Despite the evolution of technology and the multitude of channels available to businesses to communicate with customers email isn’t going anywhere.

According to an independent survey “despite hype around new collaboration tools, Outlook remains the most used application among enterprise workers across all age groups, job functions and industries.

Even as new collaboration tools in the Office 365 suite of applications become available workers are still gravitating towards office mainstays, like email.” Business Wire

While using Outlook is a necessity now more than ever its general ease of use and well-established presence has made user training non-compulsory.

“It’s an oft-quoted saying in IT: 80 percent of customers only use 20 percent of the features in the software they’ve bought.” SAP Litmos

If you’re only harnessing 20% of Outlook then you’re missing a lot of opportunities to increase your productivity.

Today we’re sharing out top tips to get the most out of your team inboxes in Outlook.

1. Limit Subfolders

Subfolders can be a handy tool to help organize your team inbox. Naming folders as users is an easy way to organize email assignment provided your team is small to medium in size. For larger teams the folder overhead starts to become bulky and inefficient.

Depending on the type of team inbox you have subfolders might be better used to sort email by customer or types of email (orders, shipping requests, cancellations).

Remember subfolders are a way to sort and find emails quickly. The more you have the less efficient this organizational tool becomes.

 The findings of Laura Dabbish and Robert Kraut support this idea.  Their study noted that having a smaller number of folders and keeping your inbox small, increases the surface level visibility of individual email messages, these behaviours reduced feelings of email overload.

2. Use Categories

If you need to sort multiple email traits (emails by customer, by type or by user) but your team inbox is already drowning in subfolders then categories can be a great secondary layer of organization.

While you can search a subfolder for a message, you can also include category criteria in your search. Rather than having several layers of subfolders, use just one layer with categories to provide a more streamlined approach to sorting your email.

Our recommendation for teams that answer emails on a first-in, first-out basis is to reserve sub folders for users and use categories for tagging email types and customers. There are two main reasons for this, first, rarely will a team have less customers and types of emails than they have team members, so choosing your sorting mechanism with the least amount of options reduces your folder overhead. Second, since categorizing emails in Outlook can be automated with rules, it is much easier to create a rule to tag types of emails than it is to assign ownership of a message to a user. For instance, you can create rule to categorize an email as “Customer A” based on the send info containing “@customerA.com”. There is however no way to use rules to assign the first incoming message to user 1 and the second message to user 2, etc. in a round robin methodology.

3. Use Flags as Individual Reminders

A one reply resolution should generally be the target goal for most teams. However, sometimes it can take several follow ups with the customer to move forward on a project or sale. An easy way for user to stay on top of their follow ups is to flag the last open email on a thread. Flags can be set anywhere from tomorrow, to next week as well as to custom dates and times.

4. Remember to Archive

Email archiving allows your team to keep a record of all mail sent and received, ensuring you will always have a copy of your messages. Aside from guaranteeing you won’t lose important correspondence archiving also gives you a cleaner inbox. Search through 1000’s of messages stored in your inbox not only saps Outlooks performance but is confusing to identify which emails have and have not been worked.

Archiving is also an important step towards achieving inbox zero, the approach to email management with the goal of keeping your inbox as close to empty as possible.

5. Delayed Email Deliveries

An important factor that affects customers reading and responding to your emails is when you send them. Timing is everything. If you know when your customers are most receptive to you, target these times. But if you’re supporting a global customer base and multiple time zones, this is easier said than done.

That’s when we recommend using Outlook’s delayed email deliveries to make sure you’re always sending email follow ups at the most opportune times.

For instance, you have just received an Out-of-Office notification from your customer that they’ll be away until next week. Set a delayed email delivery to send a follow up the day they get back.

They major benefit here is that the delayed email delivery lets you complete your task, you don’t have to set a reminder to follow through in the future.

6. Try Conversation View

Conversation view is an Outlook feature that gives you the ability to group threaded emails together. Using conversation view your email will automatically be organized by conversation with the most recent message appearing at the top. If you are using subfolders, one benefit of conversation view is it will show all the messages in a threaded conversation no matter what folder they are stored in.

For teams with lots of back and forth with customers and many emails on a single thread, conversation view can be a quick way to corral an email thread spanning multiple team members/sub folders.

7. Save keystrokes with Quick Parts

Outlook’s Quick Parts can be a huge time saver for teams typing up the same replies daily or searching for old replies to copy and paste to common inquiries. Quick Parts lets you save snippets of text (or even images) for quick re-use in future messages.

While Quick Parts have to be configured individually for each team member’s Outlook, we recommend standardizing the text snippets, so your customers receive uniform messaging no matter which team member responds to their inquiry.

These tips for Outlook team inboxes have the specific benefit of saving your team time during their workday. Not only will your team become Outlook power users, they will spend less time digging through convoluted folder structures, manually categorizing emails or scrolling through bloated inboxes, providing more time for replying to customers. This will result in more replies per day and faster replies overall, increasing your teams productivity and improving your level of customer service.

Looking for even more tools to organize and automate your Outlook team inbox, chat with our sales team.