team inbox management

Team Inbox Management: Best Practices for Managing a Team’s Email Inbox

Discover the secrets of team inbox management. Learn how to manage your team's email inboxes like a pro.

catherine heath

December 19, 2023

15 mins read

I’m sure you’ll agree with me on this – Managing personal inbox can be so challenging.

Multiply that by the number of inboxes your team’s using (or a shared inbox used by the whole team,) and the challenge multiplies like crazy.

Suddenly, it’s not just the sheer volume of emails that you need to manage. You also have to collaborate with others on almost every message, communicate internally, and avoid duplicating work, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Luckily, there are ways to simplify this and tame and manage the team’s inboxes, and below, you’ll learn several of them.

But let’s take it from the very top…

What is a team inbox?

Example of a team inbox

The key defining feature of a team inbox – or shared inbox – is that more than one person is managing the emails. This means that you’ll have groups of team members reading, responding to, deleting or archiving emails for the purposes of inbox management. 

Usually, the correspondence will come to a group email address, but individual accounts will log into the system and respond. 

A team inbox is typically used to communicate with a particular audience. This could be external customers or internal employees within a company. For example, HR might use the team email inbox to manage requests from employees, or customer service might use it to manage customer requests.

A team inbox will receive inquiries that are all typically of a similar nature, although some may be more complex than others and require escalation. Customers know that when they contact the team inbox, they are essentially opening a ticket that your customer service agents will deal with, and hopefully provide them with a solution. 

Unlike traditional email, everyone with access to the team inbox can see the queue of emails as well as who is dealing with which inquiry. This avoids unnecessary and unprofessional confusion as everyone has access to one centralized dashboard for all your messages.

More than 3 billion emails were sent and received per day in 2020 – a staggering number. Businesses are struggling to keep up. 

You also might want to integrate your email with a live chat solution and social media messages so you can create a multichannel customer experience. Alternatively, connecting with a CRM or ecommerce solution like Shopify, which Keeping does, can often be essential for leveling up your customer service. For that, you’ll need a team inbox.

There are many things to consider when managing a shared team inbox.  

What businesses use a team inbox? 

Any business that provides customer service can benefit from a team inbox. Some organizations may opt for workarounds such as Google Collaborative Inbox, but this is inferior to using a dedicated team inbox tool. If you are a business striving to build a professional image, either externally for customers or internally for employees, opt for a team inbox tool. 

Even non-profit organizations may benefit from a team inbox because they will likely be dealing with many inquiries from their users and other stakeholders. A shared inbox software is a mass communication tool for teams that want to solve incoming emails collaboratively. 

So, if you have a group of stakeholders, such as customers, who have a vested interest in communicating with your organization, you need a team inbox for managing your email. 

How to manage a team inbox or a group email account

First of all, you don’t manage a group email account by sharing the login details with multiple parties – that’s a recipe for disaster. For a team inbox to work properly, you must go beyond a basic inbox like Gmail and implement the correct software to allow your customer support team to build their processes for managing incoming mail. 

The key feature of a group email account is using a single email account to collect messages which are then dealt with collectively behind-the-scenes. Customers don’t have insight into your team collaborating with features such as ticket assignment, internal notes and canned responses, which are invisible. 

For customers, communicating with your team inbox feels just like normal email – except that they have a great experience with your company. Managing your team email means processing incoming emails, tracking existing customer conversations and ensuring that tickets are closed in a timely manner.

What are the benefits of a team inbox?

You might be wondering why you can’t just stay with traditional email, even as your team scales. Well, nearly three out of five customers report that they need good customer service to feel loyal towards a brand. A team inbox helps get you there. 

Enables team collaboration and cooperation

Team inboxes allow teams of agents to work most effectively together. Collaboration becomes more achievable when you move beyond traditional email to a solution that has all the features you need to succeed. Large volumes of email and multiple collaborators become overwhelming without a team inbox to help you scale and build effective processes. 

Without a team inbox, there’s no way to leave internal comments, assign emails or tag other team members. This requires the use of additional software such as project management tools, adding to cost and complexity. 

You can deal with a large number of customers

If you’re a small business with a handful of customers then perhaps you might not need a team inbox. It might be easy enough for one person to read and respond to all customer emails, without becoming overwhelmed. 

As your customer base grows, traditional email becomes insufficient for managing a large number of customers sending in many incoming queries. Upgrading to a team inbox is necessary if you want to reach inbox zero on a regular basis. 

You can track and analyze performance

Teams of agents are inefficient if you’re failing to track and analyze performance, which you won’t be able to do with a traditional email client. Team inbox tools allow you to monitor key metrics and KPIs such as First Response Time so you can identify areas for improvement and understand the effectiveness of your processes. 

Tracking your team’s performance means you can manage your team inbox more effectively and save costs in your customer service operations. Operating a lean customer service team is vital for businesses who want to create value.  

It’s more secure and reliable

Sharing passwords and login details for solutions like Gmail is a radically insecure way to approach customer email. You could compromise your customer data, which is very poor service to offer your customers and not to mention illegal. 

Team inbox software has been specifically designed to support multiple users accessing the account so your data remains secure. For any businesses wishing to be compliant with data regulations (and that’s all) a team inbox is a must.

Stops emails falling through the cracks

With traditional email software it’s easy to miss particular emails. Someone assumes that someone else has replied to a message, because they lack features such as ticket assignment or marking tickets as Open, Pending or Closed. 

Team inboxes allow you to do all this and more so that your processes for managing emails become more foolproof. You make fewer mistakes and your customer support becomes more professional. 

It improves the customer experience

When customers have such a dazzling array of options for contacting customer support, sometimes providing them with a simple email address is the best choice. Being able to email support@company.com, receive a relatively instant and helpful response, and have your problem resolved, makes customers happy. 

Growing businesses need team inbox software to help them manage increasing volumes of customer email. They need team inbox features behind-the-scenes to make customers happy and improve the overall customer experience.

What are the common pain points that lead organizations to a team inbox?

Usually, there will be challenges to overcome that lead teams to start considering a team inbox as the solution. Here are the most common pain points: 

Struggling to deal with an influx of customer tickets

Organizations first become aware of the need for a team inbox when their incoming tickets exceed their capacity to deal with them. You soon realize that normal email was not designed for dealing with large volumes of customer inquiries without teams suffering from customer support burnout. Inboxes can quickly become overwhelming as your customer base grows and you have more problems to deal with. 

Teams are stepping on each other’s toes.

One solution to dealing with a growing number of customer tickets is to hire more agents. But what happens when your agents send duplicate replies, resulting in customers often receiving conflicting information? Logging into the same email account provides no way for agents to share and delegate responsibility in the inbox. 

Email management has become impossible with standard providers

Other than the problems already mentioned, it’s impossible to manage your level of email with a standard email client such as Gmail. Gmail is great for individuals dealing with personal or professional email, but is sadly lacking for teams needing shared inbox features such as prioritization, tagging and reporting. You don’t want to stop using email, but you know that you need a better solution. 

Customers are dissatisfied with your service

If you’re receiving more complaints than usual from customers who are dissatisfied with your service, that’s a hint that you may need the help of a team inbox. Complaints may be from customers who waited too long for a response, or perhaps never received a response at all. Team inbox software is specifically designed to help you deal with these problems. 

What are the best practices for managing a team shared mailbox?

Now, it’s time for the main event! We’re going to share these best practices you can follow when managing your team inbox. 

#1. Use the right software for your mailbox

Screenshot of a team inbox management software.

First and foremost, you must make sure you choose the right software for your team inbox. Team inbox software offers you all the features you need to collaborate on email while at the same time keeping things simple, so there are no complex new systems to learn. The type of software you choose will slightly depend on your business needs but a good choice is one that integrates directly with your existing email service provider, like Gmail. 

Team inbox software is empowering to your customer service team without adding extra layers of complexity. Most importantly, agents are able to track tickets from when they first receive them through to when they close them, without any customers falling through the cracks. Solving tickets collaboratively means adding vital context, tagging team members and assigning tasks so your inbox works seamlessly. 

Making sure the right integrations are available is also key to choosing your software. For example, Keeping works right within Gmail and integrates directly with Shopify, so you can manage customer orders while you deal with tickets. Avoiding unnecessary context-switching saves valuable time. 

The right team inbox management software elevates your customer service without making it harder. 

#2. Establish the right processes for managing email

If you’ve been using traditional email up until now then it’s likely you lack the necessary processes to make email the most efficient process. When you adopt a shared inbox, you’ll have to implement processes that allow your team to work together seamlessly on managing email. 

Your customers are ultimately happy with your service when you know what to do with emails when they arrive. Establishing a process for escalation, for example, is crucial for the correct functioning of your team inbox. Deciding how to tag emails and what to do with particular emails also streamlines your processes. 

#3. Automate as many processes as possible

Image showing inbox automation.

Automations are a big part of why you might adopt a team inbox because you’ll be able to apply conditional rules to incoming messages automatically. This saves you untold amounts of time performing manual work and allows the support agent to get on with the more pressing responsibilities of helping customers. 

Automating the process of adding tags, for example, can allow you to categorize emails and assign them to the right agents or departments. This removes the need for one of your support agents to keep track of incoming tickets when they could be helping customers. 

#4. Clearly designate responsibilities for email

When you have multiple team members collaborating on a team inbox, individuals must be clear about their responsibilities. Confusion results in losing tickets, failing to solve tickets, and disappointed customers. 

Your agents are like links in a chain – one weak link can result in the whole team collapsing. Make sure everyone knows who should be doing what, without expecting your team inbox to work magic. If certain agents don’t know what they’re doing, they risk letting the entire team down. 

#5. Track your email analytics

Team inbox analytics

One of the great things about a team inbox is you’ll have access to the analytics you need to improve performance. With metrics like Tickets Received and First Response Time, you can track how agents are performing when it comes to dealing with tickets and implement solutions if you’re failing to meet the standards you’ve set yourself. 

Traditional email clients like Gmail or Outlook don’t offer analytics for tracking your team’s performance. Without being able to break down your analytics, you’ll have no idea how you’re serving your customers. 

#6. Make customers aware of your shared email address(es)

If customers don’t know how to contact you then your team inbox will be a failure. Display your team email address prominently on your website and other communications with your customers so they always understand how to get in touch. 

Customers who have had to hunt through your website for contact details are much more frustrated and unreceptive when they finally do get hold of a human. This makes it more difficult to resolve problems to their satisfaction and create a favorable impression of your business. 

#7. Look after customer data in your inbox

One of the reasons you will want to upgrade to a team inbox is the increased security that it offers for your customers. Sending email back and forth makes your messages vulnerable to hackers while sharing passwords and logins for your inbox increases the risk that you’ll compromise customer details. Team inboxes provide a better level of security which is continually monitored and tested. 

One of the worst situations you can find yourself in is having to inform customers of a data breach. This naturally leads to a loss of confidence in the business and even a drop in revenue.

Team inbox software increases the likelihood that your customer data will be kept safe and handled properly. You can do your bit by implementing processes that enable you to handle customer data properly, such as never asking for sensitive details over email. 

#8. Share the workload between team members

Multi agent email delegation in a shared team inbox.

With team inboxes you will be able to see how many tickets each team member is getting through. You can redistribute the workload if someone is taking on too much and make sure that you track performance. A particularly high ticket volume means you can clearly see when you need to hire more help to enable you to maintain a high standard of service for customers. 

Being able to assign tickets to agents means that you miss fewer inquiries. Nobody assumes that someone else is working on it, with the final result that no one works on it. 

#9. Adhere to SLAs for customers

SLA settings in a team inbox.

Businesses that implement Service Level Agreements (SLAs) are more likely to be able to stay on top of their team inbox. When customers know what to expect and you can track whether you are hitting your targets, you increase overall performance and raise satisfaction. 

You can set team-wide rules for SLAs such as response time and resolution to check whether your support team is on track in the inbox. SLAs keep you accountable to customers and ensure that you retain key accounts. 

#10. Create a knowledge base for your agents

Knowledge base access in a team inbox.

Canned responses or saved templates allow your agents to create a more consistent service for customers and save time. Instead of reinventing the wheel every time, you can use a reusable template customized for each interaction so customers get the same response no matter who is helping them. 

Canned responses don’t have to be impersonal but they do have to provide you with a structure for helping customers. This enables you to stick to policy and avoid wasting time, because agents aren’t confused about how to respond to customers. 

#11. Regularly review your responses

Any team inbox worth its salt is always improving, especially as the needs of your customers change and evolve. Regularly reviewing your responses to check that agents are supplying customers with the right information is key to delivering effective service. 

Integrating software feedback mechanisms like customer surveys can help you understand whether customers were satisfied and review where you need to make changes. As your company grows, your team inbox will need to grow with you. 

#12. Deal with complaints

When customers email your business to complain you can tag their messages and escalate so you can swiftly deal with unhappy customers. A shared inbox tool gives transparency into who is messaging your business for what and empowers your team to treat customers as individuals who have a relationship with you. 

If you are repeatedly flagging complaints then you know you can adopt some intervention to prevent even more customers leaving unhappily. If you don’t handle complaints, you risk customers taking to social media or review sites to vent their frustration, further damaging the reputation of your business. 

#13. Keep all your mailboxes in one place

Shared inbox management.

The right team inbox software will allow you to integrate all your various mailboxes in one place so you don’t have to switch accounts to view different mailboxes. This massively increases productivity for agents and streamlines the overall experience. Agents can simply navigate to the dashboard and select the mailbox that they want to view next, and you can also control who has access. 

How do you manage a team inbox effectively?

Now we’re going to look at some strategies to implement if you want to ensure you effectively manage your team inbox. 

Have a plan

Agents need instruction from the head of their department to understand how they can be aligned with the rest of the business. When you implement SLAs, everyone knows where they stand and can understand when they are on target. Customers have clear expectations of your business and are less likely to leave negative reviews or complain about you to their friends. 

Invest wisely

We all know customer support is important for growth but you have to make sure that your team expands sustainably. Investing in the right software is a great way to make resources stretch further while keeping standards high. When agents have the right tools to manage customers swiftly and effectively, you don’t have to hire as much manpower to get through your backlog. 

Humanize your customers

Customers are not “tickets” – they have relationships with your business. Use your team inbox to become closer to your customers and have conversations with them about their issues. Agents who are empowered to go off-script and creatively solve problems are the ones who can create memorable experiences for your customers. 

Manage expectations

When customers get in touch with your team inbox there might sometimes be delays. Manage expectations by setting up automatic replies that inform customers of average wait times and redirect them to a customer knowledge base that can answer common queries. Customers don’t expect you to be perfect, but they appreciate being treated with respect. 

What are the most common pitfalls in managing a team inbox?

Although team inboxes are a popular choice for customer service teams, there are some common pitfalls you need to watch out for.

Choosing an overly complex solution

When you aim too high with your new team inbox you are setting yourself up for failure. Choosing the right software means opting for one that adapts perfectly to your needs, rather than one that offers the most features that might come in useful in the future. 

For example, if you go for Keeping, it slots right in with Gmail so your team can benefit from utter simplicity. Not having to learn a new interface massively reduces the adoption curve with your new tool and increases the likelihood of success.

Failing to adopt new processes

Teams can be aware they have a need for change but may struggle to adopt new processes that challenge the status quo. Showing team members just how implementing a team inbox can improve processes, enhance productivity, and save time, makes it more likely teams will learn how to use your new software.

It’s not just about pulling rank and telling team members what to do. You need to demonstrate exactly how your new team inbox is going to help them. 

Failing to meet customer needs

Focusing too much on implementing a tool and not enough on helping customers is a common pitfall for businesses seeking to manage their team inbox. Remember, it is always about the customers, who are the lifeblood of your business and decide whether to buy your products and services. If your new software and processes are not helping your customers, then you need to revise your approach. 

Failing to automate

Doing everything manually means you are not going to reap the full benefits of a team inbox. Automations based on conditional rules means you can eliminate much of the busy work involved in customer service and focus on value-adding activities. 

Spending too much time on minutiae risks lowering the morale of your customer service agents and increasing the likelihood of agent attrition in favor of looking for better roles. Automating is not about replacing human agents, but rather making their jobs easier. 

Are team inboxes expensive and complex? 

Some team inboxes are expensive and complex, but they don’t have to be. If you opt for a solution like Keeping you can benefit from the simplicity of Gmail with all the features of a typical team inbox. Our pricing is completely transparent, charging per agent per month with no hidden costs. You can choose a plan that suits your needs and scale sustainably as you grow.

Wrapping up

Adopting a team inbox is critical for customer service teams that want to better serve their customers and ultimately increase profits. Adopting the right software means you can implement a team inbox, often with your original email service provider and requiring very little effort to set up. Your customers and your employees will thank you for investing in the right tools to facilitate processes. 

Using a team inbox is undoubtedly an important way to communicate with customers and ensure they get the answers they seek. Businesses that can succeed with email can win more customers and enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty. 

Frequently asked questions

How can I set up a team inbox?

If you choose the right software like Keeping then setup is often as simple as plugging the solution into your email service provider. You install the Keeping browser extension into the browser and then log in through Gmail. Boom! You’re up and running instantly. 

Is my team inbox visible to customers?

Keeping is never visible to customers so when you communicate with them they feel like they are using normal email – because they are. Distracting ticket IDs remain hidden from customers, only used behind-the-scenes to identify tickets. 

Do I own my data in the team inbox?

If you choose an option like Keeping, your data is always your own. Even if you decide to migrate to a new tool, you can keep your emails because they stay in your Gmail inbox.

catherine heath

Catherine is a content writer and community builder for creative and ethical companies. She often writes case studies, help documentation and articles about customer support. Her writing has helped businesses to attract curious audiences and transform them into loyal advocates. You can find more of her work at https://awaywithwords.co.

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