Is Collaborative Email Right for Your Business?

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collaborative email

An essential part of your business? A convenient way of communicating? A bit of a productivity black hole?

Email can be a lot of different things, but the reality is, it’s still an integral part of doing business.

The key is finding ways to make email work for you, rather than letting it become a bit of a time suck.

At Outpost, we believe collaborative email is key.

What is a collaborative email tool, anyway?

The thing about collaborative inbox tools is that you might need one, even if you don’t know it.

The idea behind collaborative email is simple: letting multiple people access and work in the same email inbox.

So, rather than just having everyone at a company have their own personal email addresses to work from (or worse, having to give everyone the same login information for an inbox like sales@ or info@, and then not knowing who did what in those inboxes), everyone can access group inboxes easily, without stepping on anyone’s toes or losing track of whether there’s already a response in progress.

With a collaborative email tool, you’re acknowledging that situations often require more than one set of eyes.

Maybe it’s a customer request that needs specific management approval. Without a collaborative email tool, an employee would have to CC their manager (while avoiding accidentally emailing the customer too!) and wait for a response. Once they got a response from their manager, then they can finally respond to the customer with an answer.

At best, it’s clunky and cumbersome. At worst, it can mean a bad customer interaction. Maybe the customer had to wait too long for a response, got the wrong information, or maybe didn’t get an answer at all.

With a collaborative email tool, however, both the manager and the employee have access to the same inbox simultaneously. They can see, in real time, how an email is being handled, share private notes, and even assign the email to a specific team member for them to handle. There’s more transparency and less confusion.

A collaborative email tool might be right for you if:

1. You have multiple inboxes

Does your business have a few different general email address like info@ for general information, as well as, say, customerservice@ for specific service questions?

If so, a collaborative email tool can be incredibly helpful.

Why? Without the ability to work in shared inboxes, everyone who needs access, to, say, your info@ inbox will need to share the same login information.

This is a problem for a few reasons. First of all, it’s not very secure—if multiple people are sharing the same password, you’re increasing the risk that someone outside your company will be able to access your accounts.

Secondly, just because multiple employees can access the same inbox doesn’t mean they can work in that inbox at the same time. You’re still limited to one person being able to work in your info@ at any given time, which isn’t as efficient as it could be.

Finally, say only one person has access to your info@ inbox. What if they go on vacation? Does anyone else ever log into that inbox? What if no one else has admin access? Whatever the case, someone will need to cover for them. You’ll have to share a password and figure out who is doing what—which is both poor security and inconvenient for your business.

With a collaborative email tool, you can give multiple employees their own login information for a shared inbox. Each team member can log in whenever they need to, and multiple employees can access an inbox at the same time. Not only that, but you’ll be able to see who has done what, which makes it easier to keep track of everything.

2. You have a team of employees or are planning to hire additional staff members

When you started your business, maybe it was just you. Or, you might have had one or two other staff members.

But, maybe you’re planning to grow. Growth is exciting—but a bigger team can mean more room for miscommunication and confusion.

Let’s say you get an email from an upset customer. It’s probably a good idea for your team to touch base on how to handle the issue. But, with traditional email, that probably means a chain of CCs and forwards. It’s confusing and cumbersome.

With a collaborative email tool like Outpost, however, your growing team won’t have to deal with these issues. When you share access to an inbox, you can assign emails to certain team members, monitor what still needs a response, and make internal notes on how to respond to an email, and even collaborate on drafts together so you make sure you get the message right.

3. Your team members have multiple roles

Maybe your team is growing, but you’re not quite at the point of having a dedicated sales team or customer service representative.

It’s common for small and mid-size teams to share the work. If your business is growing, having one person whose role it is to answer customer inquiries might just not be realistic.

Imagine that you get an email from a prospective customer who has a question. Who should respond, and how?

If it’s just you, there’s no confusion about who will answer the email. But, if you share the work of responding to customer inquiries with someone else on your team, the waters get murkier. Will you answer the customer, or will one of your employees? Do you have a template you can use to make answering customers easier and more streamlined, now that the work is divided between multiple teammates?

Sorting this out with traditional email might mean a delayed response for the customer, which isn’t going to make them very happy.

With a shared inbox, everyone can see all incoming customer inquiries. You can easily delegate customer questions or requests to certain team members, which means nothing will slip through the cracks. With a tool like Outpost, you can also create templates, so it’s easy to respond to frequently asked questions.

Outpost and collaborative email

So, you’re reading this on the Outpost blog—clearly, we see the value of collaborative email. We created Outpost to address the need for a collaborative inbox tool, after all. We personally experienced these exact problems as Palo Alto Software grew. So, we created a solution that we could use internally.

Whether you use Outpost or not, the most important thing to keep in mind is that there are tools that exist to make the way you handle email better.

Email isn’t dead, even if you’re using Slack or other tools to communicate internally. But your email probably just isn’t as efficient as it could be. And isn’t email supposed to make things more effective, efficient, and convenient for your business?

Posted in Email

Briana Morgaine

Briana Morgaine

Briana is the content marketing specialist for Outpost and Palo Alto Software. She enjoys discussing marketing, social media, and the pros and cons of the Oxford comma. Briana is a resident of Portland, Oregon, and can be found working remotely from a variety of local coffee shops.