How Remote Teams Can Excel with a Shared Inbox

If you find yourself and your team working remotely, collaborative email may be an effective solution for you.Check out the common difficulties encountered by remote teams and how you can use shared inbox tools like Outpost to become more efficient and productive.
If you find yourself and your team working remotely, collaborative email may be an effective solution for you.Check out the common difficulties encountered by remote teams and how you can use shared inbox tools like Outpost to become more efficient and productive.

Like many companies, you and your team have likely been thrust into the world of full-time remote work. In addition to figuring out how to best manage your team, you’re probably also juggling homeschooling, restlessness and a barking dog, amongst other challenges.

With everyone distributed, managing shared email addresses like info@, sales@, or support@ is no doubt becoming an additional hassle. 

You’ve probably been sending out email about emails, sent multiple duplicate responses to the same customer, and forgot to reply to a customer because you didn’t know who was dealing with their question. 

If this sounds like you, you should consider a shared email solution. A solid shared email tool can boost productivity, build trust and accountability within your team, and ensure that customers always get the right response, even when working from home. 

3 Challenges of Remote Teams and how they handle email:

According to the Harvard Division of Continuing Education, there are three key challenges remote teams need to overcome:

1. Communication

Without in-person meetings or the conversations that happen around the water cooler, it’s difficult for team members to stay in sync with one another. This is especially true when replying to customer emails. In Gmail or Office 365, it’s difficult to know who’s handling a response—forcing your team to send each other emails about emails, or start a conversation in another tool altogether, like Slack. Not only is this inefficient, but it can lead to severe communication gaps that may trickle down to ineffective communication with customers.

2. Trust

Remote teams need to create a culture of transparency and accountability that fosters trust. When your info@ inbox is in Gmail or Office 365, your team can’t see who sent a reply, or how fast your team is replying to customers. The first step towards learning and growing together is to create an environment where work is openly shared and tracked in real-time. You can’t improve what you can’t see, and a lack of transparency erodes trust.

3. Productivity

You want your remote team to be focused on what’s most important, and it’s your job to remove any obstacles that are slowing them down. Your customer service channels, like phone or live chat, create a dynamic where the newest customer interactions demand your team’s attention, even if they’re not the most important issues. 

A shared email address in Gmail or Office 365 isn’t much better: as inboxes get cluttered with confusing threads, graymail, FWDs and CCs, your team could be wasting as much as 10 hours per week on manual email tasks that aren’t a priority.

7 Tips to Boost Email Productivity for Remote Teams:

Customer email doesn’t have to be this hard or complicated. With a remote team, it’s time to start using a shared inbox tool so you can overcome these all-too-common challenges. Here are just a few ways your team can become highly productive with a shared inbox.

1. Increase transparency and collaboration with centralized mailboxes

To help improve your team’s workflow, it’s time to remove the barriers to email, especially with shared addresses like info@, support@, or sales@. You can bring your whole team into a shared email tool like Outpost, and then configure which mailboxes they have access to based on team function and mailbox type. There are a few different ways teams do this in Outpost:

  • Individuals manage personal mailboxes, and everyone manages general mailboxes as a team:
Manage shared inboxes simply and easily with Outpost
  • Individuals manage personal mailboxes, and teams manage mailboxes based on role and relevance:
Stay organized and address emails in an order that prioritizes date, purpose and much more with Outpost

2. Set email response time goals

By working together in the same shared inbox, your team can remain customer-focused. One way to do this with Outpost is to start tracking your team’s average response time with our Analytics feature. By tracking data like this, you’ll be able to view your team’s overall performance and set goals accordingly. You can start with a simple goal, like asking your team to respond to every email within 24 hours. Then you’ll be able to set more aggressive goals, and your team will be best-in-class by responding in less than one hour.

One way to keep your team focused on customers with Outpost is to start tracking your team’s average response time with our Analytics feature

3. Improve delegation with assignments

To help see who’s doing what, you can assign messages to yourself and others in Outpost. The best way to do this is to first get into the habit of assigning messages to yourself if you know you’re going to respond. Then, as you triage your mailbox messages, you can assign messages to other team members, as appropriate. This has the added benefit of making it easy to re-assign work from one team member to another if someone is out sick or goes on vacation: you can actually see what they were assigned to, and can pick up the conversation where it left off.

To help see who’s doing what, you can assign messages to yourself and others in Outpost.

4. Cut down on confusing back-and-forth with internal notes

If you need to coordinate with other team members on an email response, there’s no better place to do that than right in your inbox. Rather than cluttering everyone’s inboxes with FWDs and CCs, you can add private, internal notes for your team next to the conversation. Notes are a great place to add relevant document links or important information about your customers. You can also @mention specific team members in a note to collaborate with them.

If you need to coordinate with other team members on an email response, there’s no better place to do that than right in your inbox.

5. Reduce errors and respond faster with saved templates

If your team regularly responds to the same types of questions over and over, there’s no reason to write every response from scratch. In Outpost, your team can save template responses, making it easier to respond to future emails in a matter of seconds. Saved templates will help your team maintain a consistent and professional tone, and will cut down on common errors or email typos.

If your team regularly responds to the same types of questions over and over, there’s no reason to write every response from scratch. In Outpost, your team can save template responses, making it easier to respond to future emails in a matter of seconds.

6. Keep emails organized and easy to retrieve with tags

When email is organized well, teams can streamline their work and focus on what’s most important, not what’s most recent. Tags are a great way to categorize emails and organize your inbox. The best part is that tags pay dividends later: it’s even easier for your team to retrieve tagged messages in your archive from long-time customers or vendors.

7. Set up rules & automate as much as you can

Once you’ve got the basics in Outpost figured out, there’s still one more way to massively boost your team’s productivity: set up Rules.
Reading, responding to, and organizing emails takes a little bit of time from each team member, and that really adds up every week. That’s why it’s helpful to let Outpost manage things automatically so you can cut down on manual tasks. 

Reading, responding to, and organizing emails takes a little bit of time from each team member, and that really adds up every week. That’s why it’s helpful to let Outpost manage things automatically so you can cut down on manual tasks.

With Outpost, you can set up rules to automatically tag messages, assign them to team members, or even auto-reply with a saved template. This is great if you get a fair amount of email that can be marked as read and archived without a reply (like newsletters or notification emails). You can set up Outpost rules to auto-archive based on the email address, subject line, or even a phrase in the email itself.

Rules will be a game-changer for your team, allowing you to save up to 40 hours a month just by cutting down on repetitive inbox tasks.

Give Your Team a Productivity Boost With Outpost

If you’d like to help your team communicate better, create trust, and increase productivity, then it’s time to start using a shared inbox. Outpost is the simplest, most affordable shared inbox for teams. You can sign up for free today, or you can request a custom tour from one of our remote work experts.

Posted in: Customer Service Email Employees Outpost

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.

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