How This Retailer’s Email Response Time Dropped from 2 Days to 20 Minutes with a Shared Inbox
With worldwide operations and growing demand for their specialty adventure gear, 23ZERO was falling behind in responding to customer emails. Not only did this negatively affect their customer service experience and potential sales, but it also led to ineffective internal communication and wasted productivity amongst their team.
They knew that these internal and external issues could be solved with a single solution, a collaborative inbox. Now there is plenty of shared mailbox services on the market today, but 23ZERO needed a platform that provided both a unified inbox for email marketing and customer service and distinct user accounts to better collaborate and maintain visibility. With those requirements in mind, 23ZERO landed on Outpost for their shared email needs.
By choosing Outpost’s shared inbox, 23ZERO has been able to slash their response times from two days to less than an hour. Here’s how they did it.
Outdoor gear retail company aims for world-class service
With a love of the rugged outdoors and nearly 30 years of manufacturing experience in adventure products, 23ZERO’s mission is to inspire people to get outside. A core shipping team of three coordinates customer emails, orders, and fulfillment worldwide, with additional focus on 23ZERO’s core markets throughout the adventure-hungry Australia, Canada, and US.
In fact, the company’s name, 23ZERO, is derived from the coordinates for Alice Springs, in Australia’s Northern Territory. Located near the geographic center of the island continent, Alice Spring is one of the most rugged areas on Earth.
With a focus on online sales and community building, 23ZERO relaunched its website in 2019. While they’ve seen upticks in business and market share, the company’s leadership also quickly realized that their email customer service needed a revamp too.
Slow response times = lost sales
“Communication with your customers in today’s world is essential,” says Justin Dowey, business development manager for 23ZERO. “A lot of companies out there don’t respond very quickly, and that rocks my boat. A two-day window to get a phone call back from a large company is pretty poor.”
“Some of the simple questions we get, ideally we should be returning a response within an hour. Not two days.”
Unfortunately, 23ZERO itself was struggling to maintain the timely response and consistent service level that Justin and his team knew was essential to growing the company’s market share and profits.
“If you’re going to buy a $2,000 product, and it takes at least 48 hours to get a response from that company, in my mind they’re not customer-focused at all,” says Justin. “We want to make sure that we’re much more efficient, and that we respond much, much faster to our customer base. Some of the simple questions we get, ideally we should be responding to a question within an hour. Not two days.”
Despite these goals and intentions though, 23ZERO’s team kept finding itself taking too long to respond to customer email—but why?
Inefficient and confusing internal communication
As 23ZERO’s leadership and service teams examined their workflows and operations, they started to pinpoint the problem:
“Sometimes our internal communication involved just yelling down the hallway.”
Incoming messages wound up being handled across multiple email addresses. Before the team knew it, they were unable to track the status of any given customer email. Had a question been answered? Was an order moving forward? Had a shipment gone out?
Team members found themselves losing time to duplicate work or trying to chase down the status of a customer’s question, order, or shipment. Even worse, without a way to track every email’s status, sometimes customer emails were slipping through the cracks and not getting replied to at all.
“Sometimes our internal communication involved just yelling down the hallway,” explains Justin. “It was ‘have you sent this,’ ’have you sent that,’ ‘I can’t see if you responded to this,’ ‘I can’t see an email. It was just going back and forth, but with no traceability or tracking of it. It was very, very difficult.”
The company also found itself having to create even more email addresses when new staff came on board.
“We had fifteen different emails funneling in different directions depending on who it was,” says Justin. “But we had no visibility between what they were doing and what we were doing. Just one shipment would have to go back and forth via email from shipping to the warehouse, back to shipping, to accounting.
Then we’d have to go and charge that invoice through with the numbers that have come back with tracking and cost and stuff, and we’d run through the process again. It was crazy. Way too many emails. And then, when a staff member comes and goes, we had to start the whole process again.”
“We had fifteen different emails funneling in different directions depending on who it was. But we had no visibility between what they were doing and what we were doing.”
Each order required multiple emails back and forth. Yet email trails sometimes went cold or splintered off as emails were forwarded to one address, replied to from another, or inadvertently wound up in the junk folder.
“It was a nightmare,” says Justin. “We get a fair chunk of inquiries on a regular basis. Yet we were dealing with more chasing around to have someone respond. People were falling through the cracks and not getting responded to. Finally, we had a communications breakdown, and as we came out of it we knew things had to change.”
A shared inbox streamlines email instantly
Justin and his team realized that instead of having so many email addresses, they needed to streamline their inboxes.
“We thought there had to be a better system for one login for multiple email addresses,” says Justin. “That’s when we found Outpost and its shared inbox.”
“We’ve actually been able to reduce the number of emails that we had coming in.”
23ZERO decided to try Outpost, putting their toes in the water with one of their 15 emails. The team found the setup was short though, since “Outpost was easy to get your head around.”
As their first experiment with team email got underway, the 23ZERO team quickly realized something.
“We let Outpost run for a few days,” says Justin, “and then decided we had found what we were looking for. With one login, I can now see multiple email addresses. Other staff members can log in to the team email, and I don’t have to give them a new login for every single email. Now I have visibility on the response time. I can finally see who is doing what with any email.”
“Now I have visibility on the response time. I can finally see who is doing what with any email.”
Justin and his team quickly began to transition more and more of 23ZERO’s email addresses to Outpost. 23ZERO was also able to reduce their email addresses from 15 to 11, and the team continues to pare down the number of overall addresses they have to oversee.
One big surprise?
The increased efficiency has cut down on the back-and-forth the team used to have with customers, says Justin.
“We’ve actually been able to reduce the number of emails that we had coming in.”
Outpost lowers email response times to 20 minutes
However, Outpost wasn’t done surprising the 23ZERO team.
Instead of creating multiple emails and multiple logins, individual team members could log in to one email—and be on the same page about every message inside that shared inbox. That also meant Justin could follow his team’s response to every customer email, from initial receipt to final resolution.
“Instead of our team taking up to 48 hours to get back to the customer, it takes us 20 minutes.”
“I can go into the [conversation] history and see exactly where things are with every email,” says Justin. “I can see when a message was received, who it was assigned to, who’s been tagged, who’s read the email.”
Even more surprising to Justin was that he could see those interactions in real-time.
“I just looked at one email that came in, and right now our team is replying back to that customer,” says Justin. “There have been six interactions with that email, and I can see it all. Once upon a time, I wouldn’t have had a clue. Instead of our team taking up to 48 hours to get back to the customer, it’s taken us 20 minutes.”
Improved team performance and faster onboarding with Outpost
For team members like Justin who travel, working inside Outpost has also helped him stay current on work status even when he’s out of the office.
“I can go into the shared inbox and find all the tags I need, so I can just work back through any email while I’m on planes or trains or automobiles,” says Justin. “There would have been a time where it took ages just to sort out which person was going to assign that email or respond to it, and who has control over what particular task. Outpost has been a much more efficient system.”
As the 23ZERO team found their groove with their team email, Justin began to see more and more team members benefit from saved time, optimized workloads, and improvements in customer satisfaction and retention.
“The visibility that you’re going to get from using Outpost is something most companies have never seen before,” says Justin. “That ability to tag and note people reduces the amount of emailing time because you can jot the quick note. There’s a time saving, there’s a visibility saving. Outpost is helping us implement KPIs so our customer service can consistently perform at the high level we know our team can operate at.”
“The visibility that you’re going to get from using Outpost is something most companies have never seen before.”
Looking ahead to increased staffing levels during busy seasons, Justin also sees that he will more quickly be able to get new hires up and running.
“Since everybody shares a team email, I can just set up new hires to one login, and actually share multiple email boxes with them,” says Justin. “Plus I have full visibility on what they’re doing without having to take time to log in to their email.”
Outpost helps teams adjust email access quickly. Managers and team leaders can easily add and remove temporary or seasonal employees. Since each team member has their own login, that also improves security and accountability—and conversation threads stay intact.
No more yelling down the hallway thanks to a shared inbox
Customer emails have stopped falling through the cracks, and leadership knows exactly where communication chains are at all times.
“I can actually see emails are being responded to fairly quickly, and because they are there’s no more yelling down the hallway.”
“Just this morning we’ve had nine different emails from distributors and dealers,” says Justin. “Four have already been assigned to different people. I can actually see emails are being responded to fairly quickly, and because they are there’s no more yelling down the hallway. Our office has become decidedly quieter.”
Internal emails have decreased too, a welcome pressure release on everyone’s inbox and workload.
“Now that everybody sees the same shared inbox, everybody knows what’s going on.”
“We don’t have to email back and forth anymore, we can just jot a note,” explains Justin. “The notes part of the system is what makes it cool. We can have a note next to an email that asks someone to check stock, do a shipping quote, or get an answer from a team member who’s an expert on that product line. We can also insert other details, such as tracking numbers, plus accounting can see all the numbers in one place.”
Now that 23ZERO has transitioned to Outpost, Justin estimates that each team member is saving up to six hours a week—a total of 18 hours per week for their shipping team of three
“We have solid KPIs in place, and our response time is reduced,” says Justin. “Now that everybody sees the same shared inbox, everybody knows what’s going on.”
More Outpost success stories
Still not convinced that a shared inbox is right for you and your team? Check out these additional case studies to see how Outpost benefited a rental company and nonprofit by improving email response time, collaboration and email insights.
How a Shared Inbox Saves 40 Hours a Month for This Vacation Rental Company
See how EMR Vacation Rentals increased bookings, improved email productivity, and realized higher customer satisfaction—thanks to the Outpost shared inbox. Read more.
How One Nonprofit Uses Outpost to Manage Their Shared Inbox
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