It's easy to contact most businesses through their general email address -- something like info@ or support@. Having one single point of contact works great from the customer perspective because it streamlines the process of getting in touch with a business.
It's also great for businesses because it centralizes communications into one place. However, with service requests incoming left and right, it's easy for the inbox to get disorganized and confusing. When many people are working in a shared inbox, it can be hard to know who replied to what, if questions have been addressed, or how urgent emails are.
Ultimately, it's too easy for emails to slip through the cracks, which can lead to disappointed customers and potentially churn. Enter shared inbox tools -- software that allows multiple people to access one single inbox while helping them stay productive and collaborate efficiently. The outcome is better team organization, which ultimately means less customer frustration.
What Is Shared Inbox Software?
A shared inbox is an email inbox that multiple users can access and uses an email alias like support@ or info@. Usually, these inboxes aren't owned by one single person – instead, they're managed by a team. For example, the whole customer support team will have access to support@ and be responsible for making sure those emails get answered promptly.
Why You Need Shared Inbox Software
Managing an inbox is relatively easy when there's only a small number of people, but as your business scales, the chances for miscommunication increases. Ever had an email go unanswered, only to realize it days later?
Inbox confusion is one of the biggest pains for customer support teams. It causes problems like misplaced emails, forgotten conversations, duplicated responses, and sending emails to the wrong people.
It's too easy to make mistakes when several people work on a shared inbox, which puts your entire customer service workflow at risk. Shared inbox software provides a solution that helps teams work together effectively, allowing all the information to be available within a single location.
Shared Inbox Software Features
Below are a few of the specific capabilities most shared inbox tools are comprised of.
1. Group Email Management
The option to easily manage email addresses like support@ and info@ is a core functionality of all shared inbox software. Having access to all your shared inboxes in a central location, without having to log into other accounts or toggle between screens, allows your team to respond faster and prevent emails from falling through the cracks. Assigning new emails to specific agent will let each person know what they're responsible for, avoiding duplicate replies and abandoned emails.
2. Collision Detection
Collision is that uncomfortable moment when you realize that two people on your team not only replied to the same customer twice, but also gave them different information. With shared inbox software, you can prevent this type of scenario from arising by assigning incoming tickets to agents. To avoid confusion, tickets can be assigned through routing rules or by having agents manually assign themselves inquiries at the top of the ticket queue.
3. Automated Emails
The majority of shared inbox tools allow you to use macros and canned responses. Especially for simple customer queries, they can help your team deliver faster responses so they can focus on making your customers happy. Canned responses also help your team's consistency and correctness by using proven answers from your shared inbox.
4. Internal Discussions
Using internal notes to embed important information directly into each email is not only a time-saver, but it's essential if you want to deliver the personalized replies to your customers. All relevant information will be visible for your team, simplifying the entire process. That's why most shared inbox tools allow you to talk to teammates using internal comments in the original email, instead of forwarding or replying-all.
5. Insights and Analytics
While not all shared inbox tools on the market offer analytics, it's definitely a nice feature to have. Tracking email response times and performance can help you stay on target, decide whether you need to hire more help, and find out which areas you need to improve to meet your ultimate goal of delighting customers.
Supported Email Inboxes: Gmail, Office 365, and other email clients
HubSpot's CRM is one of the leading CRM apps on the market. By signing up for this free CRM, you get access to the conversations tool, which includes the ability to connect your team email aliases to a shared inbox. By linking your email aliases to the shared inbox, you'll connect your sales, marketing, and customer service teams to one place so they can view, manage, and reply to all conversations.
Part of delivering great customer support is having all the information you need at hand. Because team email is integrated within HubSpot's free CRM, your team will have immediate access to contact information and can craft effective, personalized responses.
HubSpot also features free productivity tools that quickly give your customers the answers they need using templates, canned responses and documents – without ever leaving your inbox. Check out that feature in the image below.
Supported Email Inboxes: Gmail, Office 365, and other email clients
Outpost is a shared inbox tool built for small teams so you can work with general inboxes no matter which email provider you use. The tool also features internal notes that can loop in teammates and reduce the number of emails you send between reps. Outpost's collision alerts will help you see who's working on an email, preventing two people from replying to the same message. You can see how that feature works in the image below.
Supported Email Inboxes: Gmail, Office 365, and forwards emails from your own server
Helpmonks is one of the few shared inbox tools that allows you to host on your own server while having access to basic features like internal notes, email assignment, auto-tagging, and automated responses. The tool includes data-storing capabilities that extend your shared inbox into a full-featured CRM. It's a budget-friendly option and one of the few apps that have no user limit on their basic plan, which makes it a safe choice for organizations of any size.
Kayako is a feature-rich help desk that also offers a shared inbox tool. The shared inbox tool focuses mostly on unifying your customer's interactions across email, Facebook, Twitter and live chat channels while keeping all of the conversations organized and accessible. With Kayako you can also gain insights on customer satisfaction and first reply time.
ClientFlow works a lot like an email client, but adds an extra layer of project management that's centered around helping client service teams. Its simple interface makes managing your client communication, approval, and time tracking very easy.
A popular shared inbox software, Front focuses on saving time by managing your accounts in one place. You can respond to emails, SMS, Facebook, Twitter, and live chat, all within the app, giving customers a better experience no matter where they reach out from. Another handy feature is the ability to edit an email as a team, like with Google Docs. This promotes team collaboration while preventing duplicate responses.
With Front you can also connect your inbox to more than 50 apps, ranging from Asana to HubSpot.
Missive is not exactly a shared inbox tool, but rather a full email client. The company's philosophy is, "the email part of the application needs to be so good, that users want to consume all their email accounts in it."
With that in mind, Missive displays all your email accounts, including your private accounts. Missive supports all email setups so you can manage team inbox, as well as Facebook, SMS and Twitter, accounts from a single place.
If you use Gmail as your email client, then the Chrome extension, Hiver, might be a good option for your team. Hiver lets you manage and collaborate on shared inboxes right from your Gmail inbox, which means a low learning curve because you keep your original inbox interface.
It also features typical shared inbox capabilities, like automation, tags, internal conversations, and email distribution.
Helprace is a ticketing system which also offers shared inbox capabilities. On top of basic features like internal notes or tags, you'll be able to route tickets automatically based on a sender's user group, organization, or other attributes. Helprace also allows you to customize your responses so they look like emails to your customers. Or, if you want something different, use the visual editor to create a custom design.
Supported Email Inboxes: Gmail, Helpwise servers, and forwards emails from your own server
Helpwise is a shared inbox for not only email but also SMS messaging, WhatsApp, live chat, and social media. There's no shared emails involved; instead, each user gets their own -password, which makes it a great option for security. In addition, it allows you to collaborate with other team members in real-time with chat functionality and assign or tag messages to the correct team member. Lastly, with built-in collision detection, you'll never have another duplicate-email situation. It also has a number of integrations so that you can get the most out of it.
Help Scout emphasizes their shared inbox tool but they're a full service platform complete with knowledge base and live chat for your site. With this tool, your team will be able to see all activity for a contact, including saved replies and private notes. It is built for speed and efficiency, so the UX is streamlined, and there are powerful automated actions that reduce the time reps spend on each task. Best of all? It integrates with HubSpot.
Supported Email Inboxes: Forwards emails from your own server, and uses Zapier to connect email clients
Unlike some of the out-of-the-box solutions on this list, Cerb markets itself as being a fully customizable workspace where you can build collaborative workspaces. The shared inbox includes notifications, calendards, project boards, and community portals. It also comes with webhooks, plugins, APIs, and more to streamline your workflow.
DragApp is a shared workspace that boasts "everything teams need to get work done." There are three main components to the software: shared inbox for collaboration, task management tools for workflow, and an internal team chat for collaboration. The goal is to reduce the gap between email and tasks while serving customers effectively. The shared inbox comes with activity log, email assignments and notes, shared drafts, collision detection, and automated workflows.
How a Shared Inbox Helps Your Customer Service Team
Don't let a disorganized shared inbox get in between you and your customer. With so many helpful tools available, there's no reason to keep doing things the traditional way. You'll risk losing conversations, waste time figuring out what's going on and ultimately, fail to provide effective email support.
Whether you're communicating with customers via Gmail, Outlook or Social Media, using a shared inbox software will save you time by streamlining all communication into one inbox. Even a simple shared inbox software will empower your team – enabling every member to collaborate and respond to emails in an organized and timely manner.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in June 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published Jul 13, 2020 8:00:00 AM, updated April 29 2021