Email collaboration strategies for shared inboxes

Mar 3, 2020
min read
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When I just started working at Trengo, I thought it was strange that I had no personal ( or team ( email address. I assumed the business and its operations would be a complete mess, especially when it came to email collaboration.

How was I ever going to reply to emails in an efficient way, without searching through thousands of emails to find those appointed to me or my team?

In reality, using only one email address with our entire business is the best product pitch I could ever give.

In this blog, I'll explain why you should rethink the way your business is operating when it comes to email collaboration.

Email is here to stay

There has been a lot of talk about new communication channels replacing traditional channels like email. You probably have seen the headlines shouting “WhatsApp will replace email”, “Messenger will replace email” and later “Email is here to stay”.

Contradicting right? That’s because a lot of those headlines are simply written to attract readers. Fueled with opinions to release mass engagement on each post, because that's what works on the internet.

The speed of innovations and the availability of new technology increases as we leap into the future at a higher speed than ever before. First, we had email in 1971, then we had WhatsApp in 2009 and now, you are using both.

Some technologies replace others, some just add to them. If you are not generation Z then email will probably never get replaced for you. The mass adoption of email, and actually the first proper and accessible way to communicate digitally with each other, makes sure we will use email to the end of time. Or at least our time.

There most likely won’t be a day where everyone just ditches their email address and suddenly uses telepathy to communicate. However, when telepathy does ever become a thing, email may be in trouble.

Until that moment, though, we'll need a solution to use it the best way we can.

The limitations of Gmail and Outlook

Gmail (owned by Google) and Outlook (owned by Microsoft) are the most used and best-known email clients. You have probably registered an email address through one of these providers yourself. Still using Hotmail? Same story. These tools work just fine if you want to manage your individual email.

But once it comes to email collaboration, these clients are very, very limited. As a matter of fact, they were never created for working together in the first place. Email was always meant for 1-to-1 conversations.

Here are some examples of what can go wrong when working together on email in Gmail or Outlook:

  • If you want to work together on a customer inquiry, you have to forward the email to your colleague
  • You can't communicate internally within the inbox, but need another tool. Like Slack, for instance.
  • It's close to impossible to manage your team's performance, unless you're CC'ed in every single email conversation.
  • If a colleague goes on vacation, you would have to take over their conversations, meaning you'd have to manage two inboxes.

To solve this, companies come up with all different types of solutions. From complicated processes to handle email to all different types of software. But the solution is simple. You need the right email collaboration software.

Email collaboration: the modern way

As I said, we run our business with just one email address ( for our entire team. Our team currently consists of more than 50 people. Those are more than enough human beings working from the same email address, that if we were to use a normal email client, we would have probably killed each other within a week.

However, with our shared inbox, we never have to forward an email, read through CC threads, constantly switch portals, or walk over to our colleagues to ask for help.

Delegation: Assign emails to co-workers or teams

When an email comes in, we can easily pick it up ourselves or assign it to another colleague or team. This prevents two things from happening:

  1. An email gets ignored.
  2. An email gets answered more than once.
Email collaboration: easily assign incoming messages to a user or team.

We have even automated this process by setting rules in our tool. For instance, if an email with 'invoice' in the subject lines comes in, it immediately gets assigned to our finance team.

Collaboration: Work together on formulating replies

Need help with answering an email? Simply tag your colleagues in the conversation thread and start chatting internally. Without your customer noticing anything, of course.

Email collaboartion: working together in one thread.

If you've ever accidentally CC'd instead of BCC'ing someone, or forgot to remove a receiver before talking about them in an email thread, you probably still get anxiety from email. Trust me, I've been there. I still get flashbacks at night.

However, with this internal collaboration feature, you can easily have private conversations without any complicated and error-sensitive CC'ing.

This also enables you to store all your emails and everything that was discussed internally about one case in one thread. This makes it easy to look up old conversations in full context.

Organization: adding labels to emails

If you're collaborating on email with big teams, you'll need a way to keep the inbox tidy. If you've got a busy day, you want to make sure that it's easy to set priorities.

Email collaboration: adding labels to keeps the inbox organized.

For instance, if a customer has a complaint, you want to make sure they get a timely response.

Having to read through all of the emails is time-consuming, though. That's why our solution offers the option to add labels. This way, only one person has to read an email and attach a label, so that the rest of the team knows to what category it belongs.

We've also automated this process with rules, so that an email with 'complaint' in the subject line immediately gets labeled as 'urgent'.

I'm never going back

After working together with one email address for months now, I can confidently say I will never go back.

You could add more email addresses to the inbox if you'd like to, but I really appreciate the fact we only have to communicate one point of contact. We're just into clarity that way. But what ever works for you, of course.

By the way, we also use this inbox to collaboratively manage one WhatsApp Business number, one SMS number, one WeChat number, one Telegram number, one Twitter account, and so on. All without losing a clear overview of all our conversations. 

Now, close your eyes and imagine collaborating with your colleagues from a shared inbox without drowning in confusion. All problems solved at once. Your frustrations melting away like snow in the Sahara.

Interested? Try our shared inbox out for yourself. I promise you won't regret it.

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