You want better email collaboration with your team, and greater efficiency handling customer and prospect messages. Microsoft’s Office 365 helps you with your personal work email, so why not use and Office 365 shared mailbox to manage team email, right?
There are a few pros and cons you should consider as you make that decision.
For starters, Office 365 provides powerful email, and if your organization is using Office 365’s Business Premium level, you do have the option of creating shared mailboxes.
For team collaboration and productivity, though, you might be better served by using a dedicated shared inbox tool like Outpost. Outpost helps your team prevent embarrassing duplicate or conflicting responses, route common emails to the right person automatically, and get insight into analytics that can help your team be more productive.
Even better? Outpost works with Office 365—and our four-step setup and 14-day free trial make it easy to get started.
Here’s what you need to know about the pros and cons of using Outlook 365 as a shared mailbox, plus some ways to augment Office 365 email for a better team inbox experience.
Pro: Office 365 shared mailboxes can work for small teams
An Office 365 shared mailbox can bring customer or prospect messages together into one shared touchpoint so any team member can reply. It can be useful for smaller teams—up to five people, for instance—who use one or two shared mailboxes between them.
Spoiler alert on our first “con:” For bigger teams that manage multiple team inboxes, and more complex communication streams, an Office 365 shared mailbox can quickly become unwieldy.
Con: Office 365 shared mailboxes don’t work well for larger teams or multiple shared inboxes
“Shared mailboxes are really only helpful for two things,” explains Jonathan Michael, engagement marketing manager at Palo Alto Software: “Letting multiple people access email in that shared mailbox, and letting them send on behalf of that email address. That’s pretty much it.”
As teams grow and/or business processes get more complex, “tracking conversations becomes a pain point,” says Cassie, a customer success guide for Outpost.
Cassis has helped teams of all sizes integrate Outpost into their existing Office 365 accounts. “Productivity and customer satisfaction suffer from dislocated responses and lost emails. With a plain Office 365 shared mailbox, oversight into shared email is lacking,” she says.
Pro: A 365 shared mailbox can help declutter your personal mailbox
A shared mailbox can cut down the email load you contend with in your individual work email–it can help prevent one person from becoming a communication bottleneck. Keeping related conversations in the same place is, in fact, a place where team email shines.
”If you have an Office 365 shared mailbox,” says Cassie, “you’re getting the beginning of the idea of the value of sharing a mailbox.”
The real step up comes from working with a true team email tool, says Jonathan.
“If you are really talking about helping a team collaborate in a shared mailbox, you want to consider a tool like Outpost.”
Con: Lack of tracking means replies get scattered
Using an Outlook 365 shared mailbox can help declutter your team’s individual mailboxes—but you do lose visibility pretty quickly. The benefit here is that more general inquiries (like from your website’s contact us form) can be housed in a shared mailbox, rather than in Karen@yourcompany.com’s inbox, for example.
The trouble comes down to not being able to keep track of replies in your Office 365 shared mailbox, or how long response and resolution take.
Here’s why: when a message comes into your 365 shared mailbox, let’s say Karen jumps in and responds. So far so good. But when Karen@yourcompany.com’s email address ends up in the “from” address in the reply—which is often the case—any further communication from your customers is routed directly to Karen’s personal email.
When that happens, customer replies stop showing in the shared mailbox.
“If responses are coming from different email addresses,” says Cassie, “it’s then only getting seen by the person who responded.”
Untrackable responses make it more likely that multiple team members reply to the same email—or that an email slips through the cracks.
“Outpost is great for that tracking,” says Cassie. “We rope in all of those emails into a single thread.”
Pro: Shared contacts and calendar
When you and your team members are on a shared mailbox in Office 365, you can all take advantage of sharing a calendar and a contacts list.
Con: Lacks collaboration tools, safeguards, and tracking
“A shared calendar and shared contacts don’t go far enough,” says Jonathan. “Outpost takes it further, because you can see full email history, and you have the ability to track emails.”
Imagine: What if you went to reply to an email, but got an alert that you didn’t need to, because another team member was already working on it? Outpost does that through Collision Alerts.
Or, what if one of your team members could customize a standard template as a draft reply to a customer, save it, and you could quickly review that draft—all from within the same context as the original email? Outpost does that too.
“In an Office 365 shared mailbox, you can save a draft so someone else can work on it,” Sean Serrels, director of customer advocacy for Outpost. “But there’s no way to message or leave notes to notify someone, inside the email client, that they need to do something. There’s also no smooth, easy-to-follow process to set up, use, and manage templates in a shared mailbox on a day-to-day basis.”
But Outpost has you covered. When you connect Outpost to your Office 365 email accounts, you can assign messages to specific team members to avoid confusion and delays.
You can leave private notes for team members, avoiding embarrassing accidental forewards.
And you can rest assured that collision alerts will help you prevent duplicate responses if someone else is working on a draft in real-time. You maintain visibility every step of the way.
Plus, Outpost and Office 365 sync regularly, which can mitigate data-loss disasters, and help your team maintain a consistent email archive.
Bringing teams together in one shared interface makes all the difference, says Cassie. “Customers tell me all the time that being able to work together through Outpost in a single inbox, and know who is in charge of what is easily the biggest game-changer.”
Take team email beyond the shared mailbox with Outpost
The great thing about having your Office 365 email? In addition to pulling in your inbox and full history, plus receiving new emails, Outpost integrates seamlessly with Office 365—and our four-step setup makes it fast to turn shared email into true team email.
“Making a switch can feel hard and big in people’s minds,” says Sean, “but we do our best to make it simple to set up and start using.”
Want to prevent duplicate replies, get reporting on how your team is performing, and be able to collaborate in real-time?
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