Avoid the Email CC: How Internal Notes Can Improve Your Email Collaboration

email cc notes collaboration

When I think about notes, I think about communication that not everyone gets to see. Think passing notes in class, or adding a note in the margins of a classmate’s term paper.

Ultimately, sharing notes is a way to communicate behind the scenes. It’s the back and forth collaboration that goes into an idea before that idea is opened up to the public.

Did you ever have a teacher intercept one of your no-so-private notes? They probably read it, they might have even read it out loud—totally embarrassing. The same sort of thing can happen pretty easily when you get a message from a customer that requires a little bit of team work to before you respond.

You forward it to a colleague. They type back something meant only to be read by you and them—and then you realize that your customer was accidentally CCed on the message. Now you need to do damage control.


CCing and forwarding emails is private when it works perfectly, but it’s pretty easy to mess up—those mistakes can be costly in terms of client loyalty and even your reputation.

But when it comes to email—which can be so useful for collaboration overall—sharing those private messages, the things your team needs to discuss to you can offer great email service, is difficult.

That’s why when we built Outpost, we made sure we had a private, internal notes function right from the start. What if you never had to forward another email for the rest of your career?

Outpost was designed to be a simple, lightweight email tool. We only wanted to include the features we considered absolutely essential. That meant no unnecessary bells and whistles, and no complicated features that you’ll never really use.

We didn’t think we could live without the private notes function. This feature allows team members to have conversations about a particular email behind the scenes before anyone responds.

Outpost’s notes function allows you to keep track of important details about a conversation, without forwarding emails or CCing a teammate. 

3 benefits of collaborating via email with internal notes

Email isn’t going anywhere, and it’s still an important part of customer service and client satisfaction.

But, with your basic email suite, it’s not easy to talk about an email via email with other members of your team. Sometimes you need more context so you can provide the best response.

Here’s how using internal notes can help you out behind the scenes.

1. You can organize your internal conversations

If your business is on the smaller side, you and your team probably wear multiple hats. This might mean that when customer enquiries come through, you’ll end up collaborating on the response.

This is a great strategy for growing teams. But, it can be confusing to have an email conversation around how to answer a prospective customer. If you start a new email thread to your teammate to discuss an email that a customer sent you, you’re likely to lose track of who said what. From there, it can all get disorganized quickly.

At some point, if you’re lucky, you’ll remember to say to your colleague—hey, did you respond to that email I forwarded to you? Maybe they’ll still remember what you’re talking about.

For example, let’s say you run a business where you deliver work to clients. A client emails you and asks about making a change to one of the deliverables. It’s not really your area of expertise, so before you answer them, you need to reach out to your business partner.

What’s the best way to do this? Do you wait until you can have an offline conversation, and risk forgetting important aspects? Do you send your business partner a separate email about the issue, and try to hold two conversations simultaneously?

With these methods, the risk of confusion, missing a key piece of information, or taking too long to follow up with your client is high.

With internal notes, you can discuss a customer email behind the scenes with your teammates, and determine how to move forward. In Outpost, there’s a feature that works in tandem with notes that allows you to assign an email to someone else, so they know it’s in their court to at the very least respond to your private note. Nothing slips through the cracks. You can also see if your colleague is actively working on a draft so you can collaborate together or just avoid sending duplicate responses.

2. It eliminates confusion around endless CCs and forwards

Speaking of disorganization, let’s look closer at the common “bandage for a bullet wound” solution to internal email communication: email CCs and forwarded emails.

Let’s say you don’t know the answer to a specific client question. So, you reply and CC your colleague. Or, you’re not sure how to respond to an email, so you forward it to someone on your team and ask for their thoughts.

Neither of these are very good ways to get information.

First of all, endless email CCs and forwarded email chains are confusing and clunky. Your client gets a runaround, and there might be multiple responses before they actually get an answer to their question (if they get one!).

Secondly, they’re a recipe for disaster: You might end up accidentally including your customer in the behind-the-scenes information. I’ll go into that more in #3, but suffice it to say, email CCs and forwards are at best cumbersome, and at worst can put you in an embarrassing situation.

3. There’s less likelihood that you’ll send the wrong information to a customer

Imagine this scenario:

Let’s say you run a rental property business, and a potential customer emails you to see if a certain property is available over Labor Day weekend.

You remember the last time this customer came to visit. To tell the truth, they were an absolute nightmare to deal with and left the place a wreck.

So, you forward an email to your teammate. You want to get their input on whether or not you should rent to this difficult customer again—or politely tell them no.

But wait—did you forward the email, or did you reply to it?

An accidental reply (or CC) to the customer, instead of a forwarded email to a teammate, puts you in an incredibly sticky situation. Now your potential customer is furious, and you’ve made your business look very unprofessional.

If you use an email tool with a notes function, you would easily be able to avoid this kind of mistake. In Outpost, for example, you can leave notes off to the side of an email and rope other teammates into a conversation. The business owner in the example above would have been able to touch base with her team and decide whether or not they wanted to let the problematic customer come stay again.

With the notes function, you can tag a member of your team to involve them in the conversation, without risking the embarrassment of accidentally including a customer in your behind the scenes communication.

Added tools make email collaboration work better

This is what it comes down to: Email is a good (and necessary) part of communicating with customers. But, it needs some help to be a truly collaborative tool.

We think that you don’t have to settle for tools that aren’t working as well as they should—and that includes email. Adding supplemental tools can help make email work better for you, and for your small business. Maybe it’s a Gmail extension, or maybe it is a tool like Outpost.

Whatever the case, take some time to think about how your team could be collaborating more effectively via email, and how to make email work better 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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