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abhinav marla

Why Your Team Should Start Using a Shared Inbox

By | Project Management | No Comments

The good and bad of email

Email has long been a core tool for business communications – both for internal communication, as well as client communication. It is cost-effective, easy to scale, and enables targeted communication.

While a company email account is a primary means of communication within an organization, its usage is essentially limited to only sending and receiving emails. This means that while information is being exchanged regularly, real communication could still be lacking. There is no scope to collaborate or find the status of an email or how it is being handled.

Leaving emails unanswered in your inbox or failing to respond in a timely manner may sound like minor infractions, but can quickly lead to damaged relationships and diminished productivity across the organization.

Email was originally designed to facilitate one-to-one communication, which it does effectively. But, it is not conducive to assigning a specific task to one or more team members and it does nothing to facilitate transparency or collaboration. This led organizations to using google groups and group email accounts.

But, are group emails delivering what they promise?

A group email account is essentially a mailbox that multiple users can access in order to read and send email messages. Using a shared email account provides a generic email address that customers and prospects can use to reach out to your company. It also enables multiple users from within your organization to read and respond to queries from customers and prospects.

Start Free Trial NowWhile this may sound convenient on the surface, it is actually a sloppy approach because there is no clarity on who is handling what. Forwarding from the shared account to individual accounts only serves to clutter inboxes of everyone involved. This approach can also quickly lead to prospects or customers receiving responses from multiple users. This would obviously spell disaster in a variety of scenarios, but especially so with sales related queries. Also, there is no distinct separation of internal and external communication, which could result in emails inadvertently getting sent out to customers, instead of an internal team member.

While shared email accounts do offer a convenient and effective way of handling customer email queries, since the responsibility to respond is shared across all users within a specific department, there are still issues you may encounter:

  • If there are multiple users accessing one shared account, there can be chances of it getting blocked
  • This approach is not conducive to scalability
  • Employees will have to keep switching between both their personal and shared email accounts
  • Users are not aware of who needs to handle an incoming email. There isn’t a mechanism in place to assign or prioritize. Because of this lack of clarity on who is working on what, confusion will ensue. It may even lead to emails not getting responded to. Worse still, imagine a sales query that is responded to by two different salespersons!
  • Assigning an email or task to someone would involve sending it to a user’s personal account. This just leads to more clutter and disorganization
  • Since you are assigning the email to a specific person, staying updated on progress would require contacting that person separately. There is no information to be gleaned from the mailbox itself. Group email accounts do not facilitate efficient collaboration
  • There is no way to know how well users are performing, in terms of addressing customer queries and resolving their issues, hence there is no scope for improvement, possibly leading to disgruntled prospects and customers
  • If there are too many users logged in at the same time, it can lead to blocking of accounts in Gmail

While shared email accounts are definitely an upgrade from using disparate accounts that often lead to confusion and inefficiencies, unfortunately Gmail or group email accounts are not effective for many to many conversations.

Taking all of the above mentioned challenges into account, we specifically designed ClientFlow to enable effortless collaboration between teams. But we’ll get to that a little later. First, let’s dive into how a shared inbox can solve your email communication problems.

How a shared inbox addresses your communication challenges

A shared inbox offers you a single, streamlined platform to address all your collaboration needs. By using a shared inbox, you will be able to manage both internal and client communication efficiently.

  • All your emails can be accessed from a single platform, which allows for greater visibility and accountability
  • Once emails are assigned to the right person, internal comments can be added to gather feedback or decide on next steps. This eliminates complex email threads to everyone’s inbox and keeps required updates confined to only relevant team members
  • Shared inbox eliminates the hassle of having to switch between your personal inbox and the shared inbox
  • Email deluge will be a thing of the past. Using a shared inbox will ensure that your team will never miss an email again
  • Drastically reduce email response times by equipping your team with the right context. Everyone knows exactly who is assigned to an email and any data required to address the email can be obtained by gathering feedback via internal only comments
  • Increase your team’s efficiency by routing and escalating emails to the right people
  • Monitor your team’s workflow with ease. You will no longer need to switch between multiple platforms in order to respond to customer queries or make updates – all of these workflows can be tracked on the shared inbox
  • Internal and external communication can be handled completely separately, therefore eliminating any overlaps and chaos
  • Obtain insights into how well your team is performing. Transparency is key to facilitating better performance. With a shared inbox, everyone on the team has visibility into the decision making process
  • Leverage analytics to determine how you can optimize strategies to increase performance and efficiency – this may sometimes even mean expanding your current team.

Looking for the right shared inbox for your organization?

Thousands of businesses across the world are starting to consider a shared inbox to resolve pain points created from using group email accounts. With several options available in the market, it is important to carefully evaluate which features will offer greater benefits for your business. Switching your teams to a new system will have to be planned to minimize disruption and to ensure that you are able to generate expected results from your investment.

As you evaluate various tools to find the best fit for your organization, we’d like to take you through ClientFlow’s Shared Inbox and its valuable features.

A closer look at the features ClientFlow Shared Inbox offers:

ClientFlow facilitates seamless team collaboration, centralized client communication and is incredibly easy to use. Here is a breakdown of the features that help accomplish this:

  • Assign emails: Assign emails to either yourself or a team member to ensure that workload is shared effectively and ownership is clearly assigned.
  • Internal-only comments: Communicate and coordinate with other team members through internals notes that are only visible to your team. You don’t have to flood other members’ inboxes with repetitive follow up emails. Simply add comments and notes for them to see.
  • Follow conversations: If you want to stay on top of what is happening with emails that you have assigned, you can turn on the follow functionality to ensure that you’re kept abreast of all the latest updates.
    Send email to a group: Every department, sales, marketing, accounting, and so on, can have its own group email for close and personalized collaboration
  • Custom emails: Use a custom email ID for your agency (@companyname.com), to which you can forward all client emails, so that you have all client conversations on a single platform
  • Approvals: Unlike Gmail, with ClientFlow you can track status for client emails you have received, sent or assigned to a team member. You can see if they have been approved or if they are delayed and by how many days
  • Integrates with social media channels: ClientFlow is literally a one-stop platform allowing you to access all your social inboxes such as Twitter, Facebook and others to keep track of all client communication
  • Increase productivity: You can access both private and shared conversations, any time, anywhere, enabling every member in your team to collaborate and respond to emails in a timely manner.
  • Incredibly easy to use: ClientFlow’s Shared Inbox has the same effortless ease of use that you are accustomed to with Gmail. This means, there won’t be a learning curve and you certainly will not require any training for onboarding

Client Communication and Project Management on one platform

A major advantage that ClientFlow offers over other shared inboxes is that it consolidates all conversations, projects and client information into one location. This facilitates synergy between client conversations and project management. It’s project management and client communication rolled into one easy to use tool, that requires zero training time to get started! No matter how many projects or customers you are handling, ClientFlow can help you grow.

If you are currently evaluating options for shared inboxes and are interested in learning further, we would love to walk you through ClientFlow’s Shared Inbox.

Request a Demo Now

Simple Focus

ClientFlow acquisition announcement

By | Our Journey | No Comments

 
Dear loyal ClientFlow Users and Fans,

Today, I’m excited to announce that ClientFlow has been acquired by Simple Focus, a very talented team who has a track record of building and growing great products! This means that ClientFlow will live on and continue to grow for our awesome users and to deliver on the promise of making client management easier while simultaneously building an excellent experience for our users’ clients. Fear not if you’re a user: ClientFlow is still here to serve you!

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Ian and I put a lot of time, sweat, and love into ClientFlow. We worked our butts off to talk to so many of you via email, chat and Skype to learn about the challenges of building digital agencies. From scratch to production with paying users, it was an unbelievable experience and we learned so much along the way. So thank you for talking to us and helping us build a truly awesome product. I’m very proud of what we did together.

I’m confident that ClientFlow has a very bright future ahead. JD and the Simple Focus team see the potential in ClientFlow and understand the user-base first-hand, as an agency themselves.  They’ve proven that they truly know how to build, grow, and market products.

You’re in good hands, and if you ever have any questions for me, feel free to reach me via my personal email address: galen.vinter@gmail.com

You can read more about how excited JD is about ClientFlow in his latest Medium post.

Best,
Galen Vinter
Co-founder, ClientFlow

How to add process to common agency activities that usually don’t have an official process

By | Agency Operations | No Comments

 

This is a guest post by Hubstaff, time tracking software with screenshots, activity levels, and in-depth reports.

There’s a truth we all know about what it takes to run an agency properly: the process is everything.

But while we can all agree that processes are incredibly important, many of the tasks you do on a regular basis probably don’t have proper processes in place.

Think about it for a second… What tasks have you already done today? Did you follow a process while doing them?

The answer is probably not.

That may seem ok at the moment, but as your agency grows, and as you take on more full-time and contract staff to help you manage demand, your quality and consistency will suffer.

Why will this happen?

When you have no process in place it’s really difficult to run projects successfully.

You start working and find you don’t have the right assets from the client, you run into delays in development as you realize you’ve missed crucial steps, and the output always varies in quality because the steps you’ve taken have been applied haphazardly.

What’s more, as you start to take on multiple projects and move responsibility to other members of your team, it becomes impossible to juggle all the work that needs doing because you don’t have a clear process to help guide the way.

This can all lead to you having delegation anxiety because you fear everything’s going to fall apart without your input and guidance.

Thankfully, there is a way to stop this: implement clear processes for tasks and projects that don’t already have them in place.

 

What is a Process?

Most people understand that the tasks they do need a process, but few people actually understand what a process is. This is usually because a process can be created in a whole range of formats.

So what is a process?

A process is a document that includes all of the steps that need to be followed to do a task properly.

It can take the form of a checklist, a flow chart, an instruction video, a diagram, or a set of numbered instructions.

Whatever format a process takes, the key similarity between all processes is that they include instructions that cover exactly how to do a task from start to finish.

Processes are used by agencies, by HR managers, by freelancers, and even by doctors and surgeons.

 

What Processes Should You Implement?

Businessman study financial report. Concept for business, finance, market research, analytics and statistics, marketing.

Businessman study financial report. Concept for business, finance, market research, analytics and statistics, marketing.

Here’s some food for thought:

Good software runs incredibly efficiently because it has been written with clear rules and processes that are followed every time, and achieve the same results every time. Poor software is clumsy and patched together, so it throws up bugs and doesn’t perform as you expect it to.

Your agency is like software: when it has clear rules and processes, it runs incredibly well, and when it doesn’t, things just fall apart.

To make sure this doesn’t happen, look at the tasks that you and your team complete regularly, but that don’t already have clear processes in place.

Key areas to look at

 

Research – having processes here can help guide the finding, collecting, and reporting of information and data. Clear steps can help establish proper citation, note-taking best practices, and more.

 

Delegation – having a framework in place to help guide team members delegate tasks means that the person completing the task always has the right tools, information, and access to complete things to the highest standard.

Learn the process of delegating

 

Filing and Organization – implementing a process here helps to keep your agency’s filing structure ordered, accessible, and efficient. Processes should include file naming conventions, proper file structure, and instructions for backing-up and using ftp clients.

Discover the best file structure for agencies

 

Approval Process – processes for having work approved can help cut down the time it takes to vet and clear content and deliverables (and prevent sub-standard work going to clients).

 

Client Management – this is incredibly important: properly managing a client is the key to running a successful agency. Having a process that account managers and key figures follow to gather information and to craft communications helps everything run smoothly.

See how Bourn Creative onboards their clients

 

Delivery or Publication –  having a process in place that is followed before your team deliver assets to clients, or publish content, means that all deliverables are always sent, and that your clients never have to chase up for missing assets. A process for deliverables should also include instructions to check and verify all assets and deliverables against the brief. Publication processes should include all steps that should be followed before releasing content to the world.

See an example publication process

Creating Process Documents

Creating Process Documents

Thin line flat design of website under construction web page building process site form layout and menu buttons interface develop. Modern vector illustration concept isolated on white background.

To create your process documents, spend some time thinking about how this task could be done best and most efficiently.

Think about the exact steps that should be followed (from the very start, to the very finish) to complete every aspect of the task.

Try to include helpful comments that can resolve common roadblocks, and link to resources that should be used when completing the task (files and folders, applications, websites).

When writing your process document, it’s incredibly important that you make it as straightforward as possible. Anyone should be able to pick it up and complete the stages you have outlined.

Your document can take the form of a checklist, an instruction manual, or a diagrammatical workflow. The key is to create something easy to follow, but that includes all of the relevant information.

When you’ve completed your process document, follow the steps you outlined and try to complete the task. If you can do so easily, and without having to use your existing knowledge, your process document should be fairly bulletproof. But, if you find that you are having to call on your existing knowledge of the task to complete steps and stages, you need to go back and revisit the document.

Once you have finished the document, share it with other people who will be doing the task (or who have done it before) for them to review. This can help spot confusing steps or missing information.

From there, distribute the process and store it on your agency’s network for easy access.

To learn more about creating blueprints check out our in-depth guide to creating process documents for remote teams.

Pro Tip – you shouldn’t stop working on your process once you have finalized it. Your process should be a living document that’s continuously refined and iterated on to account for new software, new clients, and enhanced ways of working.

Are You Ready to Create New Processes?

Coworking process. Photo young business crew working with new startup project. Notebook on wood table. Woman showing screen laptop, man holding smartphone. Blurred background, film effect.

Coworking process. Photo young business crew working with new startup project. Notebook on wood table. Woman showing screen laptop, man holding smartphone. Blurred background, film effect.

The benefits of creating and using processes for tasks that don’t usually have them are clear: they help to make your agency more efficient, more effective, and more productive.

But remember, processes only work well when they include all of the right information, and are straightforward enough for anyone to follow.

Once you have created and implemented your processes, monitor how your employees use them with Hubstaff, an advanced time tracking application that integrates with a huge number of apps that your teams use on a daily basis (like Basecamp, Asana, and Trello). Advanced time tracking means that you can see exactly how much more efficient your teams are as a result of your process documents, and can make sure things are being properly implemented.

If you need more examples of quality processes, check out Hubstaff’s employee onboarding process.

Message Analytics

New Features: Message Templates and Analytics

By | Product | One Comment

Today I’m excited to announce 2 features many of our early adopters have been anticipating: Message Templates and Analytics.

TL;DR:

Templates are canned messages, organized by category that can be used to communicate more quickly with clients.

Analytics are open analytics on email messages sent to clients. Each message sent to a client will have stats on who opened the message, when and how many times they opened it.

 

Message Templates

Message Templates

Message templates are a quick way to save canned messages and responses for your team to use over and over again. Whether you’re writing in a conversation thread or writing an approval, just click “Add Template” (is right next to “Add Attachment”). A modal will appear and make picking a template super easy.

Add Template

Pick a Template

 

Message Analytics

Knowing when your clients open messages from you will change the way you follow up on messages. Ever get stuck thinking, “Should I ask if they got my last message?” Well, now you know whether they ever opened it, how many times they opened it, and when the last time they opened it was.

Chances are you should follow up immediately if they haven’t opened your message within 24hrs because our data show that if it isn’t opened in 24hrs then it probably won’t be opened ever.

Message Analytics

 

Just a few more ways to make client projects go smoothly! Reach out if you have any questions: galen@clientflow.io