The Ultimate Guide to
Shared Inboxes

Is your team frustrated with the time-consuming hassle of managing email?

A shared inbox might seem like a good idea, but does your team actually need one? And will it help you save time so you can get more done?

The answer is yes, absolutely, if you do it right. That's why we put this guide together: to help you learn everything you need to know about shared inboxes. What a shared inbox is, how you should manage one, what tools to consider using, and how we can help you be successful.

In this guide, we'll cover the following topics. You can skip ahead to any section, or we can email the guide to you so you can read it at your leisure.

What is a shared inbox?

A shared inbox is an email inbox that multiple team members can access in order to send and receive email from the same address. A shared inbox typically, but not always, uses a catchall email address like info@ or sales@ so that any team member can reply to customers or business partners from a branded email address. A shared inbox also helps avoid important communication being lost in an individual team member's email inbox.

The benefits of a shared inbox are pretty great:

  • Everyone on your team has access and visibility
  • Anyone can reply to an important message
  • Your team can be more consistent in your replies
  • Your email process can be clean and organized
  • You can reply faster to customers and business partners
  • Your company can be more accessible to prospects, customers, and partners

How do you manage a shared inbox?

Now, the benefits of a shared inbox are fantastic—that's why we're making a pretty big bet on it with Outpost. But without a process in place or a tool to manage your team and email in one place, shared inboxes can become troublesome.

Most teams try to manage their catchall email addresses in one of three ways:

  1. Everyone uses the same username and password to login
    OR
  2. A distribution list forwards these emails to individual inboxes
    OR
  3. One person is assigned to monitor and manage the shared inbox, forwarding or CC'ing messages to individual team members, and delegating responsibility for replies

Can't you just use Gmail or Office 365 to manage a shared inbox? Since your company is likely already using these email clients for your individual email addresses, it seems simple enough to continue using what you know. Unfortunately, it really isn't that simple.

There are some major drawbacks to using traditional email platforms and workaround “solutions”—they often cause more problems than they solve. Below are just a few examples.

10 Pitfalls of Managing a Shared Inbox in Gmail or Office 365

  1. Sharing login information is a security no-no, especially if you have employee turnover.
  2. There's no real way to track who responded to each message, especially if you forward it to another team member. Did they follow up like they were supposed to? Who knows?
  3. Different team members often reply to the same message twice—only realizing it when it's too late, and at the same time as your customer.
  4. If you're using a distribution list, emails can clutter up your team member's inboxes, especially if those messages are quickly resolved by another team member. It's not easy to see what's resolved, and what still needs attention.
  5. Your team has to use a separate chat tool—or talk in person—in order to collaborate on how to respond to a message.
  6. Emails can sit without a response for days at a time as each team member assumes someone else will reply.
  7. Team members can become a bottleneck for communication, especially if they leave on vacation, or get sick, forgetting to hand over monitoring/managing responsibilities for the shared inbox.
  8. There's no way to monitor how quickly your team is responding to customers and partners.
  9. Traditional email clients like Gmail and Office 365 are custom-designed for individual email use. While they do offer team-based features, they still fail to deliver key features that provide true collaboration, transparency, and accountability.
  10. The problems only get worse for your team and your customers as your business scales up. If your team is going to grow well, you need an efficient process for managing email. Without one, an increase in email volume will only ensure that more customer emails fall through the cracks, tanking your customer satisfaction ratings.

As you can see, the concept of shared inboxes is a great idea in theory. When teams try to execute the idea, however, it can lead to more clutter, chaos, and confusion.

The concept isn't broken, but perhaps the way you're trying to manage it is. That's why we think you should use a shared inbox tool. You get all the benefits of a shared inbox without adding new problems to the mix.

So, what kind of shared inbox options do you have?

7 Tools to Manage Your Shared Inbox

Dozens of shared inbox tools are available today, but features, pricing, and packages vary. Finding the best tool for your team can take up your valuable time, so we'd like to make it easier for you. Here are the top 7 shared inbox tools for teams:

  1. Outpost
  2. Google Groups
  3. Front
  4. Keeping
  5. Hiver
  6. ReplyManager
  7. Missive

If you'd like a detailed review of each of these tools, you can read that here, or you can download and print our free comparison chart.

Want an even shorter summary? Here it is:

A growing number of companies find Outpost to be an easy-to-set-up, user-friendly shared inbox that improves response rates, customer satisfaction, and sales. Customers also tell us they love Outpost's dedicated support, unlimited mailboxes, lack of distractions, and straightforward, simple pricing.

And with a no-credit-card-required free trial, there's no reason not to try Outpost first.

How can Outpost help your team?

If you're a multi-tasking team that has run into the problems listed above, you probably just need a shared inbox with a few simple features that help your squad get stuff done.

No complex integrations. No complicated features that confuse and clutter your view. And not another expensive system that turns emails into tickets and tickets into...whatever.

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

Assign new emails to teammates

Collaborate on responses with your team

Respond quickly with the right information at your fingertips

Be transparent and accountable, improving performance together

What do teams love about Outpost?

It's not a secret: innovative teams around the world love Outpost. But don't just take our word for it—here's what they have to say:

[Outpost] works perfectly!! It's simple and very easy to implement… unlike many other overly-complex systems that I tried. Outpost just makes it easy to have multiple staff access high-volume company inboxes. It's very simple, it's very effective and a breeze to set up. - Wayne Kaminsky, FitChef
Outpost has allowed us to manage a central email account with employees having access, with audit trails, tracking, and security. [My team] can work in the account without stepping on each other, as updates happen real-time and working notes can be attached to the emails...It's working great for us! - Andy Shinn, EZ Repair Hotline
Our company simply wouldn't be able to operate without Outpost because the alternative is an incredibly manual process that is simply not scalable. And our favorite part is being able to write notes to discuss emails back and forth and be able to reference the email in question without having to forward, copy + paste, forward, and re-forwarding emails to do the same. We simply love it. - Tiffany Kao, Veraccounts
ENSTAR was on a quest to find a tool in which we could manage our external customer email to ensure our customers were receiving timely and consistent responses to customer inquiries and requests. We have recognized a huge value in the ability to assign and manage our external correspondence. In addition, the email templates increase efficiency, quality assurance and consistency. We have been very pleased with this product! - Christina Veltkamp, ENSTAR
Outpost makes it easy for our customer response team to collaborate on all the emails sent to our various locations. We're able to reply to customers in a timely fashion from the specific local email address the customer sent to (massively improving open rates). The Notes, Tags, and [Routing] rules have allowed us to get our response game to the next level and has enabled us to build advanced processes for follow-up and data tracking purposes. - Daniel Egan, Foris Solutions

Want to try Outpost for free?

With Outpost, your customers are happy because they get the response they wanted (and get it sooner than expected).

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

And you're happy because nothing is missed.

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.

Want to see Outpost in action? You can request a demo, and one of our team members will be happy to show you how to outsmart your shared inbox with Outpost.