlogs

You make every effort to respond to your customers quickly—but nailing down fast response times can be challenging for any business. As a result, you might have an inbox that’s overflowing with unread messages, and customers aren’t getting the fast service they deserve. 

It’s a problem you’re eager to fix—but, without knowing how much time your team is spending on email, or when your email volume is the highest, it can be almost impossible to improve efficiency. 

5. Hours wasted on inbox busywork

At first, they might seem like little jobs. You’re responding to a customer’s question (that you already have an FAQ page written for), filing emails into folders, and forwarding emails on to the right recipients.

Individually, it’s quick work—none of these tasks take very long on their own. But if your team is constantly answering frequently asked questions or forwarding emails to other people, these tiny tasks add up to hours of lost productivity. That’s time that could have been spent on more meaningful work. 

5 way to improve email productivity and customer service

1. Assign emails to specific people on your team

If emails are falling through the cracks in your team inbox, try assigning incoming emails to a specific person. 

When an email arrives, rather than letting it sit in your inbox until someone gets around to it (and risk it going unanswered), simply assign it to a member of your team. They’ll get a notification that they’ve been assigned an email, so they know to follow up. Now, everyone knows who is responsible for what, and your customers always get a response. 

2. Use an app with collision alerts

Multiple people replying to the same email is a problem for a few reasons. For one, your customers get duplicate (and maybe conflicting) information. For another, your team is spending twice as much time on something, since two people are doing a task that just one person should be able to take care of. 

A feature like Outpost’s Collision Alerts can help fix this problem easily. You can see who is doing what in real-time, meaning that you’ll be able to instantly see if a team member is working on an email. That way, you won’t duplicate work, and customers won’t get duplicate responses. 

3. Use internal notes rather than forwards or CCs

Sometimes, an email will need to be discussed before it gets a follow-up. Maybe you need to ask someone on your team before giving a discount, or you want to give your coworker a heads up on the status of a certain conversation before you hand it off to them. 

Typically, this means the dreaded sea of forwards, CCs, and endless back and forth. This clutters up your inbox and can be a huge time suck—and also puts you at risk for accidentally CCing your customer instead of your colleague and sharing information with them that should have stayed internal. 

With a feature like Internal Notes, you can @mention anyone on your team with access to the inbox, and leave them a note attached to a particular email. You can touch base, ask questions, and get clear on a situation before sending a response, without having to send endless emails back and forth. 

4. Pay attention to your email response analytics

How long, on average, does it take your team to respond to emails? It’s ideal to get your email response times down to less than an hour if possible—but unless you have visibility into how long it currently takes your team, how can you see where you need to improve? Further, do you know when your busiest times are or when your email volume is the highest? 

It’s hard to know how to improve (and if you’ve seen improvement at all) when you don’t have a measurable baseline. That’s why, if you want to improve your response times and overall efficiency, having visibility into what’s actually happening in your inboxes is key. A collaborative inbox that offers analytic data is invaluable, as it gives you that insight, so you’ll be able to decide where to devote your efforts, and determine if you’ve seen improvement. 

5. Use routing rules to save everyone time

Manually sorting through emails, every single day, is one of the biggest areas where email can eat away at your time.  

Routing Rules make it possible to automatically assign, archive, or discard emails that come into your inbox. You can even set up templated responses to frequently asked questions. If you find yourself logging hours on email busywork, Outpost’s Routing Rules feature can help you cut back significantly.

Having an organized, efficient team email system is an ongoing effort—and a good place to start is assessing the biggest email management problems your team faces and identifying easy to implement solutions. Shared inboxes can greatly increase your team’s overall productivity and allow you to offer a better customer experience, as long as you have the right tools and systems in place for your business.

Posted in: Email

Briana Morgaine

Briana Morgaine

Briana is a content and digital marketing specialist, editor, and writer. She enjoys discussing business, marketing, and social media, and is a big fan of the Oxford comma. Bri is a resident of Portland, Oregon, and she can be found, infrequently, on Twitter.

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