Have you ever used email to agree on a meeting time with a group of friends? Or even worse, have you ever been in charge of a family or class reunion and used email for planning? From setting appointments to making dinner plans, relying on email to coordinate many people around a single task can quickly become confusing and inefficient.
The same dynamic applies to customer support situations. If your company is poised for growth and scaling quickly, consider reviewing your customer support process before it becomes an issue. Scaling is expensive and companies can’t afford growing pains that undermine customer conversions, future revenue, and the company’s reputation.
Trying to scale customer support with a single shared email account quickly results in frustration for customers and staff. Email isn’t designed to track dozens or hundreds of requests that may involve several threads, channels, and team members. The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that the average interaction worker spends 28% of the workweek managing e-mail and nearly 20% looking for internal information or tracking down colleagues who can help with specific tasks.
A shared email inbox tracks communications over time. It is challenging to track who sent which email and collaborate over email threads. Key details get buried in old emails.
Responses may get lost when people forget to “reply to all” or they start a new thread altogether. Eventually, the customer may feel like the company doesn’t know what it’s doing. Customer support agents become frustrated and unhappy, too. Not a pretty picture, right?
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Warning Signs for Shared Inbox Customer Support Systems
So why do companies use email-only customer service solutions? Because they are straightforward, inexpensive, and manageable with a very small customer base.
How do you know if it’s time to move beyond sharing the same help desk email among several people? Here are some warning signs:
- Customers frequently have to send follow-up emails
- Customer service agents have trouble quickly directing and tracking customer requests to the right person on the team
- Team members lose the thread of the customer conversation before the situation is resolved
- The shared email inbox is cluttered and there is no clear process for catching up or determining the priorities of requests
- It’s not clear who handled the support issue and who participated in which threads
- There is no easy way to create a cohesive support record from customer conversations coming from channels outside of email, like social media, group chat, or chatbots.
- You have no idea how much time team members are using to respond to support issues.
- You have no way of tracking the satisfaction level of customers
- There is no way to add internal notes or comments and collaborate with other team members without forwarding emails, which starts new threads that can cause even more confusion
If any of the above looks familiar, it may be time to reconsider that “free” shared customer service email account and consider a shared inbox solution.
But wait, what is a shared inbox? Isn’t that the same as sharing an email account that gives everyone access to the same inbox? In the context of customer support, no. An email account shared among several people is NOT the same thing as a shared inbox tool.
What Is Shared Inbox Software?
Shared inbox software is a customer service tool that provides a more holistic, customer-centric way of handling customer questions than email alone.
When a customer service agent logs into a shared email, they are faced with an inbox of emails all sent to the same email address from dozens of different customers.
In contrast, a shared inbox solution is a centralized communication tool. Shared inbox software creates a single shared interface per customer that the entire customer support team can access. Instead of long, confusing email threads, teams can track each customer’s complete support history, all in one place, via a visual dashboard. Teams can also create workflows to manage routine inquiries at tasks with most solutions.
Shared inboxes allow reps to see historical customer data and review the help chat history so different agents don’t have to ask the customer for updates. Agents can also assign requests to other teams and add private notes to team members. The best shared inbox solutions create a frictionless experience for the customer and the support agent, increasing efficiency while improving the experience for everyone involved.
Why Do You Need a Shared Inbox Tool?
You need a shared inbox tool to keep customers and support agents happy as your business scales. A shared inbox tool can help you avoid lost sales, negative comments and reviews on social media, and high service desk employee turnover.
Here are additional reasons to consider a shared inbox tool:
- Increase efficiency with automated workflows and canned responses to common requests
- Increase accountability by quickly seeing who is the support lead for each customer and who has participated in resolving the support ticket
- Save time and increase visibility by creating secure and easy-to-monitor inboxes
- Save time by streamlining multiple email accounts
- Optimize your customer support workflow by prioritizing and tracking accounts by the urgency of the request, age of support tickets, or other filters
Collision Tracking and Collaboration
Another important feature to consider, especially from the customer’s point of view, is collision tracking and prevention. A collision is when different employees reply to the same customer without knowing that a colleague has already sent a response. If the responses are not consistent, the customer can become confused and unhappy.
Shared inbox software automatically detects when collisions may occur and helps prevent an embarrassing situation that can harm customer opinion of a brand.
Shared inboxes facilitate teamwork and internal collaboration with dashboards and commenting features. With Kayako, you can add collaborators to your account for free and collaborate without worrying about duplicating efforts in the support process.
Reports and Analytics
The best shared inbox software creates reports for you to review daily, weekly or monthly analytics. Management can track key metrics regarding response time, team member performance, support ticket age, queue emails, and more.
The Best Shared Inbox Tools
The proliferation of shared inbox solutions gives companies many choices to move ahead and gain a competitive advantage. The right tool depends upon your company. Below we compare five of the best tools.
Kayako is a customer service platform that works across email, live chat, and social. It aggregates all communication about the customer support ticket in a Single View so that anyone from your team can see the customer situation at a glance. It also allows reps to access help desk articles and other information from a company’s internal and external knowledge base.
- Agents can apply ‘Tags’ to email conversations for better organization
- Use shared notes for internal discussions and improved collaboration
- Get a complete visualization of the customer journey with ‘SingleView’
- Helps keep teams aligned with customizable workflows, canned responses, and helpdesk articles
- Some companies may want more reporting features
- Some users may want more configurable macros
Best for: SMBs looking for an integrated cloud-hosted help desk to implement quickly.
Pricing: Free trial, then starts at $30/user/month
With Hubspot’s conversations tool your team can view, manage and reply to incoming team email messages straight from the Hubspot CRM.
- Seamlessly integrates with Hubspot CRM
- Supports live chat and FB messenger
- Extensive help support
- Lacks some functionality because it’s not purpose-built as a shared inbox tool
- Connects only via team email aliases
- Not available without Hubspot Marketing suite account
Best for: small teams that are heavily using Hubspot CRM.
Pricing: Free as part of Hubspot CRM, accounts start at $50 per month, based on the number of contacts in CRM.
Pipefy is a workflow management software that automates any business process workflow, not just customer support. Pipefy allows companies to deploy no-code, automated workflows, without the need for IT implementation.
- Easy to use and free templates
- Extensive filtering ability
- Customizable automation features
- Can be hard to see all information on the card interface
- Not well optimized for mobile
- Pipefy’s shared inbox is part of their complete business process workflow suite and may not integrate well with existing workflow solutions
Best for: Companies that use Pipefy throughout their organization for business process workflow.
Pricing: Free trial, business accounts start at $22 per month.
Gmelius builds a collaborative workspace inside the client’s employee Google accounts. Simplifies project tracking by providing a Kanban-style status view for emails managed by a team.
- Improves Google functionality for teams not ready to switch to a more complete shared inbox solution
- Customizable – accommodates setups for different use cases
- Provides ready-to-use templates
- Only works with Gmail accounts
- Learning curve for setup and team to master the dashboard
- Doesn’t capture messages from channels outside email, like chat or social media
Best for: Teams that want to enhance Gmail as a shared inbox.
Pricing: 14-day free trial, then starting at $12 per user per month.
Dragapp is an all-in-one workspace for Google Workspace customers. Dragapp turns the Gmail dashboard into a team workspace to support customers, manage tasks, and manage internal team goals from other departments.
- Works for customer support and across different teams like sales and operations.
- Easy-to-use internal team chat for better collaboration
- Managers can delegate and assign emails directly from the shared inbox
- Outside app add-ons may not be seamless
- Too many steps to accomplish tasks
- Doesn’t capture customer support communications from non-email channels, like chat or social media
Best for: Smaller teams who run all their customer support via email and want to optimize email communication between teams.
Pricing: Forever free version, paid plans start at $5/per user/ per month.