Consider this before you switch to an Outlook Shared Inbox

While it might sound great having multiple people monitor one email address rather than have 5 people get the same email in a “reply all” campaign; I’m here to caution you that it may not be that simple using outlook exchange.

A company I worked for made this move over a year ago without fulling understanding the functionality they would be losing by taking their main email out of the cloud. They had been experiencing staff shortages that caused major confusion and backlog within their email procedures.

In an attempt to create more organization they set up several different email addresses instead of having one for everything. At first this sounded great. Orders, Billing, Sales, and Estimates could all be sorted with no further action by the team.

There were several problems with this simple sounding solution.

Once you begin to re-direct customers to a new policy there are always those that will balk. There will always be customers that send their correspondence to several of the email addresses at once.

If the customer doesn’t get a response in the time frame they are expecting, especially international customers, they begin an email campaign. By any means necessary.

When responding to inquiries, if indeed there were multiple submissions, you then have to go back and either find all of them and delete them or CC the heck out of them so that your colleagues know you responded and can follow the response stream. In this case, the solution only added to the problem. 

The next piece of functionality that was underestimated is the ability to track by conversations. When you operate out of your local outlook inbox, the emails are tracked from when you receive them  until they are deleted. The tracking feature allows you to see who replied to the message within your inbox making a trail for customer service.

When using a shared inbox with outlook not only can you not see who has read the email but each correspondence after that shows up as unread in the shared inbox as well. You will find yourself constantly combing through emails and re-reading correspondence that is not pertinent to everyone.

The find related messages feature in outlook is also tracked significantly better with a local outlook inbox. From experience all correspondence from my the local inbox is sorted and found 90 percent of the time. When I use that feature in the shared inbox it works less. I don’t really even try to find correspondence that way anymore.

This is partly because the emails that are deleted go to the shared inbox’s deleted folder. This isn’t searchable using the local search feature in outlook. You have to go to that deleted folder and search. The same goes for sent items. Email sent from the shared inbox will sometimes show up in your local outlook sent folder or the shared sent folder. I don’t know of the technical reason for this but it seems to be handled in the way you compose the message. This doesn’t help with searching either.

A shared inbox is a great concept to keep everyone in the same loop, make it easier for your customer service team to respond to customers, and give structure to email management.