How Accounting Firms Communicate Better With a Shared Email Address — On-Demand Webinar

Does your accounting firm use a shared email address to communicate with clients? Learn to streamline your email in this on-demand webinar.

Does your accounting firm or bookkeeping practice use a shared email address like info@ or accounting@ to communicate with clients? Whether you do or not, many teams struggle to manage a never-ending flow of client email.

Using a shared email address is a great way to streamline client communication, especially when your team uses email management software to stay organized and productive. Outpost’s Marketing Manager, Jonathan Michael, and Customer Service Guide, Cassie Haehlen, got together to discuss the benefits of using a shared email address.

Plus, they gave a hands-on demonstration of how Outpost improves client communication, team collaboration, and dramatically reduces how much time you spend managing email each week.

Your Whole Firm, Working Together in Outpost

Most teams struggle to manage their accounting@ inboxes and never-ending client email. Missed messages, duplicate replies, and inbox confusion are common because traditional email wasn’t designed for teams. That’s why we built Outpost: to make managing client email truly collaborative.

With Outpost, your team can work together in the same inbox, without sharing passwords or stepping on each other’s toes. Outpost is simple because shared email should be.

Take the pain out of managing client email so your whole team can see everything in one place, respond quickly, focus on billable work, and provide excellent service.

If you’re interested, you can start a free trial of Outpost today, or schedule a custom tour to learn how Outpost will help you save time and get more done.

Read the webinar transcript:

Jonathan: (00:03)

Well hello everyone!

Thank you for joining us today. This is Jonathan and Cassie with you from Team Outpost. We’re happy to talk to you in this Outpost workshop, a hands-on 30-minute workshop with you to discuss shared email addresses. How that can help you improve your communication with clients and your team work together and team collaboration. So let’s introduce ourselves. My name is Jonathan. This is Cassie. 

We work at Palo Alto Software and our main focus is on Outpost, our email management tool for accounting firms. Some quick logistics for you today: we’ll be recording today’s workshop. So you don’t have to worry about taking furious notes or anything like that. We’ll send this video recording to you afterward so you can do a deeper dive. The GotoWebinar panel should be open for you, and there should be a questions panel for you.

Jonathan: (01:03)

Go ahead and use that as a chance to let us know that you can hear us fine, you can see us fine, and let us know where you’re signing in from. And we’ll be using that questions panel throughout the day. So if you have any specific questions as we go, that’s where you’re allowed to go to let us know how we can answer specific questions for you about Outpost. 

So we’re going to talk about shared email addresses for you and the benefits of them, but before we dive into that, we should probably answer what is a shared email address, right? Like before we can start with the benefits, let’s really talk about what it is. So a shared email address is an email address that you access with the rest of your team. That could be based on team functions like bookkeeping or billing, or it could be an address that you use generally for maybe a contact form on the website or something like that.

Jonathan: (02:03)

So there’s a bunch of different ways that you could use these, but these are some of the most common, you know, info@ tax@, accounting@. So these are general email addresses that you use to communicate with clients that then you and your team access together. So that’s what a shared email address is. 

And I’m curious if you are here today and you want to answer the questions panel, I see a number of you are with us, just go ahead and let us know if this is something that you already use and you just want to learn how to use better, or if your shared address is something that you need convincing of. Why should I be using this? What really can this do it for me? I’d like to know how to do it better. I’m assuming it’s the latter.

Jonathan: (02:49)

I’m assuming that’s why you’re here. So we’re going to talk about all of these things. So why should you use a shared email address? In order to answer this question I really want to take you through a story. So I’d like you to meet this person. Her name is Julie. Julie is the owner of her own bookkeeping practice, and she has been the owner of that for about three years. And she’s had a manageable and growing list of clients. 

And she’s been using her email address for personal julie@airsolutions.com. And that’s worked really well for them so far because it’s just been heard. She gets a client email and she’s able to complete that work easily, and she’s able to deliver that service in an excellent way. And that’s worked really well. But as Julie has, has continued to grow, those clients have expanded and that work has expanded.

Jonathan: (03:48)

So she needs to bring on a partner. She’s hired a part-time employee, and this is where the personal email address starts to become a problem for the team. Clients and prospects are emailing Julie more and more of them are emailing her all the time. They’re starting to email the team members individually as well, and she has all of these emails coming in from different touchpoints and it’s all starting to pile up. 

And then Julie finds herself, instead of that simple workflow of, she gets a client email, she works on it, she’s done and she moves on, she’s actually finding herself spending a lot more time trying to coordinate with the team, passing information back and forth. She realizes that she’s becoming a bottleneck. If those clients are still applying to her and sending her messages, instead of sending it to her team member, who’s actually doing some of the work.

Jonathan: (04:43)

So she’s spending a lot more time internally coordinating for the team. And there’s a ton of confusion and inefficiencies there. Client emails are slipping through the cracks and going unanswered. Maybe her and her team are sending them to different replies. Or what happens when Jack or Amber go on vacation or out sick? That communication starts to slow down and fall through the cracks. 

And now her clients are starting to notice that their responsiveness isn’t as good. You know, they’re not being taken care of as well as they’re used to Julie. And she’s really starting to notice this problem, both in not getting work done as well as she wants to with her team, but then also our clients starting to notice the lack of responsiveness. So this is a real problem for her. And the problem is mainly exacerbated because she’s still using julie@, jack@, amber@.

Jonathan: (05:41)

Those are all singular touchpoints that then the rest of the team has to coordinate and share together. So this is why a shared email address really comes into play, especially as you scale and grow. Instead, Julie is now using info@ and accounting@. She has them clearly defined for the purpose. Info is the address that is used on her website and all of her marketing. So that prospect of clients can just email questions to info@, and they’ll be able to take care of them. 

And she’s worked out a flow of communication with their clients with an address of accounting@. So now she’s communicating with clients through her accounting@ email address, and what does allow Julie and the team to do? Her team can all access those shared email addresses together. They can coordinate work much more easily because they’re all seeing the same communication as it comes in.

Jonathan: (06:42)

Nothing is siloed off, and their teamwork is able to thrive because they have some efficient processes in place. They’ve got an easy way to acquire new clients and onboard them through your communication and their existing clients feel taken care of. So they’ve been able to remove some of those email headaches because things are not siloed off or ordered off. So let’s talk about the benefits of a shared email address. 

Well, I think you’ve ultimately seen them, but let’s recap them here for you, Julie, as the owner is no longer a bottleneck, she’s not the single point of contact for clients and prospects, and she’s not having to coordinate and triage and hand things off. She can easily step away from some of the day-to-day operations of the work as the business expands because she’s not being the one who gets to pass things around and make sure the work is getting done.

Jonathan: (07:38)

She’s brought the team into us that she can better delegate and the team can then take on more work. They’re able to do their jobs better and step up so that Julie doesn’t have to do all of that. There’s less internal back and forth. There are fewer forwards and CC of, “Hey, did you get this? Can you take care of this?” That back and forth is gone. And then she has clear communication with clients. 

They’re consistently getting responses from the same email address, no matter who and what team members responded to them, and let’s face it. It also looks more professional on your website to have info@, accounting@. Your clients know that they’re being taken care of by more than just a team of one. Yes, you’re personal, because you’re signing those emails with your name or something like that, to keep them warm and personal, but it gives them the understanding of this is a business that involves multiple people and multiple people are taking care of them that gives them that reassurance.

Jonathan: (08:37)

And the last benefit here is that there are no more silos. Email messages aren’t sitting in somebody’s personal inbox, left there if they go on vacation or out sick, or if they themselves just don’t handle their email well or forget something. There are no more silos. It’s all shared together and you’re able to coordinate and collaborate better. So I hope that makes sense. Go ahead and leave, you know, I see some questions in here about how might you set these up? What are the additional benefits or what about this? And I think you can also consider one thing we didn’t talk about is personal names on a shared email address. 

So this is something that our CEO does. She’s got sabrina@, her email address and that’s the email after she manages on her own for her own work, but because she’s the CEO and she wants to be approachable to the rest of our customers and all of that, we also have an address that’s sabrina.parsons@. So it’s still a personal name, but in actuality, our entire marketing team or sales team, we all have access to that email address as a shared address so that we can all help engage with customers, even though the customer understands that they’re dealing with our CEO and our team. So just because you’re using it as a shared email address, doesn’t mean you have to make it an impersonal email.

Jonathan: (10:13)

So those are the benefits of why you would want to use a shared email address. Let’s take just a moment here to say once you’ve got a shared email address set up, how are you coordinating that work? How are you managing that together as a team? And yes, you can manage that in something like Gmail or Office 365. It is possible to share email passwords with each other or automatically forward messages from those addresses to each person. 

But it really wasn’t designed for teams. Gmail and Office 365 and Outlook. Those weren’t designed with teams in mind, they were designed for personal use. And so you still have a lot of breakdown communication if you’re trying to use those tools. So that’s why we want to show you, hands-on what Outpost looks like and how you can use that as a team to coordinate work between those addresses.

Jonathan: (11:07)

So this is Outpost. If it looks like Gmail or Outlook, that’s on purpose, we designed it specifically for you to make it easy to use, easy to understand. It’s an email tool that works just like email. And what you can do is connect those shared addresses, those shared mailboxes, all in one place. Each one of these menu items is its own mailbox that’s been connected in Outpost. 

And you can do this with your shared email addresses. If you wanted to, you could do this with your personal email addresses as well. But you can bring all of your email addresses and mailboxes into Outpost and connect them directly. The great thing is that this works with your Gmail or your Office 365 account. It doesn’t mean you have to stop using them or get rid of them. You can actually directly sync those mailboxes with Outpost.

Jonathan: (12:06)

So I’m gonna actually show you the walk-in here, where you would do that. So here’s our general mailbox and it’s a Gmail account. So we’ve been able to just sign in the one-time to directly connect it. And now it’s connected. My whole team can see it and access it, and we don’t have to share passwords around anymore. And now we’re able to do the work together in the same inbox. 

I can connect to any other mailbox so you can actually connect an unlimited number of mailboxes. So once you start using shared email addresses, maybe you think of additional shared email addresses that you want to create and use. Maybe your client wants you to manage an email for them, or maybe you want to connect with additional mailboxes. For other purposes, you can connect an unlimited number of mailboxes. It doesn’t matter what service provided it from. You could have a Gmail account and Office 365 account. All of them can be connected here.

Cassie: (13:03)

Jonathan, one question that I’m seeing come up quite a few times here is do you have to connect your personal email and general emails? Or how does that work?

Jonathan: (13:17)

Yeah, that’s a great question. Thanks for sharing that. No, the short answer is you choose what you want to connect in Outpost and how you want that to work for your team. So again, it’s pretty versatile for how you want to work. Some of our customers do actually prefer to connect all of their mailboxes. So, you know, Cassie, if you and I are on the same team you might be the owner. You might say I’m going to connect my personal mailbox so that I can just live in Outpost. And you actually can choose who gets to see what mailboxes. 

So for the general one that everybody can see I’ve chosen, which users can access that mailbox. But then if I wanted to have a personal one connected, I could connect that mailbox and then only choose that person to access it. And none of the rest of the team can see it. It makes it easy to kind of stay in one place and then you can easily move messages from your personal mailbox, into the general mailbox, in just one or two clicks. And that then lets you keep sharing email as a team without giving them access to your personal mailbox and being able to kind of coordinate together. So you can still use those shared addresses.

Jonathan: (14:38)

It’s really easy to add your users as well. So you can add your whole team. We talked about permissions that you can give them so you can set permissions for whether they’re an administrator in Outpost or a user. And again, from the user perspective, you can also choose mailboxes here as well. So these are the mailboxes that Antonio has access to. 

Now I don’t really need him to be focused on these two clients, so I’ve not given him access to those mailboxes and it allows him to do the work he needs to do to stay focused. So that’s kind of the backend of getting your whole team and all of your email connected in one place. But let’s talk about how Outpost helps you streamline that work even more and helps you collaborate even better so that you’re still providing great service for your clients.

Jonathan: (15:27)

The first thing that I want to show you is assignments. So I see that now this message hasn’t been taken care of yet. I could either choose to assign that to myself, letting the rest of my team know that I’m taking care of that response, or I can choose to assign it to — I’m gonna assign it to Linda because I can see that she’s online right now. So Linda’s online. I assigned that message to her to give her access to that. So I’ll do that right now and give her that access to that mailbox. Great. I think she’s all set.

Jonathan: (16:13)

So I’ll assign that message and she’s ready to go. So now she’s gotten a notification that she’s been assigned to a message, and she can take that message on. But let’s say I want to give her some additional information. I just gave her access to this new mailbox that she hasn’t seen before. So I’m going to give her some additional context. 

So I’m going to @ mention Linda and say “Simon’s been a really great client. Maybe reach out to him.” And so now I will assign that message to Linda. I’ve given her some additional context. I didn’t have to forward that email. I didn’t have to CC Linda on it and talk to her through a long email chain. I didn’t have to go into Slack or any other instant messaging platform to talk with Linda. I didn’t have to jump on a video chat and say, “Hey Linda, can you take care of this for me?”

Jonathan: (17:12)

No. I was able to have that conversation directly in this inbox so that Linda can take this on and move on and get the work done. So it’s really easy to hand things off to each other, to coordinate that work together, and provide additional information. The other thing and I think, Cassie, you might be signed in as Linda. 

So one of the things I wanted to show is collision alerts. So you go ahead and choose any one of those emails and start editing the response and I’ll show that part off. Excellent. Awesome. So right here, now Linda got the notification she’s working on refining to sign it. And what that does is as Linda is responding to this message, it gives me a notification that she’s editing a draft and she’s actively writing a response. And so it locks me out of writing a response at the same time.

Jonathan: (18:06)

I don’t know how many times that’s happened to us or to something to you, but the idea of two people replying to the same message at the same time creates a burden for us because we’re stepping on each other’s toes. Maybe one of us writes an incorrect answer, or one of us just wasted a bunch of time writing something that’s not going to send, but this allows you to avoid that collision. 

You’re not stepping on each other’s toes because when someone is actively writing a response, you are locked out of that conversation. So Linda’s editing that track. That’s great. I’m going to come in here and I’m going to start to reply to a message. As I’m on this draft nobody else can access this one. But one of the neat things that I can do here is I can insert a template if this is a frequently asked question.

Jonathan: (18:59)

So we’ve got saved template responses that you’ve pre-written that you can make available to the rest of your team so they can respond in just a few seconds. So I’m inserting this template, but I really would like some help finishing it up. So I’m going to save and close this draft. And now I’ve got an active draft that the rest of my team can jump in and help finish. So it’s like a Google doc for teams but in your email. You’re sharing this draft together. You’re working together to write the best response, and then you’re able to craft the best message for your client and anyone on your team can then send this off and it’s ready to go.

Cassie: (19:41)

One other item I definitely want to highlight here about notes and collaborating on drafts is it really eliminates the need to forward emails anymore to your colleagues. You don’t need to CC them on every email anymore. And especially for the main pain points, I hear, especially from my accountants is, you know, relying on their team members to reply all to make sure they’re looped in. 

With Outpost it’s really simple. You have the external communication with the client and that’s going to be in that middle frame there where the messages are. And then the notes are where that internal communication lives. There were some questions about, you know, how do you know who did what, where can I tell that I messaged with responded to? So can you go into that next, Jonathan? Yeah, highlight those items.

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Jonathan: (20:37)

Yeah. So the entire conversation thread is going to be all in this plane. So responses back and forth between you and the client are all kept in the same conversation thread no matter which of your team members in responding to the conversation. If Linda sends her response, she will send that. And then I could easily jump into this same conversation and say my own response to another follow-up email later. So we’re seeing that entire conversation all right here. 

And it’s easy to see who responded when, but then let’s say I also want to kind of get a sense of what else has happened with this message. How else has this been taken care of? Next to the notes panel I also have a history panel, so I can see all of the work that’s been done on this conversation by our entire team.

Jonathan: (21:27)

I can see why we’ve assigned it, what it’s been tagged as who responded, who saved the draft, and all of that history saved here, which again, gives me the ability to use one conversation, but to see the full context of this client interaction. I see the conversations themselves and email messages. I see conceptual information that my team and I have been sharing with each other right next to the conversation. And I can see that overall history for what’s been done. So it gives me a lot, especially as the owner gives me a lot of oversight and transparency to see how are we doing as a team and maybe how we could improve. 

Maybe there are opportunities to write some different template responses because we’re starting to see more and more of the same questions coming up and we’d like to have one do really well in response to them. Or I could use this as a training opportunity and say, “Hey, you know, Linda, I saw you responded in this way. You know, you forgot to mention this detail. Just want to give you that insight. So you can do that next time.” These are good opportunities for the team to be working together and collaborating.

Cassie: (22:40)

Awesome. I see another question come up that we should definitely cover with everyone on here today. What happens if emails are still being sent to personal emails, but they should be delegated to another person?

Jonathan: (22:58)

Yeah. So if I’ve chosen to connect to my personal mailbox, but I’m the only one who accesses it in Outpost, I might use this as an example. Let’s say I get this email. And instead of dealing with it in my personal mailbox, it’s really a client that the rest of the team should be taken care of. I can easily move that conversation to a different mailbox. I’ll put it into my shared mailbox. It takes it out of my personal and drops it into the general mailbox where now I can share with my team and assign it to the right people. I can’t, I didn’t have to forward anything. I didn’t have to CC anything. I just seamlessly moved it from my mailbox to the shared mailbox so that everybody can see and we can keep moving together.

Cassie: (23:52)

Perfect. Let us know everyone if you know, these are answering your questions or if there is any part to those, we’re happy to cover them.

Jonathan: (24:01)

That’s right. And so the other thing to think about too is how are we doing as a team to talk about that context, that history? Another aspect that is useful to see on a semi-frequent basis is how fast are we responding? Are we taking care of our clients in a timely manner? And analytics is where you can see that information. I can see our team’s average response time to emails and I can drill-down and see specific metrics for our users, our dates, and by time. And so I can see, you know, how Cassie’s doing at responding. She had one message that took 12 days to respond to, obviously with a demo account. You know, we’re sending very few emails from this account. But this gives me insights to see how’s my team doing?

Jonathan: (24:54)

Are we responding quickly? Or do we need to think about shifting the load around giving more responsibility to some other team members that were fairly balancing that load and taking care of everything as a team and some training opportunities? Maybe there’s somebody on your team who knows uptime and is basically your repository for all client information and history and stuff like that. 

And so they ended up getting a lot of the assigned messages because they know all the things, well, maybe that gives us an opportunity to say, “Hey, why don’t you take some extra time to write some more templates out, to share some information, maybe do a training session with your team”. Something that lets you democratize that information so that the rest of your team can take care of clients in a timely manner, as well as what are some questions that some folks are asking about analytics and any other part of Outpost while we have the time.

Cassie: (25:55)

One question that just came in about the analytics here is, does it track for all team members or just yourself? And I think that’s mainly because on this demo account, there’s not as much to show, but go ahead and cover.

Jonathan: (26:14)

Yeah. So this data is right now, you have some toggles on the left-hand side that shows you can look at all mailboxes together, which would show you all team members and all of their responses, all the messages that they’ve responded to are tracked in real-time in the analytics dashboard, you could also choose to drill down to a specific mailbox and see what that looks like. You can customize your date range. So you could look at a week at a time or a month at a time, and maybe you want to see how you’re doing the thing, your business out, because you understand that over the weekends and responding. 

So you don’t really want to see that affect the response times. And so you can adjust your business hours and you can exclude the weekends and then you get a better insight into how is my team doing basically when we’re actively online and responding to messages. So a lot of customization here to help you see the information and you definitely get to see all your team members and how everybody’s doing all of them plus.

Cassie: (27:17)

I am seeing some more questions here about specific use cases, setups, email providers. Does it work with this? Does it work with that? How to transition from a personal email set up to a group set up and having a shared spot. And I do want to highlight that all of those are great questions I can help with one-on-one for each of you. One thing that’s great about Outpost is the goal is to keep it as simple as possible. So, you know, you don’t need to hire an IT team to help you set it up, but I’m here. We have a customer success team here that are, you know, we’re, our job is to help answer specific questions and really personalize these accounts with you and for you and, you know, show you all the benefits of how Outpost can help you.

Cassie: (28:15)

So, you know, we’ll be in touch and I definitely want to jump on calls with all of you to go over your use case specifically and how that could look like an Outpost. And then, of course, I’ve talked to many accountants, you know, just like you guys who either have these general emails that they’re trying to figure out how to manage more efficiently, but also, you know, a lot of teams that are transitioning from that personal emails to that general box. And those are all things that I can help explain and, you know, kind of coach through how that, how that can work for you all. So definitely keep an eye out for emails from me, later on, we’ll definitely get some time set up together so we can go over these really specific questions. Okay.

Jonathan: (29:01)

Yeah, that’s right. And so, you know, if you are using Gmail or Office 365 you might also be thinking do I need some kind of CRM tool or do I need a practice management software to take care of my clients and share these emails with each other better? And so we did a little bit of research to kind of understand how that all compares. 

And so I just want to show this for just a minute here of the level of complexity that you’re asking for with a CRM tool or a practice management tool is much, much higher. It’s going to take longer to understand how you use those things. You might have features and bells and whistles that you’re not actively using and their price. It ends up being tired. You spend a lot more money for access to those tools.

Jonathan: (29:47)

And those features, Outpost has a low price. It’s affordable. It gives you access to all of the features that you’re actually using, and it’s not complex. It takes you minutes to learn how to act, how to use it because it looks and feels exactly like that. So the offer that we have for you today because you’re attending this workshop is you can start for free with Outpost today. 

We’ll give you a free trial. We’ll give you 50% off of your first three months of Outpost and assay is right here, ready, and available that as soon as you sign up for that free trial, she will be there ready to answer any specific questions about how to implement, how do I handle this? Do I need 10 shared email addresses? Or can I handle this one? She’s done this with a ton of accounting firms. So she knows how to implement this in the best way possible for you to answer.

So with that, I think we are ready to wrap up. I want to thank you all for attending tons of great questions. We love seeing the responses here. So definitely check out Outpost, and let us know how we can help you. Thank you so much for attending today. Thank you all. Have a great day. Thanks.

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This article was written by a member of the Outpost Community.

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