For a lot of smaller companies, shared mailboxes seem to be one of the easiest ways to manage questions coming in through email. There are 3 important things you should know about this way of working.
For a lot of smaller companies, shared mailboxes seem to be one of the easiest ways to manage questions coming in through email. Unlike bigger companies, small companies often don't have the means to dispose of expensive customer follow-up systems or dedicated ticketing software to manage customer requests.
So they set up a shared mailbox (for example "firstname.lastname@example.org") and communicate this email address to all customers telling them that they can send their requests to this address at any time.
There are 3 important things you should know about the shared mailbox.
1. A shared mailbox offers a single point of contact to your customers
This obviously has a number of advantages:
- By providing your customers with a Single Point of Contact ("SPOC"), they get one single email address to communicate with, which makes it easier for them to communicate with your company.
- When a colleague is absent or on holiday, other colleagues can continue to manage the follow-up of incoming emails, without your customers knowing about it.
- The workload can be divided over more than one person.
2. A shared mailbox brings chaos to internal management
Shared mailboxes also contain some very annoying disadvantages:
- A typical struggle we see at companies working with shared mailboxes, is that different employees can be working on the same issue without knowing it from each other.
- As a result, customers risk to receive multiple answers to the same question
- The opposite problem also exists : employees think that a certain question is already being treated by a colleague, but this isn't the case.
- It is almost impossible to detect who is working on which issue
- emails getting lost
- unsatisfied customers and slow reactivity towards customer requests
3. The (shared) mailbox is not a collaboration tool
The fundamental source of these problems is the simple fact that a mailbox is not made to collaborate. It's only made to communicate, this means : sending and receiving emails. That's it. The further treatment of the emails needs to be done outside the mailbox.
In a classic mailbox, it's impossible to assign an email to a specific person that has to treat it. Companies and employees are innovative and try to find solutions. An example I recently heard from a friend, is that he starts treating the mails from the top of the mailbox, and his colleague starts at the bottom of the mailbox, and then "they meet somewhere in between". I don't call this a solution... it's more of a 'work-around'.
Shared mailboxes might seem to be an easy and cheap solution when companies start growing and need to handle a growing number of incoming emails. However, a mailbox is not made for assigning and dispatching tasks. It's almost impossible to set up an effective process for email management in a classic mailbox. Companies struggling with this type of issues should look further to find a real solution to this problem.