If you landed on this page, you are probably a Google Workspace user looking to work on emails collaboratively. You are not alone. Most businesses conversations, especially external ones, happen by email and require coordinated team work.
So, more than ever, companies require professionally crafted, easily accessible and clear workflow around emails. Your team spends most of their time in Gmail, so should do the tool they use to manage emails together.
In this article we will explore the many aspects of a Gmail shared inbox. From how and why you should use it all the way to your options and their respective pros and cons.
What shared inboxes are used for
Shared Inboxes, being in Gmail or not, are required for most workflows that involve external communication. Whether you are communicating with customers, suppliers, partners or other stakeholders, similar processes can be applied across multiple use cases. To name a few:
– Help Desk: Keep track of customers’ conversations from inboxes such as support@ or help@. Learn how to turn Gmail into a Helpdesk.
– Sales CRM: Create and manage pipelines from inboxes such as orders@ or inquiries@. Learn how to turn Gmail into a CRM.
– Project Management: Convert your emails into tasks in a project immediately. Learn how to manage projects from Gmail.
– Recruiting: Track job applications from inboxes such as jobs@ or career@ with an HR or recruiting team. Learn how to turn Gmail into an applicant tracking system.
Why companies need a Gmail shared inbox
First, we need to look into the main reasons business owners or managers choose this option.
If your business is in Google Workspace, Gmail is very likely a core work tool that your team is already familiar with. So a Gmail shared inbox makes your routine easier by offering collaborative features in the same space you already know.
Not to mention, if you don’t have to switch between Gmail and another platforms, you save time. In fact, context switching can consume up to 40% of your productivity (check a research we did about context switching here).
Ways to create a Gmail shared inbox
There are different ways of setting up a Gmail shared inbox for your company. In this article, we’re exploring the pros and cons of each. Below is a summary of the options.
|Sharing a Gmail account||Multiple users logging into the same account||Free
No training required
|Lack of accountability
Higher risk of security breach
|Google Groups’ Collaborative Inbox||Using Google Groups as a shared inbox||Free
No need to share passwords
|Doesn’t work inside Gmail
Lack of automations
|Gmail’s native delegation||Using Gmail’s delegation feature||Free
Works inside Gmail
|Can’t reply as shared address
Can’t share cross-domains
|Gmail shared inbox add-ons||Installing a third-party Gmail add-on||Fit-for-purpose shared inbox
Works inside Gmail
|May include extra costs
May include training
1. Sharing a Gmail account and password
The way most people choose to share a Gmail inbox is by sharing the access credentials of an account. This might be done for each of the company’s departments. Many people will be logged into this account, accessing its email, calendar, files, etc. So, an account like this doesn’t have an owner in itself.
The main issue with this method is lack of accountability. If multiple team members log into the same account, it’s hard to know who is working on what. It works as the multiple users were just 1 user for Google, which means no clear responsibilities. This can result in emails missing replies or being replied twice.
There is also higher security risk. Since multiple devices are accessing the same account, security problems issues will arise. Having more endpoints there will be more higher risk of security breaches and hacking. This is particularly worrying considering the exposed account concentrates company data.
The third problem is a logistics one: you can’t grant access to a single person to specific emails. Instead, with a shared account, all those logged in have full access to the entire company channel.
2. Google Groups’ Collaborative Inbox
Another way of sharing Gmail inboxes are Google Groups’ Collaborative Inbox. It allows users to access and reply to emails through the Groups interface. The big advantage here is that it’s included in your Google Workspace account, meaning no extra cost. There are also no security issues, as no passwords are shared.
However, whenever a team member replies to a message received in the Collaborative Inbox, they must cc or forward the email back to the Collaborative Inbox exclusive ID. This is the only way to make the reply visible to other team members. If somebody forgets to send back the email to the Collaborative Inbox, there’s a risk that the message will be replied twice independently.
Worse than that, when the original sender receives the reply they might want to send another reply themselves. In that case, they must choose to reply all, otherwise the message will only be delivered to the specific inbox of the person who replied to them, keeping the rest of the team in the dark.
Also, Google Groups Collaborative Inbox lacks features present in most shared inbox tools. For example, automations to auto-assign certain tasks, or shared email templates.
These issues generate unnecessary complications to the operation of the shared inbox that will inevitably lead to delayed replies as well as a great deal of miscommunication and friction between coworkers.
3. Gmail’s native delegation
Many people don’t know but Gmail has a native email delegation feature. We wrote more about Gmail delegation here. It allows you to grant access to someone else to access your inbox and reply to emails on your behalf.
The main limitation of this option is that the receiver will know that this reply came from the delegate. Replies can be sent from the shared address, but Gmail shares who actually wrote that email. So, if you are sharing an inbox such as support@ and reply to an inquiry, your customer will see as the email sender “sent by user@ on behalf of support@“.
Another limitation is that you cannot share emails cross-domains. Many companies have multiple domains or use the normal @gmail.com domain for some of its email addresses. In this case, you won’t be able to use Gmail’s delegation to delegate an account.
A third limitation of this method is that you cannot choose which emails to share. You either need to share an entire inbox or nothing.
4. Gmail shared inbox add-ons
The previous solutions are adaptations of the normal Gmail and Google Workspace environments for team collaboration. However, as you may have noticed, they present big limitations, mainly because they are not fit-for-purpose.
There are Chrome Extensions such as Drag that were built specifically to turn Gmail into a collaboration tool. In a few clicks, Drag turn Gmail into a shared inbox. It introduces collaborative features on top of normal Gmail inboxes, allowing teams to work together on emails in real time.
Drag: The best Gmail shared inbox
If you want a fit-for-purpose shared inbox that actually improves your team’s communication, there is a way. Instead of trying to make ends meet using just the features provided by Google, you can try a third party solution specifically created to solve this issue.
Which is much better for your team, your time, your schedule, and the company morale. There are many tools inside the Google Workspace Marketplace and the Chrome Store that can be installed to make Gmail better suited to your needs. Another selling point for Gmail on any manager’s mind.
This is where Drag comes into play. You get to have a true shared inbox that feels like part of Google’s apps with seamless integration to Gmail, Google Drive and Google Calendar. But you also get a lot of very useful extra features.
Why this is the best tool for Google Workspace users
There’s a huge difference between a collaborative inbox and an actual shared inbox. If you and your employees need to access the Google Group, you need to switch over to this client, while making sure any relevant information is forwarded to the collaborative ID.
If, however, you can manage the access to inboxes and use filters to select which email actually gets shared everything runs smoothly. With Drag the shared inboxes are available inside Gmail in parallel to each user’s personal inbox, which makes the work more accessible and removes the need to constantly switch tabs and platforms.
1. Boards and visuals
One of the features Drag App brings to your inbox is a more visual and efficient interface of the entire workflow: every email received, what needs to be done and who is responsible for what. Besides viewing your inbox in the regular way, as a list, with Drag you can transform it into a Kanban board. That way, emails can be turned into task-cards, which you can move between columns. These boards can be customized to fit your company needs and reflect your workflow.
Everyone has the same view of the Kanban boards, it’s labels and other features making the entire email-driven workflow transparent for the team. And to make your email collaboration even easier, the task-cards have several features, like adding notes, creating subtasks as steps, viewing the entire task-cards activity history and uploading relevant files. It makes for a much more organized process, given that simply by viewing the card, a team member can get all the relevant information in just one place.
2. Task delegation
Delegating is much easier with Drag’s Gmail shared inboxes as well. In any business it’s commonplace to assign tasks to other people or organize team schedules all the time. Traditionally it means messages, meetings and forwarding emails, but Drag App’s boards have a built-in system to assign task cards to team members. It makes your work day much easier. You can just add people to your task, add due dates and everyone can see it.
3. Reports and analytics
When your team is using Drag App you can visualize how many messages have gone through it, who has dealt with the most messages and how tasks are being distributed.
The data analytics helps you work on your next endeavors, grow and make better use of your time and resources, investing them into strategies to reach you KPI’s.
4. Shared email templates and email sequences
If your team works on the same type of emails and in a repeatable workflow, chances are that team members will use similar email responses very often. In this case, email templates (canned responses) can be a huge time saver.
Drag offers shared email templates, meaning you only need to set them up once. Or update them once. Your team will always stay on the same page so you can ensure consistency in your external communication.
5. File Sharing
If you’re constantly troubleshooting, such as with IT departments or customer support teams, you need to be fast and accessible. Have the relevant files and data at hand to make decisions, fix problems and communicate effectively. If it’s all scattered around different platforms, you need to get it all together.
With Drag you can keep it together right from the start, using the email driving the task as the task-card, uploading files to it, taking notes and much more. It’s not only for you but also for everyone else who has access to the board. The entire team is in sync all the time.
6. Rules and automations
If you’re managing, or you own a small company, you are aware of the fact that there’s just too much work to be done all the time, so much so that even just assigning and delegating it all manually takes up a lot of your time and is getting in the way of actually growing your business.
You probably already use Gmail’s filters to automate the labeling of messages and help keep your inbox organized. But with Drag you can do a lot more, setting up rules to direct emails to specific Kanban boards and assign their task-cards to team-members. This way you don’t have to actively manage, for example, a support workflow to keep everything running smoothly
You can also set up automated responses so that clients know you have been made aware of the message and have added it to your task board. without having to do this manually for every message you get. Not only does this make the companies seem more accessible, but it also helps you save time.
You could also set up rules that update the sender on which stage their request is, managing their expectations and anxiety without having to move a finger. That will even reduce the amount of emails you get, because reassured customers request less follow ups.
Setting up a Gmail shared inbox with Drag
You can set ups one or multiple shared inboxes in Gmail with Drag in just a few steps. After you install the Chrome Extension from the Chrome Store and grant the required permissions (here’s why we need them):
- On your Gmail sidebar menu, find Drag Boards and click on the ‘+’ icon next to it.
- Select the workflow that you want to use this Shared Inbox for.
- Invite team members that you want to share that inbox with.
- Select the Shared Inbox option and input the desired board name and respective Shared Inbox email address, then click on “Create Board”.
- Authenticate the new inbox the same way you did with yours.
- Historical emails in that inbox will load on the first column of the new board, and future emails sent to that shared inbox will load in real time.
- Customize your board to your own workflow by renaming columns, adding shared tags or creating automations and email templates, for example.
Then you’re ready to go! Now you can start collaborating in Gmail with your team. You can find tutorials on how to use Drag for specific workflows here.
If you’re using a shared Gmail account, you know how limited it can be. So switching over to a shared inbox would solve many of the issues posed by the platform. Instead of limited access, lack of privacy and accountability, you get a better view of your workflow and communication.
DragApp can help you create the ideal environment for your company. To find out more about how it works, read GetAway Vacations experience.
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