Why not just use a generic shared email account?
So many things can go wrong when several people work from the same email address—starting with the security risks of sharing a password. But beyond that, It’s hard to see which emails have been handled. The same customers can get multiple responses—sometimes giving very different information. Sometimes nobody handles an email, so the customer goes unanswered. Or, emails get accidentally deleted before they’re handled.
We’re talking about firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org—the sort of inboxes that it often makes sense for teams to collaborate within. If your company uses more than one shared inbox or shared email address—and most companies do—then these problems multiply. Unless, of course, you have a tool (like Outpost) to help you make sense of your team email strategy.
Read on for five ways to use Outpost to make managing collaborative email easier and more transparent.
Sort your team email by your view
When I talk to newer Outpost users, one of the first tips I share with them is this: Amazing things can happen when you learn to sort your email.
Using traditional email tools, we all get into the habit of looking at a single view: our default Inbox. That definitely has its limits in terms of your team being able to collaborate on email efficiently. But Outpost offers multiple ways to sort your email, so you can look at specific kinds of emails in specific ways—and that makes a huge difference.
If you’re using Outpost to manage more than one shared email address, for example, then there will be times when it’s useful to see them all blended together, and times when it’s best to isolate your view to one inbox.
For example, if you just want to see how many messages are currently unanswered across all your shared email addresses, the blended view shows you that at a glance.
But what if you want to focus only on sales-related emails, or requests for information? No problem—Outpost allows you to switch to any of your mailboxes from a single menu:
Not only can you change your view by mailbox, but you can also sort your email according to which member of your team is handling it:
This sorting view helps you make sure your team’s workload is balanced, and if someone calls in sick, you can easily locate the conversations they were handling and assign them to someone else.
You can do this sorting in any of your shared mailbox’s standard folders, too—such as the Inbox, the Sent mail, the Archived mail, and so on. This gives you the flexibility to hone in on any conversations you need to see, at any time.
There are even more sorting options, which we’ll get to in a moment. Sorting can take a little getting used to when you’ve been locked into the old single-inbox mindset. But it’s well worth cultivating a habit of using these sorting tools. You’ll love the flexibility and focus it gives you.
Assignments and Notes keep your team in sync
The Assignment tool in Outpost is one of my favorites because it’s the key to how your team coordinates. I recommend having one or two administrators in your Outpost account and having these people handle assigning new incoming messages to other team members. Or save time by setting up Routing Rules to have particular types of messages assigned to a specific member of your team.
Assigning is a quick process of choosing from a menu of your users:
Once all incoming emails are assigned, the Inbox view shows everyone who’s handling which conversations, because your team members’ profiles will appear on them:
Remember how I mentioned earlier that you can sort your mail according to user? Well here’s a great trick: You can also sort for conversations that haven’t been assigned yet.
It’s a quick way to catch those conversations that would otherwise fall through the cracks:
So often when your team is working together, there’s information that they need to share with each other about a particular customer’s situation or needs. You may not want your customer to see this back and forth, however. That’s where Outpost’s Notes feature comes in handy.
Notes are always internal in Outpost; they’re never visible to anyone outside your team. Your team can use this safe space to ask questions, share background details, or recommend options.
What’s even better is that all this information stays attached to the email conversation, so anyone who touches it will have access to the complete picture:
When I’m working with a newly-hired team member in Outpost, I like to use a combination of assignments and notes to help them with their first email exchanges.
Here’s an example: I assigned a message to my new colleague, but added a note giving him some suggestions on how to handle the customer’s request:
Shared mailbox templates save time and keep a consistent voice
If your team needs to answer the same questions or provide the same details over and over, that can be time-consuming. With that level of repetition, it can also be challenging to keep a team of people writing emails in a consistent tone, and including complete and consistent information.
Outpost’s Template tool helps you keep your team’s message on track. You can create ready-made responses for questions and requests your team gets frequently. (Check out this article on how the FAQs on your website and your email templates can work together.) Then when anyone is writing a response, a single click adds the template.
Templates are flexible, so you can set them up in any way that suits your business.
Your templates can be complete replies to specific questions, including a greeting and signature. But your templates could also be individual paragraphs, like “building blocks.” Your team can then combine templates in different ways to create customized messages quickly:
Here are some ideas for templates:
- Information about individual products you offer
- Information about the services you offer
- Pricing information
- Location information or directions
- Service hours
- Company policies
- Answers to frequently asked questions
Email digests give you timely updates
Outpost has a customizable Email Digests feature that lets you set up reminder emails about specific incoming messages. You can choose the days and times you receive these digests:
Aside from helping you stay on top of emails assigned to you, digests can help you be a better mailbox administrator. If you, for example, set up an hourly digest of unread email in all mailboxes, you’ll know at a glance any time there’s been a large influx of new requests. You’ll know when your team needs extra support.
Or, if your team offers product or service support to your customers, you can set up a special digest that only happens on weekends (or during the hours your offices are closed). That way, you or any other admin can quickly scan for incoming issues that might need attention before your team is back in the office.
Your team may also have a shared email address (like a “legal@” address, for example) that people don’t write to very often, but when they do, it’s important. If you create an email digest for that mailbox, you won’t have to waste time checking it day to day—you’ll just get a notice any time there’s a new email there.
Use tags and stars to track important issues
Your company’s email history is growing every day, as your team answers questions, solves problems, and archives conversations. These past emails shouldn’t become invisible—they contain valuable information about trends in your business. All you need is a way to identify them, and then easily find them later.
This is where Outpost’s Tags features comes in. Your team can create a set of tags and then use them to flag specific emails:
Like templates, tags are extremely flexible; you might set up tags for any number of things.
Here are just a few examples:
- Locations in your business
- Products you sell or services you offer
- Specific questions or issues your customers report from time to time
- A new item or service your customers keep requesting
- Feedback or complaints
You can apply as many tags to an email conversation as you like. And once you start tagging emails, you can then sort your mail view yet another way—by tags:
One of our Outpost customers, a specialty retailer, uses tags when a shipment from their supplier is late, causing orders to be delayed. By tagging each email conversation related to this delay, the email team can easily locate those customers and follow up with them once the product comes in.
Another customer of ours, an app developer, created a “Suggestions” tag. When customers write to request apps or features, the team tags the emails. Then in a monthly product review meeting, the team can easily access all recent requests to discuss them.
For more immediate issues, where you just need to quickly locate a particular email or group of emails, Outpost has a Starring tool.
One click applies a star to an important message, and then you can sort your mail view to show starred messages:
As you can see, there are a lot of small actions that add up to easy, efficient shared email.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2018. It was updated in 2019.
Posted in Email