It’s notoriously difficult to wrangle a shared inbox. Emails slip through the cracks; teams accidentally send out multiple responses; everyone lacks the context they need to solve ongoing problems.

No one doubts that team email management requires excellent organizational and communication skills. Beyond a dynamite skill set, though, even the most talented professionals need a tool that facilitates their efforts to help customers every day.

Without email management software, it’s nearly impossible to scale your business while taming the chaos of an inbox. As you grow, a team email management tool empowers teams to delight customers while capturing business insights.

Choose a solution that brings the benefit of shared inboxes without the drawbacks

There are so many advantages to email: It’s easy to use, simple to implement, affordable to manage, and accessible to (nearly) everyone. Shared email gives teams one simple channel for solving a stream of issues.

The best team email management solutions magnify these strengths while increasing the ability of teams to collaborate behind the scenes and optimize the customer experience. Whether you’re a non-profit sending emails out to volunteers or a real estate agency coordinating a move, communication is still as simple as sending out an email. Your community doesn’t know anything has changed except that they’re appreciating a better experience. We’ve outlined some ways that email management software can help you manage email internally, so you can always keep your team and community happy.

1. Stay organized as you scale

A shared inbox is difficult to manage because it’s such a simple tool. Even if you use folders and tags, managers can still find an inbox challenging to organize and split work between multiple team members. Those tasks only get more complex and frustrating as you introduce different time zones or successfully grow sales.

With an email management tool, you still benefit from the advantage of a single point of communication. But your team can also integrate easy-to-use layers of organization that maintain the quality of the customer experience. Mailboxes, tags, and assignments within a help desk can help you keep things organized:

Mailboxes: Create mailboxes that sort customer conversations across teams, brands, products, or email accounts. Mailboxes are especially helpful if your team is responsible for multiple email addresses (for example, billing@domain.com or shipping@domain.com). That way, no one has to hop out of the help desk to manage messages to different email addresses.

Tags: Categorize emails by topic or type of issue with Tags. These visual indicators help you track different conversations and enable topic-specific reporting, too. Try to be specific in your Tag labels. For example, “Shipping delay” is a more accurate tag than “Shipping.” With the former, your team can identify the underlying issue immediately; when you see a big spike in that Tag, you know there’s a major issue.

Assignments: Assign conversations to users through a simple drop-down menu that’s just as easy for the manager as it is for team members. The User sees all of their assignments in a “Mine” folder. Meanwhile, everyone on the team sees conversations in an “assigned” folder and an “unassigned” folder. You can also search by assignee to see what a specific team member is working on in any given day.

2. Automate grunt work with Workflows

Getting smart about automation boosts the efficiency of email collaboration by minimizing the administrative lag. In an inbox, there’s no way to automate assignments or sorting, so people can get stuck spending their days wading through administrative work.

Instead of manually organizing a queue, you can set up if/then Workflows that channel requests toward the appropriate team members, prioritize urgent requests, and even send out bulk emails. These Workflows also create “folders” based on conditions.

Let’s dive into some examples. Imagine emails are automatically tagged and assigned to the appropriate person. You can save time, balance workloads, and help individual contributors develop a niche. This capability can also extend to business development, marketing, and HR by automatically redirecting emails to the correct team members. There are built-in structures that create accountability and limit miscommunications that can otherwise balloon into larger cross-organizational issues.

As you build out Workflows, automate requests by urgency, too. For example, an inventory-based business might notice that responses to order confirmations are almost always time-sensitive. Create a Workflow that tags those emails as “urgent” and filters them automatically to a priority folder for immediate action.

Teams that experience large-scale challenges can adapt to and communicate during difficult situations in addition to optimizing their normal day-to-day Workflow. For example, let’s say that there’s a snow emergency and your team needs to reschedule an event. Not only can you tag conversations, you can also automate batch response to emails with certain words in the subject lines. These Workflows free up your team to focus on helping humans rather than powering through an administrative slog.

3. Collect actionable feedback in every interaction

Even when managers are knee-deep in the queue every day, it’s nearly impossible to know how their team is performing without quantitative feedback. Anecdotal experiences are worth noting, but concrete data gives you the information you need to set and hit goals.

Help Scout offers teams the option to pop customer satisfaction ratings into personalized email responses to your community. Depending on your team’s preference, you can adapt the language and visuals in emails and on the collection page. There’s also the option of including a space for comment, too. With this capability, you benefit from capturing the real thoughts and feelings of the people you communicate with every day.

The insights teams pull from email management software have wide-reaching implications for the entire organization. There’s no easier way to spot misalignments across a company than through complaints and feedback. If your sales team is not representing a product correctly, those repercussions end up in a team inbox. If a library director makes a decision about the space that’s not well-received, those complaints will end up in an inbox. Investing in a great help desk ensures that your community’s voice stays front and center in every decision.

4. Bring efficiency to the queue with context

When was the last time someone emailed you with a nagging issue they just couldn’t resolve? The most frustrating thing for a team is when they don’t have the context they need to do an excellent job — the first time.

A strong team email management strategy leverages extra context to set the foundation for a helpful experience. Through a handy customer sidebar, client or community-facing employees can look at previous conversations to understand why someone needs help. It’s helpful to know if this issue is a first-time need or if the customer bumps up against this problem — or multiple problems — over and over again.

To pull in more information, teams can leverage integrations or a custom app built through Help Scout’s API. With each data point, you have more context for a response that honors the needs of the person sending you an email, no matter the circumstance.

5. Collaborate behind the scenes with notes

One of the trickier things about email is that there’s no clear line between external communication and internal collaboration with a team. When you forward an email to a team member for help, it can get lost in the shuffle or accidentally sent onward to the wrong party. Those email chains can get long and complicated, leaving you lost while teasing out exactly how to help a customer.

Efficient email collaboration depends on your ability to collaborate behind the scenes without stepping out of the platform you’re using — or risking that customers will see your insights. With Help Scout, you can tag colleagues in Notes, which are private to internal team members. There’s no toggling back and forth between different tools and no chance someone outside of your team can see your thoughts. Team members can also use Saved Replies, where they can record their own language — and other collaborators’ language — within the help desk. That way, they’re not starting from scratch every time they respond to a customer.

Email management tools can empower team members to do all of these things from their smartphones. After receiving a mobile notification that there’s a new email, you can add an internal note and assign the conversation to other teammates.

You can also see who is responding in real-time to avoid collisions or repeat responses; simple red and yellow markers show who is responding to a conversation. Even if you miss those signals, Traffic Cop prevents team members from sending out an email to someone who already received a response.

Boost your customer experience with email management software

When teams struggle to stay on top of emails, your community can tell. Rather than let the fluctuating state of your inbox dictate the experience of your organization, invest in a tool that ensures people receive the help they need every day. Your team members will be happier, and everyone else will be, too.

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Elizabeth Wellington

Elizabeth Wellington

Liz writes about business, creativity and making meaningful work. Say hello on Twitter or through her website.