Live More new Guides on the way! Get notified by signing up to the Guides newsletter.

Contributed by

Carefree works with the hospitality industry to gift its excess capacity so that unpaid carers can take a break.

Find out how to keep track of all the enquiries you receive, no matter who sends them or how. Learn how using inbox management software can help your team centralise information and collaborate. This can help you support people more effectively.

Steps to managing all incoming communications using inbox software

When people start a project like this they are often looking to solve one or more of these problems:

  • We get messages on Facebook, across different social media, to several different email addresses. It can be hard to make sure we’ve replied to everyone.

  • We often forward enquiries to the right colleague who has the information to respond. But we don’t always know if the enquiry has been followed up.

  • We have too many different email addresses. The people we support don’t always know which one they should be using.

  • We get lots of phone and anserphone messages. Sometimes people phone and email about the same issue. It can be hard to keep track of who we replied to.

Make sure you talk to your teams and understand everyone’s needs.

Carefree wanted to be able to see all incoming enquiries or requests for support in one place. They had several different email addresses, and Facebook and Twitter inboxes. They wanted to enable quicker communication between team members to get faster answers to people .

They also needed a telephone system that allowed people from remote locations to answer calls instead of in an office. They wanted phone messages to be connected to the rest of their messages.

Different types of software will allow you to manage messages in different ways. You could use team management software or a case management system. The type of tool featured in this Guide is usually called something like Inbox Management Software or Team Inbox.

When you make your choice, make sure you think about data protection and privacy needs. You’ll also need to check which tool offers all the features you want. Try it our or watch a demo to see how easy it is to set up or use.

Virtual phone systems are more common. Some will connect to existing communications systems and some will operate independently. The best will enable you to keep your existing phone number.

Carefree considered inbox management systems from Missive, Hiver and Front. They chose Front.

Front is a collaborative email client and live chat for customer service. Carefree find it useful because:

  • You can see emails from multiple inboxes at once or share one unified inbox

  • It collects messages from Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and staff can reply to them from within Front.

  • You can assign messages to individual team members to answer

  • You can discuss individual messages in a thread attached to the message or in an internal chat channel.

Front also offers a live chat function to add to your website.

Carefree needed a virtual call centre system for phone calls that would integrate with Front. They chose CloudTalk. It allows staff to receive calls to normal phone numbers but on their computer. It integrates with Front and with Carefree’s existing CRM.

New tools only work for you if everyone that has to use them is onboard. Introducing too many new tools at a time can lead to change fatigue.

To mitigate this work out the best way to support and involve your staff. This could include:

  • Gradually adding existing communication channels to the system 

  • Setting aside designated time to get used to the systems (you could schedule extra staff to cover this time)

  • Checking your new system and processes don’t create extra effort

  • Reviewing the system regularly and creating and updating guidance documents

Carefree were setting up a new team and new operational procedures at the same time. They had to introduce a lot of new tools to do this. They set aside time for team members to watch videos and read documentation about the new tools.

They are working on a handbook. The goal is for this to be a reference document that can act as the “team brain”. They want it to be dynamic and include quick view lists of do’s and don’ts.

This is a great time to review how many email addresses you are using. Do they work effectively as separate addresses or would one single email be better?

It’s also a good time to review where any social media presence. Are all your accounts active? Do you need to retire any?

Connect all your channels into Front using the integrations it offers.

Remember to avoid causing problems for people trying to contact you. For example keep old email addresses working and forward them into the system, so no one gets left behind.

Previously, Carefree had many different email addresses for different issues. Front allows the whole team to share one inbox, so they centralised everything into one email address. This also allows them to keep track of who has seen each email and comply with GDPR.

They also connected in their social media channels, and all voicemail through CloudTalk.

The new system is only useful if it is well used. That means setting up clear processes and making it easy for team members to follow them.

Screenshot of an email inbox in the Front app Front's inbox at Carefree

Carefree use one central hello@ inbox in Front. They give all team members that need to see enquiries from customers access to the inbox. Team members set up their accounts to monitor the inbox. They know who is best placed to help with different enquiries. They assign messages within Front to the people who need to respond.

This means that not all team members need to be monitoring or looking for enquiries relevant to them all the time.

Carefree team members can discuss incoming enquiries from within Front. The chat takes place below an email, voicemail or social media message so that everyone can see it.

Front offers rules and automation features. This means you can train it to sort incoming messages and assign or file them.

Carefree use Front's rules feature to spot particular types of enquiry. Rules auto-assign these enquiries to specific people.

Front also tracks who messages come from and which team member replied. Carefree set up their system to work with this. Once a team member has replied, any more messages from the person are auto-assigned to them.

Further information

  • Choosing new software? If it is expensive or complex it can help to work through a guide like this one from NCVO.
  • Finding decision making hard? Get an hour's advice from a digital specialist through Digital Candle.
  • Need a digital agency to help you configure and connect systems? Look for specialists in working with charities on Dovetail.

Want to speak to someone about this guide, contact Chief Technical Officer Joey Ceunen.