Raise your smartphone if you feel like you spend too much time dealing with email.
Whether you’re using Gmail, Office 365, or some other provider for your business email, using a shared inbox software can help your team serve your customers better and spend less time shuffling messages around.
First, is your email (joethefounder@mycompany) the only publicly available email address people have to contact your company?
If so, you probably already know this, but just to be clear: you’re (probably) a huge communication bottleneck. Does your daily unread email tally make your blood pressure rise? Do you ever lose business because it took you too long to respond?
What about when you go on vacation? Do all those messages just sit, unattended in that inbox for days or weeks?
It doesn’t have to be that way. Shared inboxes serve your customers better and that makes it easier for your team to step up to the plate and be more productive.
Is your team sharing a password for a single general email account like firstname.lastname@example.org? There are some risks to that approach to—security for one, and plenty of opportunities for conflicting replies and messages that sit for days without a response.
How can you be sure that your team is responding to email quickly, clearly, and correctly?
When you get your shared inbox system in place, the people on your team in charge of managing those general inboxes should be trained so they understand what you expect in terms of response time, and the most efficient ways to get customers the answers they need.
Setting up a few specific inboxes is the first step to getting organized and delegating email tasks with confidence.
Naming: Think customer experience, not org chart
As you create some of those catch-all inboxes, think like an outsider as you name them. A general email address doesn’t have to directly reflect your organizational chart.
CustomerRetention@yourcompany.com probably isn’t the best way to present your customers with their communication options when they need you to help them solve a problem. Those types of email address names don’t really take into account the problems that your customers are trying to solve—they speak to your internal org chart.
Customers don’t care about your org chart. So when they’re on your website or Googling how to connect with you, if you make it easy for them to figure out where they need to send their email to get a response from the right person, you save them frustration, and you save your team time.
The key here is to set up a general inbox for any customer touchpoint into your business. This automatically helps funnel the right message to the right people.
Tweaking the names of those email addresses can go a long way to making your mail accounts more customer-focused and benefit-focused, however. Instead of sales@, careers@, support@, for example, use something like getstarted@, myfuture@, or fixitnow@.
Put the right email address in the right area on your website
Help your customers self-select. If their only ways to email you are JoeTheFounder@yourcompany.com or Info@yourcompany.com, you haven’t given them much to work with in terms of self-selecting the path to quick and quality responses.
Set everyone up for success by thinking through what’s going on in the customer’s head when they’re reaching out to you, and who (or what part of your team) should be the first responder.
Plus, when you use a shared inbox tool like Outpost to manage multiple email accounts, you can assign anyone on your team access to those accounts, so you have more flexibility to delegate to the right person.
Making these dedicated email addresses available on your website (email@example.com goes on your customer service page) is a first step toward streamlining. From there, on the back end, make sure you set up appropriate templates so your team (for example) can save time when they’re answering frequently asked questions.
Set up specific emails for temporary situations or specific events
You might also consider setting up email addresses that serve for very specific circumstances or temporary events too.
For example, if your company puts on an annual event, it can be easy for correspondence related to that event to get lost in the shuffle. Then, when it’s time to plan next year’s event, you’ve got to wade through tons of other messages to get back up to speed on what you did and who you corresponded with last year.
Instead, you could set up “eventname@” and make it accessible to the team members who work on the event. All correspondence can go to and from that direct address, with any emails breaking out to individual team members strictly on an as-needed basis. With Outpost, your team members have access to all the inboxes they need, and you retain some oversight into productivity and response time. No more emails slipping through the cracks.
When the event is done or the address isn’t needed, you can choose to remove it from regular access, or just know that you don’t have to monitor it as closely for now.
Now that you’ve set up the best-dedicated inboxes for your team, there are a few things you can do to save you some headaches in the long run.
1. Assign one person to be in charge of each inbox
They don’t necessarily need to be the one to respond to every email. But they should be the person who makes sure messages are assigned to the right person who can provide the best response.
Make it easy for them to delegate messages to other members of the team. Since you’re reading this on the Outpost blog, you might have guessed that we recommend Outpost as the best tool for this, since it allows you to assign emails to specific team members without a mess of forwards and CCs that can lead to embarrassing situations.
When the email lead goes on vacation, assign someone else to delegate email in their absence, so messages don’t just sit there for weeks. Keep an eye on your team’s email analytics so you have a window into how long it takes to respond to messages.
2. Set up the right templates
There’s probably a series of typical questions your customers ask. The answers might already live in your website FAQs.
3. Make sure your team is trained on the best ways to respond
A lot of this will depend on your own company culture. But our email response checklist can help get everyone on the same page.
We also have some advice on how to deal with angry customers who reach out by email, and how to warm up with your emails if you start to notice that you’re not really connecting the way you want to with your customers.
4. Outpost, a shared inbox tool, can help
We built our Outpost shared inbox tool to help teams manage their email better so they can be more productive. It sits on top of your existing email system, like Gmail for business or Outlook 365.
It’s set up so that if you’re managing multiple inboxes, you can do that all from one place, without separate logins or sharing passwords. Plus you can assign specific messages to individuals on your team, collaborate on responses in real time, share internal comments or notes, and easily see if something is still waiting for a response.
The most important part is figuring out how to communicate well with your customers. A lot of that will depend on how well you set up your systems and train your team on your expectations. Email can and should be a useful tool, not a daily slog through the mud.
Posted in Email