How GroceryHero Canada fights COVID-19 with Outpost

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grocery delivery for medical professionals during covid-19

GroceryHero Canada was growing rapidly, and needed to quickly solve the pain of a high-volume inbox and confusing email threads. They turned to Outpost, and immediately found what they were looking for: a shared inbox that helped them focus on email and improve team collaboration.

Before Outpost:

With Outpost:

    • Too many confusing email threads
    • Disorganized inbox
    • No accountability
    • Missing emails
    • Slow internal processes
    • No more confusion
    • Organized inbox and team
    • The ability to see who’s doing what
    • No missed emails
    • Faster internal processes

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Doing their part to help fight COVID-19

In the spring of 2020, with the world reeling from the rapid spread of COVID-19, a few friends in Canada decided to try and help solve a very real, growing problem.

Front-line medical professionals who were busy caring for the sick were often stressed about how to get groceries for themselves outside of work. Going to the grocery store would risk exposing an infectious disease to the public, and grocery delivery services like Instacart were already oversubscribed and overburdened—unable to help.

In March, Hemanth Soni and his friends started delivering groceries for their friends who were doctors and nurses. As word got around, they realized more medical professionals needed help, and that more people might want to get involved. In April, they launched GroceryHero Canada, a free grocery delivery service that would pair medical professionals with a volunteer delivery driver who would bring groceries to their door.

GroceryHero Canada logo“Instantly what happened was just like, it blew up,” Hemanth says. “I think it was a Saturday that we launched and then on a Sunday, all four of Toronto’s major news stations reached out. We started getting publicity and it’s taken off pretty heavily since then.”

In just a few short weeks, GroceryHero Canada has had over 6,000 signups between volunteer drivers and medical professionals.

Email was an immediate hurdle to scaling up

As GroceryHero grew rapidly, trying to share email as a team became an immediate pain point. As Hemanth explains, “I think in general, it was pretty frustrating because traditional email clients are clearly not intended for multiple people. Once we started getting a couple hundred sign ups a day, we realized that our setup wasn’t sustainable.”

“There was no clear way to know what emails I needed to take action on, so on an individual basis that was super painful. In terms of collaboration, sometimes we’d get an email we’d need to talk about or share internally, and by the time we’d try to show someone else, there’s like 50 others at the top of the inbox. All in all it was just incredibly confusing. There was no accountability. No knowing who’s doing what.”

“There was no accountability. No knowing who’s doing what. Emails were getting lost. It was all over the place.”

“I think the first day we launched was probably our biggest day, where we had around 600 sign ups. Instantly we started feeling the pain point, and tried to do some things to stay organized, but very quickly realized that a traditional email inbox wasn’t going to work. Emails were getting lost. It was all over the place.”

Collaborating outside the inbox didn’t help either

The GroceryHero team has found collaborating in Slack really helpful for most things, but it didn’t solve their email problem.

“We had a Slack channel called ‘email management’ or something like that, where we would collaborate on specific threads, or things that needed other people’s attention,” Hemanth says. But, that became cumbersome as well, “We would switch in platforms and try to copy the entire subject line or a specific phrase to make it easy for another person to find the email in the inbox. That got confusing pretty quickly.”

The team needed a better way to quickly collaborate on emails right inside their inbox. “We started looking for another shared email solution pretty early into the game. We didn’t let that pain point sit for too long before trying to fix it.”

The best shared inbox focuses on email

Once Hemanth and the team found Outpost, they immediately noticed how well it solved their email problem, without trying to do a hundred other things.

“I think the main benefit for me was that it didn’t have distractions. The need for us is pretty simple: we need to send and receive emails from a shared address, but manage it individually. To be able to quickly share specific threads with other team members for comments.”

“Every other tool we found included a ton of distraction, like live chat features or trying to replace Slack.”

“Every other tool we found included a ton of distraction, like live chat features or trying to replace Slack. They’re trying to do all of these other things, but all we needed was a shared email inbox and I think Outpost was the solution closest to being exactly that and not more.”
Outpost just works—no training required

For Hemanth, there was a moment where it became clear that Outpost was going to deliver exactly what the team needed.

“I got everything synced up in Outpost, tagged people to all their past emails, and then we had a call that evening so I could quickly walk everyone through Outpost.”

“Day one: there’s no training, there’s no adjustment to the process or how we think or work — Outpost’s just going to work.”

Instead, “everyone was like, ‘I 100% understand how this works.’ There was no onboarding for me or for anyone on the team. And not everyone on the team is a tech-savvy person, so that was a moment for me where I knew this is going to work.”

“Day one: there’s no training, there’s no adjustment to the process, or how we think or work — Outpost’s just going to work.”

An organized inbox, saved time, and better communication for everyone

Now that Hemanth and his team use Outpost, the benefits of team collaboration and organization are starting to pay off for their users as well. “In Outpost, our inbox has consistently been under 20 ongoing threads; whereas before we were probably hovering around a few hundred. The results speak for themselves: compared to our old process, it’s taking way less time for better results.”

The experience has improved for GroceryHero users as well. If a user emails the team to request a change to their service or their account, the process to resolve that issue is much smoother. The team used to handle those requests within a shared spreadsheet, hoping to get each other’s attention with a comment and follow up. Now, Hemanth says “we put that note in Outpost, and it’s way easier to see the notes that are tagged to each person and need action.”

What’s next for GroceryHero?

Most organizations that solve a problem and scale up quickly are aiming for long term growth. Not so with GroceryHero. For them, the hope is that the need for a service like GroceryHero is a temporary one that decreases as the world recovers from the pandemic. As Hemanth puts it, “the quicker GroceryHero isn’t needed, the better off everyone is.”

“Our goal is to run for as long as we’re needed. If things slow down or if there’s a formal position from the government on the matter, we can go into a cold operating state. And then, if there’s a second wave, which hopefully doesn’t happen, we can be ready to go and reopen our doors.”

So far, Hemanth and the GroceryHero team have been happy just to help. They saw a problem, had an idea for how to solve it, and now are making a real difference in people’s lives.

“Pretty frequently we’ll get a video or email testimonial of someone saying, ‘Hey, this has been amazing for me. It has reduced one of the biggest stressors I have. It’s helping me keep my family safe.’”

Hemanth continues, “I know it’s not like working in a soup kitchen or actually being on the front lines. But I think that this has been incredible for us to actually make a difference right from our homes or working at our desks.”

Note: The Outpost team is proud to let GroceryHero Canada use our product free of charge, as they directly support medical professionals working on the front lines against COVID-19. If your team is involved in the heroic work of fighting the coronavirus, please contact us to learn how Outpost can support you as you manage your shared inboxes.

Posted in Email, Outpost, Productivity

Jonathan Michael

Jonathan Michael

Jonathan is the Engagement Marketing Manager for Palo Alto Software, and has spent the last 9 years developing and implementing digital marketing strategies. During that time, he has learned that empathy and authenticity are strengths by which companies can effectively engage with individuals at every point throughout the customer journey.