How to Keep Your Accounting Firm’s Email Organized With Automation — On-Demand Webinar

Don't let newsletters, client emails, notifications, and team communication bog you down. Learn how to automate your accounting emails.

Managing endless emails while trying to complete other work throughout any given week is difficult and time-consuming. The pressure of responding to client emails in a timely manner while having other deadlines can often result in lower productivity on the projects that are most important. The way in which you and your team manage client email can either make or break the success of your daily workflow. 

Using a shared inbox tool to organize your client emails and team responses is a great way to take control of email and improve productivity. Outpost’s Marketing Manager, Jonathan Michael, and Customer Service Guide, Cassie Haehlen, got together to demonstrate how to implement efficient processes to properly organize your firm’s email.

Don’t let newsletters, client emails, software notifications, and team communication bog you down. We’ll show you how accounting firms can save time, increase productivity, and get rid of inbox anxiety for good.

Watch the video, or read the full transcript below!

Webinar recording

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)

Hello everyone. Thank you for joining us today for this Outpost workshop. We’re going to be talking about how to use email automation to keep your shared inbox clean and organized. And ultimately it’s really about helping your team save time managing email. My name is Jonathan. I work at Palo Alto Software with the Outpost team and with me is Cassie and she is also on our Outpost team. 

Before we dive into the presentation today in the workshop I just want to introduce ourselves and also go over some logistics. So you’re using the GotoWebinar control panel to view our workshop. There’s a questions panel. It should be on the right-hand side of your screen. That’s what we’re going to be using today to answer any questions that you have about what we’re showing you now.

Jonathan: (00:54)

So go ahead and try that questions panel out right now and let us know where you’re coming from. Let us know that you can hear us okay. Whatever it is to just give us a heads up that, hey, you’re here. The other thing I’m going to mention too is that we are recording our workshop today. So you don’t have to worry about taking various notes. You’re going to be okay. And we’re going to send this to you after the workshop is over. 

You can rewatch it. We’ll give you the slide deck and look at other notes that you have in the slides. And you know, you will have those things. We’ll follow up with you to give you all the assets that we’re working through today. So again, go ahead and use that questions panel, let us know that you’re here and where you’re signing in from, and with that, we’ll get started. Cassie, how are you doing? How’s your day?

Cassie: (01:40)

Great. I’m doing great. It looks like everyone can hear us.

Jonathan: (01:46)

Awesome. Good. That’s good to see. So yeah, Cassie and I, we both worked for the Outpost team. We’re part of Palo Alto Software located in Eugene, Oregon. And our mission is to help people succeed in business. We have a few different software products, but our main focus today is Outpost. And how Outpost can help you and your team collaborate.

Jonathan: (02:12)

So if you have not heard of Outpost yet, or if you need a refresher here’s what Outpost is about. Let’s introduce that to you. So traditional email like Gmail or Office 365, or Apple mail, whatever client you’re using, just wasn’t designed for teams. It’s designed for personal use. But as soon as you start trying to use email to collaborate with each other, it starts to break down and becomes inefficient. 

And so we built Outpost as a cloud-based software tool that is going to help your team be efficient and collaborate better together in a shared inbox so that you can get more done and save time and focus on the more important work you have to do. So busy teams, accounting firms, bookkeeping practices, can struggle with managing the info@, the accounting@ addresses. But with Outpost, you can collaborate in that shared inbox.

Jonathan: (03:06)

You can get more done and you can take better care of the clients. And really what’s important to know here is we’re not telling you how to get rid of Gmail. We’re not telling you what to do with Office 365. Outpost works with those email clients. You can sync them up directly with Outpost. So things aren’t working in sync perfectly and think of Outpost as like a layer on top of what you’re doing with Gmail and Office 365. 

The beautiful thing is that it’s also really easy to use. It looks and feels exactly like an email client. So there’s no learning curve for your team. It’s not a complicated platform that has a bunch of different features that take your team time to learn. There’s no training required. Day one you get in and it just works. You don’t need to ask somebody to help you set it up.

Jonathan: (03:54)

You should be able to just start your Outpost, log in with your mailbox connected at one time, and then you’re ready to go with your team. So that’s kind of what Outpost is, but let’s talk about how much time you’re spending on email. This is a real problem across the world for busy professionals. How much time do you spend managing email? Well, they’ve actually done some studies and in Harvard Business review, they reported that the average worker spends about two and a half hours per day, reading and replying to email. 

Now we’ve done some surveys of our own and at least half of our audience in the accounting profession have said their biggest frustration with email is that they spend too much time reading and replying to email. So it’s a real burden on us and our time. And in fact, two and a half hours per day, that turns out to end up being 30% of your workweek.

Jonathan: (04:51)

If you work a typical 40 hour work week, 30% of your whole week is spent managing email. Now I don’t know about you, but that just seems like way too much to me. I don’t want to spend two and a half hours managing email. I don’t think you do either, so we’re going to talk about automation. It’s a fancy buzzword. I actually hate using, you know, big words like this because there are simpler ways to explain it. But what is automation when it comes to email? 

Automation is using some software to perform mundane manual tasks automatically. And the big reason why you’re doing that is so that you can spend more of your time on important work. That’s really what automation is all about. You don’t need to use the fancy word. You can just understand it’s getting a tool to do something automatically for you.

Jonathan: (05:42)

So what if you could take those two and a half hours that you’re spending every day on email and bring that down to just one hour a day? What if you could shave off that time, that extra hour and a half? What would that look like? That would look like seven and a half hours of your work for almost 20% of your work is handed back to you. So you could use that time somewhere else, spending more time on client work, working together with your team on important projects. 

You know, what would you do with the extra time if you weren’t managing email and then think about how that applies to the rest of your team because we’re talking about you individually saving that time. But what if all of your team is saving that time managing email? Well, I did a quick calculation here and if it’s just a team of three altogether, that’s you saving over 22 hours of work each week so that you can focus that time on other more important work. Again, the bigger the team the more hours that represents you can do the math for your own team. But I just want you to think about that. What if you had that extra time?

Jonathan: (06:52)

And so that’s really the process of it. We want to help you and your team save time. And Outpost helps you do that with email routing rules. Now we’re going to spend a lot of our time today talking specifically about email routing rules. That’s why you’re here. That’s what the title was all about. So we’re going to dig deep into a specific feature of Outpost, but don’t worry, we’re also going to remind you of sort of a core of features of Outpost and how it helps your team.

Jonathan: (07:19)

So there are three big ways that Outpost rules can help you save time. When you put these rules into place, you can automatically do three things. You can automatically get rid of the inbox clutter so that you’re not having to manually do that yourself with lots of clicks and archiving and trash. The second thing is that you’re automatically able to prioritize messages for you. That’ll come in handy with auto assignments, auto stars. 

We’ll get into that as well. And then the third thing that some teams have been able to do as well is to automatically reply to some specific messages for you so that you’re not having to write the response every time and click it and send. All of these things reduce the number of clicks, reduce the number of typing, the amount of typing you’re doing, and reduce the amount of time you’re spending managing email, collaborating with the team back and forth. You’re streamlining your system so that this is taken care of for you.

Jonathan: (08:19)

So let’s talk about the first way that Outpost saves you time, which is to help you get rid of the inbox clutter. And so with this workshop, we’re going to get hands-on. We’re going to go right into Outpost so that I can show you what we’re talking about. So inbox clutter, that’s stuff like industry newsletters, software notifications, maybe you get payment confirmation from software that you use. 

You get a billing receipt that says, thanks for your payment for your autopay. All of that stuff is important. Things that you actually want to keep. You want to have it on record. You want to have the email available, but you also do not need it to be filling up your inbox and distracting your team from the work that they need to do. So let’s talk about that in Outpost.

Jonathan: (09:02)

So as a reminder, this is Outpost. It should look and feel just like a regular email client because we designed it exactly to be that way. It should remind you of Gmail or remind you of Office 365 because that’s what we want it to do. We want it to look and feel just like a regular email client. But what we’ve done here is Outpost lets you connect an unlimited number of mailboxes all in one place. 

So you can have your info@ mailbox. You can have your accounting@ mailbox. You can have specific client mailboxes, all connected into one simple use dashboard. So each one of these represents a mailbox that I have connected and it doesn’t matter if it’s Gmail or Office 365, I can connect a variety of mailboxes in Outpost. It doesn’t matter. They all work. They will deal with your set up.

Jonathan: (09:54)

So these are all my mailboxes together. And then again, the collaborative aspect is that I’ve got all of my team in Outpost as well. I got myself, I’ve got two team members, all of my email and all of my team members already in the same place, which means it’s easy to assign messages to each other. Instead of having conversations outside of my inbox, I can assign messages, assign responsibilities. So my team can easily see across all of our emails who is doing what and why. 

And there’s a couple of core features that I really want to make sure that you understand about the power of Outpost. We talked about assignments. That’s certainly one of them. The other thing is the tags. So this is really going to help you keep things organized and clearly labeled so that your team can easily find the information that you need. So you have tags that you can create and you can apply those to messages. It works a lot like Outlook folders or Gmail labels, but it’s a really easy way to keep things organized and efficient.

Jonathan: (10:56)

So we’ve got tags that we’ve created for specific clients and tags that we have for incoming leads or prospects. I’ve got a tag for newsletters. I’ve also got a tag for urgent if I feel like something’s important and needs to be flagged. All of those tags work together so that I can easily move around Outpost and see what I have to cover. So assignments, tags, and then another thing that we can use to emphasize a message’s importance is a star. 

And you’re probably familiar with stars because that’s available in other enough clients, but it’s just one more piece that helps my team to see the importance of a message. I want to make sure I show you those features before we jump into the rules because those are the types of things that were now being used to automatically handle some of our emails. So we talked about getting rid of inbox clutter, and we talked about newsletters.

Jonathan: (11:55)

So I want my team to stay up on industry news. That’s why we subscribed to some industry newsletters, but I also don’t need them to get distracted every time a newsletter comes in. So here are our rules in Outpost. You can create as many rules as you can possibly think of. And the basics of a rule is that you set conditions so that when an inbound message meets the conditions that you’ve specified it then takes an action. 

So when an incoming message meets the criteria, then Outpost will automatically take the following actions. And you can have these in a lot of different ways, but here’s the newsletter one I’ve put in specific newsletters that I get. If any of those conditions are met, I automatically add my newsletter tag and I archive it. So now it’s not showing up in my inbox right away. It’s automatically getting tagged and moved out of the inbox so that it doesn’t distract my team.

Jonathan: (12:57)

And that means people come back to it and read that when we’re on our own time and when we’re ready to. We also talked about software notifications. You know, our team works in Isana. We manage projects, their client objects. But we get these notifications, which again are important for us to be aware of and have a record of, but I also don’t need those notifications popping up in my inbox all the time to distract my team. So for those where, if the message comes from Isana, we’re just going to add the tag, Isana notifications. 

And again, I can choose to archive that message and say, so let’s take a quick look at what that looks like in your inbox. Now that those tools are applied. You can see that my inbox is not cluttered with things. This one came in today before I applied that rule. So I’m going to archive this email and let’s check in on our newsletter so I can go to all mail and then I can look at newsletters specifically. And here are all of those newsletters that have been coming in. You imagine how distracting that would be all of those newsletters to come into your inbox. You don’t need them there, but here they are sitting exactly where I want them so my team can read through them. So that’s one really simple way to get rid of the inbox clutter.

Jonathan: (14:19)

And I’m just wondering, you know, are there any questions here so far? Cassie, are there any other things that you want me to point out about, you know, getting rid of platters, any other ideas that you want to highlight before I move on?

Cassie: (14:32)

Not too many questions, just a lot of yeses for industry newsletters and clutter, that would be nice to of course organize out. Payment confirmation, I’m sure you’re about to go into that one is another big one. And one thing that I hear all the time that I want to make sure to highlight is, and to kind of have a full circle moment here is the main pain points that I hear from accountants are, you know, first of all, unorganized mailboxes and just not knowing where to begin, but also the bottleneck problem. 

And I want to, Jonathan, maybe dive a little bit more into how Outpost rules help with that issue and not, you know, me, the owner of the business or the manager, being a bottleneck. So, emails aren’t getting responded to and work isn’t getting done. If you can go back to Outpost actually.

Jonathan: (15:41)

Yeah. That’s, that’s great. , and that’s exactly what we’re going to talk about next too. To delegate regular client email and to emphasize high priority clients with Outpost. I’m guessing that your team is actively doing something like one person on your team is supposed to monitor an inbox and forward things around, or make sure that the messages get to the right person and Outpost can take care of that for you. 

So just like, as you talked about the bottleneck, whether that’s you as the owner or maybe another team member who sort of has this role of triaging email and sorting it around and getting it to the right people, Outpost can do these things automatically for you. So let’s talk about how it can help prioritize messages for your team. So I’m going to go back to my rules. And, as we talked about with a priority, you know, assignments are a priority and starring messages is a priority.

Jonathan: (16:42)

And then if I wanted to find an urgent tag and help identify a priority message. So here’s how I’ve got that set up in Outpost. Now, these are my clients. I’ve got Robin Egg, Easy Does It, Seattle Realty. I’ve got a rule set up for each one of my clients because I want to delegate client work to the right team member. And the way we have it worked out is specific team members handle specific clients. 

So for Rob and Nick, John, and company, what I’ve done is I built a rule that anytime any of their employees will reach out to us, it doesn’t matter what mailbox they send it to. As soon as we get an email from one of our clients, we automatically tag their email with that client tag and Linda is our account manager for Robin Egg Chocolate. So I’m automatically assigning those messages to Linda so that when Linda comes in for the day, she already has those messages clearly delegated to her.

Jonathan: (17:42)

No one on our team had to first read the message and find out that, oh yeah, this goes to Linda. Outpost automatically does that for us now. And then let’s say that you have either a very important client or a client who has a project that needs a lot of your attention for a specific period of time. I mean, we’re heading into the holiday season. 

So as you could imagine, Christmas Party Supplies, they need our focus and attention to this busy season for themselves. So I’m able to add that tag, assign it to Linda, and I’m going to go ahead and automatically star, message, and save that. So then anytime those messages come in, I’m specifically assigning it and starring it, hey, these are the priority messages. These are the ones to take care of first. So again, I’m emphasizing, you know, regular client messages and delegating those out to my team. 

And then further emphasizing the importance of our high priority clients. Both rules are easy to set up and then it just takes care of that for you. So that when you get into your inbox, things are already delegated and ready to go. Now Cassie, is there anything here that you think I should show to help somebody see what’s on their plate? Like what would you show to help us with that?

Cassie: (19:08)

Yeah, absolutely. The key feature there is going to be filtering by assignments. So with Outpost of course you can see what’s on everyone’s plate in the inbox here, so you can see those little pictures and even if there aren’t pictures, you’ll see initials. But this will tell you, okay cool, all these emails are delegated to a team member. But even more importantly, you want to know what’s on your plate or my plate in this case. 

You don’t need to read every single email that comes to every single mailbox on the account, and that’s kind of what these assignments are for. So now that I can filter by what’s on my own plate, think of this as your task list of emails. You can just filter your view by these, handle what you’re in charge of, and then move on. 

And that alone is what’s going to lead to saving time managing email, because all the question marks that are around who’s in charge or what’s on my plate, what still needs to be monitored, has so-and-so finished this yet, or even all the extra emails to try to get those answers. Outpost solves that by rules to have it done automatically for you. And then these quick and easy filters to, you know, easily and quickly know what’s on your plate.

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Jonathan: (20:37)

Yeah, that’s right. I really liked what you said there. It reminded me, I think it is Steven Covey with The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. He talks about the tyranny of the urgent. And I think what happens for a lot of companies when it comes to email is the tyranny of the urgent is first in whatever the email that just came in, that’s getting my immediate attention. 

That’s what I now think I have to spend time on whether or not it’s the most important client work or client message and helps you kind of get rid of that mentality and that focus. It automatically assigns things for you. So the flow that I can now take is I’m going to come into my inbox. My whole team is here, we’re all working together. We weren’t doing that before, and I can prioritize how I do my work.

Jonathan: (21:24)

I’m going to look at my assignments and I’m going to take care of those first because they’re top of mind the most important. And then I’m going to be able to move on. I’m going to be able to see if there’s anything else that is either on assigned or if there’s somebody else’s assignment that they need help with. It allows me to prioritize the work that I’m doing email instead of just getting distracted with walking in just now and what seems like it’s on fire, whether it is or isn’t and with rules, plus these collaborative features, assignments, you know, it’s all of those types of things.

But it really lets you do is take your team above and beyond so that you can get the work done that needs to get done. So yeah, I think that’s like really, really core for Outpost is to understand how your team works together to better delegate and focus on the things that need to get done.

Jonathan: (22:20)

Now, the last thing that I wanted to show as well is that with rules, you can also automatically reply to specific messages for you. And there’s two kind of key use cases that I think of when I think about applying the messages for you. Let’s say you have a website and on that website, you have a contact. A “contact me for more information or to inquire about our services”, your visitor fills that form out and send it that usually comes as an email to your inbox. 

Now, instead of you need to drop everything and apply that, what if Outpost could automatically reply to that message for you get some key information out to that, you know, that, that new visitor or that new prospect and handle that initial response so that you don’t have to. And so you can keep focusing on the fine work that’s important.

Jonathan: (23:17)

The other thing that I’m going to show you is sort of like a busy season auto reply. So around tax time, if you’re just buried under a lot of work and you don’t have the ability to reply within an hour, you might want to have an auto reply that says, Hey, I’ve gotten your message. I will get back to you within a day or something like that, setting different expectations for when you’re going to reply to a client. So those messages and those rules are easy to set up in Outpost. 

So let’s take a look at this. Here’s a new inquiry. So all of my web form submissions come in with the same subject. So I’ve built this rule to say, if the subject contains these words, as they always will, then I’m also going to assign these to Linda. She takes care of our new client acquisition.

Jonathan: (24:06)

So those automatically get assigned to Linda. They automatically are tagged as a new lead. And then I’m going to set up an auto-reply with one of our saved templates. It’s a simple template that says, thank you for contacting us. We’ll get back to you within the next business day. Meanwhile, here’s our frequently asked questions that a lot of people ask us if you haven’t read these already, here’s the link to those. It’s a really simple professional response that lets the person know that you got their message and that you’re actively working on their request. 

And it’s really simple to build and easy to set up. And then we talked about that busy season auto-reply, which is, you know if it’s during tax time if it’s getting holidays or vacation time, whatever it is, you know, I want to set a different expectation for my contacts to let them know that I’m still here still taking care of them, but it might take a little bit longer.

Jonathan: (25:02)

So any messages that come into our general mailbox, I’m going to reply with my template that says, Hey, I got your message. I will get back to you within a day. And if it’s urgent, you can call us or something like that. So those are two rules that you can easily set up and turn on the fly to automatically respond to messages for you and take care of that initial response with clients or leads. So I think that about does it for the rules that I want to show. 

Again, just some ideas to help spark some inspiration for you about imagining the amount of time that you could be saving and you know, thinking about how you could streamline email for you and your team to ultimately save time and focus on other more important work. Do we have any other questions before we wrap up today?

Cassie: (25:59)

One question that came up was around those autoresponders and even some out-of-office autoresponders. And without going too specifically into each person, it’s the goal, of course, with these autoresponders, especially in the case of the busy season where, you know, they might not expect a reply quick enough, or you don’t want your customers to be sitting without a response for multiple days because of that busy season. 

So that’s kind of the goal of those auto responders, and all of this and you spending less time and email of course will benefit you, but it will also benefit your clients because they’re getting, you know, they’re getting that service quicker. Which, as we can all imagine, is going to help a lot just with that experience and, you know, keeping customers, getting more customers, all of that. 

Jonathan: (26:44)

Yeah, that’s right. In fact, one of the biggest reasons why existing clients leave and then choose maybe a competitor other than you has to do with responsiveness, if they don’t feel like they’re getting a timely check-in when they need it, that starts to break down that trust in whether you’re able to provide the services that they need. So having things like those are responders, or quickly delegating work to team members so that they can apply themselves. That’s all going to help you responsiveness help you take better care of your clients, keep them longer, and build those relationships.

Jonathan: (27:39)

So yeah, those are kind of the main things about rules and how to use them to save time, keep your inbox organized. I’m seeing lots of good comments, not necessarily questions like this, you know, “this opens up a world of possibilities for me”. I love seeing that. That’s awesome. We’re going to help you get this implemented for your team. Outpost is really easy to set up. It takes just a couple of minutes. So since you’re here with us in this workshop, we have this offer for you where you can start using Outpost for free. 

All you need to do is sign up with that link. And we’ll also give you a 50% off of your first three months of Outpost. So that’s a great deal. And the last thing is as soon as you sign up, we’re going to follow up with you to offer you if you want to jump on and do a one-on-one set up, make sure your mailboxes are connected the way you like, think about things like what moves you might want to apply. 

We can give you that customized advice and those tips to really help you, put this to use and save that time as soon as possible, get into Outpost, start using it and start seeing an immediate impact on how it affects how much time you spend managing that. So I think that about does it for our workshop. That’s all the time that we have today. Thank you all for attending. Thank you for your great questions. Those were excellent. And we look forward to seeing you again.

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