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Should You Use A Google Collaborative Inbox?

Google has a collaborative inbox feature built into Google Workspace. Here's how to decide if it's the best fit for your business. There are some inexpensive alternatives you may want to try.

Andrew R

Last updated: September 23, 2021

6 mins read

It’s important for every business to put a system in place that allows them to field and quickly respond to customer requests via email. The greater the volume of requests, the harder it is to manage them in a standard inbox, which is why many small- to medium-sized businesses turn to shared inbox tools instead.

One of these tools is a Google collaborative inbox, which is a Gmail inbox that can be shared by teams who need to work together to manage incoming emails. In other words, it’s a single Gmail inbox that multiple users can access.

Many businesses already use Gmail, so using a Google collaborative inbox to manage their customer service requests may seem like an obvious choice. But is it right for your business? Here’s what you need to know:

How does a Gmail collaborative inbox work?

Anyone who has access to a Gmail collaborative inbox can see, read, and respond to emails. For example, if you create a collaborative inbox for help, everyone on your customer service team will have access to incoming customer requests.

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All outgoing messages will come from the same help email address regardless of which member of your team is responding.

What are the advantages of a Google apps collaborative inbox?

There are several benefits to using a Google apps collaborative inbox.

The main benefit is that everyone on your team will be able to read and respond to customer service requests sent via email. This allows you to manage your customer service efforts from one email address rather than multiple email addresses. It also ensures that everyone can work together to manage incoming requests so this task doesn’t fall on one person.

Using a collaborative inbox also helps you avoid the issue of sharing login credentials with your team members. Your team won’t need to use the same log in credentials in order to access the inbox. Instead, you can grant access to each member of your customer service team. Once you do this, they will be able to access the inbox from their own Gmail account.

Google’s collaborative inbox is also designed with several features that make it easier for customer service teams to manage requests. For example, you can assign email conversations to different members of your team or change the status of each conversation to open or closed. These features allow your team to delegate work to each other and keep track of open customer service issues.

What are the disadvantages of a G suite collaborative inbox?

Although there are some benefits to using a collaborative inbox in G suite, this feature is far from perfect. There are a number of disadvantages of using a G suite collaborative inbox that could impact your customer service efforts, including:

  • Lack of reporting
  • No way to communicate between team members
  • Doesn’t prevent duplicate efforts
  • Automation isn’t an option
  • Unable to create templates

Lack of reporting

Having access to the right data can drastically improve your customer service efforts. But unfortunately, Google’s collaborative inbox is not designed with any reporting tools.

You won’t be able to pull reports that show how each member of your team–or your team as a whole–is performing. This makes it harder to confirm that everyone on your team is meeting your expectations in their customer service role.

Not having access to this data could make it difficult for you to measure the volume of incoming customer service requests, so you may not know when it’s time to hire additional employees to manage the team’s workload.

This lack of reporting could also impact your ability to understand why customers are contacting your company. Are they having issues with a certain product? Are they unhappy with the service they received? Or are they reaching out to learn more about your products or services?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you are missing out on opportunities to improve your business.

No way to communicate

Even though it’s called a “collaborative” inbox, the truth is that this Gmail tool is not designed with crucial collaboration features that your team needs to communicate with one another.

You can use Google’s collaborative inbox to assign tasks to each other, but they cannot leave notes for their team members on these tasks. This can make it harder for everyone to resolve customer service issues.

For example, say one of your team members is working with a customer to resolve an issue with an online order. The customer is entitled to a refund for their order, but the representative needs approval from a supervisor before issuing the refund.

In a Gmail shared inbox, they can assign the conversation to their supervisor, but they cannot attach a note that tells the supervisor why they are assigning it. This means the supervisor may need to read through the entire email chain to understand what’s going on and what they need to do to help.

Not being able to provide context or more details to tasks you are assigning to other team members is a huge disadvantage of using a Gmail collaborative inbox.

Doesn’t prevent duplicate efforts

One of the main challenges businesses face when using a shared inbox is preventing duplicated efforts. A duplicated effort occurs when more than one person on your team responds to or makes an effort to resolve the same customer service request. Each representative gets involved because they are unaware that someone else is already working on the task.

Duplicate efforts can waste your team’s time and lower their productivity. They can also frustrate customers that may receive multiple responses from your company.

The Gmail collaborative inbox cannot prevent duplicated efforts. This tool will not tell you if another member of your team is in the process of responding to an incoming customer service request. It also won’t tell you if another member of your team has already responded to a request.

As a result, multiple team members may spend their time working on a specific issue that has already been resolved by another customer service representative.

Automation isn’t an option

Responding to customer service requests involves a number of repetitive, time-consuming tasks, including:

  • Assigning customer service requests to the appropriate person
  • Flagging certain high priority requests
  • Removing spam and promotional emails from the collaborative inbox

For example, every time a new email comes in, the person who is monitoring the inbox may need to review it to determine who it should be assigned to. If it’s a new email, the representative may assign it to another team member at random.

But if it’s part of an ongoing conversation, they may need to take a few moments to figure out which representative is already working with this customer. Doing this once only takes a few moments, but doing it for every single email that arrives in your inbox can take hours.

Performing these tasks over and over throughout the day can eat into your team’s time and affect their overall productivity. Using a G suite collaborative inbox will not solve this problem.

Why? Gmail’s shared inbox is not designed with an automation feature, so your team will still need to perform these tasks manually.

Unable to create templates

Many customer service teams respond to the same questions from their customers over and over again. Some of these questions may include:

  • Where are you located?
  • What are your business hours?
  • How long will it take to receive my online order?
  • What is your return policy?
  • How much is shipping?

The answers to these questions will remain the same regardless of who is asking them. But if you are using Gmail’s collaborative inbox, your team may need to type out their response every time they receive these questions.

Why? You cannot create and share response templates using Gmail’s shared inbox. Instead, your team must take the time to manually write out a response to each of these questions.

What is the best alternative to a Gmail collaborative inbox?

The cons of using a Gmail collaborative inbox outweigh the pros. But this doesn’t mean you need to go back to square one to find a way to manage your customer service efforts. Many businesses that are not satisfied with the limitations of a Gmail collaborative inbox turn to Keeping to manage their customer service requests.

Keeping turns your Gmail account into a customer service tool and user-friendly help desk. It is designed with all of the features you need to provide high quality service to your customers, including:

  • Task delegation. Turn every email into a support ticket that can be assigned to other members of your team.
  • Shared notes. You can attach notes to each assigned task to provide context or more information about a specific customer service request.
  • Shared templates. Don’t answer the same question over and over again. Create shared response templates that can be inserted into emails with one click.
  • Advanced collision detection. Keeping will tell you when someone is already working on a task so your team doesn’t duplicate their efforts.
  • Reporting. Quickly pull reports that tell you how well your team is responding to incoming requests.
  • Automation. Use if/then logic to eliminate manual tasks that take up far too much of your team’s time, such as assigning tasks and deleting spam.

It’s easy to transition to Keeping. All you need to do is connect your current email address to your Keeping account. Then, start managing your customer service requests with ease. To learn more about Keeping, start your free trial today.

Andrew R

Andrew leads customer success at Keeping, and he's helped hundreds of companies streamline their customer support operations. When he's not helping customers, you can find Andrew exploring New York City's vibrant restaurant scene.

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