The benefit of a single inbox for customer inquiries, notifications from social media, discussions with colleagues is that everything is in the one pot. It’s the only place you need to look. The bigger problem is that finding the right information in that overcrowded pot is getting harder.
As covered earlier in this series, Google has made great advances with its segmented inbox. But sometimes it’s better just to view your email in a different app altogether.
For example, at BoxFreeIT we use task management app Asana to keep track of different parts of the business. If an email requires a lengthier response or some other action then it is forwarded to Asana and assigned to a project.
This has several advantages. The inbox is kept clear of emails sitting around waiting for a task to be completed – and as some tasks are never completed, those emails remain in the inbox indefinitely. Once the email has been turned into a task in Asana, that task can be evaluated for priority against all other tasks due that day. This keeps the lid on the urge to respond to every email as soon as it hits your inbox.
But the greatest benefit is the improved clarity around which tasks are required to run the business. Instead of sorting through your emails to see what you need to do next, your list of next actions is right in front of you, including emails that require responses.
Group the tasks according to your diary and you can more efficiently cut through similar actions in the one tranche.
Task management is not the only area to benefit from a discrete inbox – for all employees. Sales is another. Given that a single emailed sales inquiry can lead to revenue for your business, it makes sense to give those apps the highest priority for your sales executive (or the business owner, if he or she makes the sales).
Customer relationship management (CRM) software hold a record of your customer contacts and your sales deals and can show you all emails related to either. Most CRMs will also pull in information from other sources such as social media networks to give you a better idea of your customers’ concerns or interests.
CRMs will pull emails from cloud-based email services such as Gmail and Microsoft Office 365 as well as Outlook or other desktop based email clients.
A sales team can look up contacts and see all emails sent to that contact by the company. The complete history of conversations is essential to ensuring the sales team maintains a coordinated conversation with each client.
Nimble CRM has a live connection to Gmail so that emails show up next to contacts within Nimble. It also sends contact information back to Gmail, Google Apps, Outlook and HootSuite, so the sales exec has sales history and other details of the contact without leaving the email client.
Salesforce.com also connects to Outlook and Gmail – the former has one-click email syncing and keeps contacts and events synced in the background.
Customer support emails are another category that are best served in a separate inbox – but that’s a topic for next week.