Could your “shared inbox” be stifling teamwork?
Here's how to find out

Collaborative email management?

Shared inbox automation?

Team email with “superpowers”?

Boy, some tech companies love their jargon.

In fact, this type of lingo has become commonplace with several “shared email” or “team inbox” tools that have hit the market recently. They all promise to help make email easier by offering a boatload of features and integrations.

So why is “team email” suddenly a thing?

Because more businesses are realizing that their generic shared email addresses—ones that start with support@ or help@—are causing some big problems.

Problems you might also be struggling with.

So we put this page together to help you figure out if a faulty shared inbox is dragging your team down. But first, maybe you're wondering...

What exactly is a shared inbox?

Let's unpack the email jargon a little.

The phrase “shared inbox” refers to those email addresses that begin with info@, contact@, or sales@. These are inboxes that multiple people have access to, but no individual person actually owns.

Now, these generic addresses work great for customers who want to get in touch for a specific purpose. But they are not so great for helping teams stay productive and organized. Or even sane, for that matter.

In fact, the very nature of a traditional “shared inbox” is rife with problems. Think about it:

Multiple people use the same login to access the account (no security issues there!).

There's no way to track who has responded to each message.

And ultimately, there's no organization whatsoever.

So emails get missed. Work gets duplicated. And customers get frustrated.

Typically, we see teams falling into one of these four shared inbox “traps”...

Already know you have a shared inbox problem? Give Outpost a shot.

4 shared inbox traps that hurt teamwork and productivity

Many small teams run into these shared email issues without even realizing it. Do any of them sound familiar to you?

1.) The email free-for-all (AKA the abyss)

Image of people around dark pit

This approach can result in pure chaos—and it's usually at this stage that teams realize, “Hey, we've got a real problem here. We need to do something.”

It goes like this: You have multiple people logging into the same shared inbox each day. No one knows who's responding to which email, or what messages are a top priority. So, the result is email anarchy.

Problems with this approach:

  • Duplicated responses: With no way to track who's doing what, two people often end up responding to the same message at the same time. And if they give conflicting responses, well, that's even more embarrassing.
  • Missed messages: Alex thinks Ryan is on it. Ryan thinks Alex is on it. Meanwhile, that urgent customer email slips through the cracks.
  • Lower productivity and morale: Toggling between email accounts, hunting for missed messages, and having to constantly ask, “Hey, is anyone on this?” isn't great for efficiency (obviously). But it's also really, really frustrating for the entire team.

2.) The million message approach

Image of man being pelted with messages

“You know, I wish I got more email.” Said nobody ever.

And yet, in order to stay on top of all their email activity, some teams set up automatic forwarding rules that send messages from a shared inbox to individual accounts. Or, some people manually CC or BCC their teammates to keep everyone on the same page.

Sure, this method will keep folks in the loop. But it comes at a cost.

Problems with this approach:

  • Overstuffed inboxes: Everyone ends up with lengthy threads of irrelevant FWDs, CCs, or “reply alls” as team members fire off messages throughout their day. Inboxes fill up. Stress levels rise. People smile less.
  • Zero coordination: It's still not clear who is responsible for each specific email that arrives in a shared inbox. That means messages get missed and responses get duplicated.

3.) Inbox hacking

Image of man thinking

Love setting up complex rules? Or spending hours building folder hierarchies and automatic labeling systems? Who doesn't!

Some teams resort to “hacking” their Gmail or Microsoft Outlook accounts so that they can keep better track of the messages flowing in and out of their shared inboxes.

Technically, it can work. The most popular email clients give you tools like labels and auto-filters that allow you to exert some control over a messy shared inbox.

Problem is, they don't make it easy to do this. And even if you set everything up properly, you'll still encounter some pitfalls:

  • Teamwork takes a hit: If you want to get input on a response, there's no way to easily loop someone else in—without sending them another email. Then, you have to send more emails back and forth if you want to discuss a draft reply. That's a lot of emails about emails.
  • It's messy and inefficient: Piles of folders and color-coding can confuse even the most tech-savvy people on your team—not to mention any newbies you bring on. Plus, these systems take a long time to set up.

4.) The help desk dilemma

Image of woman operator

Sure, good help desk software will solve most of the problems outlined in Traps 1 through 3.

You can turn emails into tickets, track requests, assign messages, and more. And if you're a larger company with a sizeable customer support team, a help desk might be just right.

But if you're a small business, it's going to be overkill for a few reasons:

  • Steep learning curve: Most help desks are packed with features that take hours to learn. And while customer support people may drool over this technology, others on your team are likely to be turned off by it. It's simply not a “for everyone” solution.
  • Steeper price tag: Help desk software isn't cheap. Worse yet, small businesses will likely end up paying for complex features they don't even need.
  • And it's not just help desks: There are also plenty of “collaborative email management” tools out there that can be just as overkill for a small group. That means you're stuck with more unnecessary tools, a bigger learning curve, and steeper monthly costs.

Email doesn't have to be so complicated

Well, not if you have the right tool.

If you're a small team that has run into one of the four traps listed above, you probably just need a shared inbox with a few simple features that help your squad get stuff done.

No complex integrations. Or expensive systems that turn emails into tickets and tickets into...whatever.

And that's exactly why we built Outpost — we wanted to give small teams a fluff-free shared inbox that allows everyone to:

Assign new emails to teammates

Discuss responses with your team

Respond with the right information

Track who is handling each message

O.K., enough theory.

The final result:

Your customer is happy because she got the response she wanted (and got it sooner than expected).

Your team is happy because working together was so simple and painless.

And you're happy because nothing was missed.

But that's just one scenario where Outpost can help small, busy teams.

If you want to escape whatever shared inbox trap you're in, give Outpost a shot. It won't take you long to see how this simple tool can help your crew work better together.