This piece was republished on the Front Blog as 5 moments when email transparency is awesome.
In 2013, when Stripe told the world how they dealt with emails internally, that is full transparency on everything, it was a bit of a shocker for a lot of people. Turns out that a year later, email transparency is getting bigger and better and guess what, we’re pretty happy about it!
Why is that? Because at Front, we focus mainly on taking the pain out of shared inboxes, enabling companies to deal with them in the easiest way possible. Since these email addresses are often managed in teams, we had to think a lot about email transparency and how it should work in a business.
So when Kevan Lee from Buffer wrote this great article about The Advantages and Workflows of Fully Transparent Email, it really hit home. He makes some really good points on how it helps them work at Buffer and we pretty much agree all the way. We do have a couple more advantages in mind though and wanted to share them with you.
It can sometimes be a bit of a hassle to train new people coming to work on projects. They’ll ask about what has been done before and how it was done. And often, a lot of email forwarding needs to happen. With the way we created our shared inboxes, people can actually see the history of all that was received, all that was sent and all the internal discussions that took place before they were even there.
That means that the new guys at Front can be operational straight away. Enabling them to make the right decisions while remaining independent.
We have a SaaS product. And as all SaaS, it’s always evolving. Our users send us feedback all the time and we love it. In our team, it’s mostly Mathilde who takes care of that feedback. But she’s not the one who is going to develop the features people want, Laurent is. Having him have access to all this feedback, even though he’s not the one actually responding to it, lets them breeze through the weekly roadmap meeting. They don’t need to spend time arguing what’s high priority or not, he’s already seen the 10 emails asking for that specific feature.
Sometimes, and even when you work for a startup, you just need to take a break. At Front, we’ve decided that we didn’t want out-of-office emails. Instead, when someone leaves for a while, he or she assigns all of the pending emails in his or her inbox to the person that will be able to follow up and leaves comments to make sure everything is clear.
Trust and decision-making, just like Joel Gascoigne from Buffer explains it, are definitely two main advantages of a fully transparent email. But for us here at Front, we’ve noticed that email transparency goes even further.
Turns out that email transparency doesn’t go very well with surprises. Which means that everyone in the team has access to the good news as well as the bad news. Since there are no little dirty secrets, everyone can feel like he or she has the same level of information as everyone else in the team.
And bonus, since we share all emails, everyone gets involved in the customer service as well, and gets to deal with that side of the business on a day-to-day basis.
Everyone at Front has its strengths and his weaknesses, especially when it comes to writing emails. Mathilde will be really good with cold emailing and Laurent will explain any tech issue and make it sound really easy. And when I have to write my own emails, I can just take the best from everyone and make it my own, without having to ask everyone again.
Front enables companies to deal with shared inboxes in teams (if you want to see how it works, we made a quick video). These are the top ten addresses plugged in by our users:
In each team, everyone can choose which inbox he or she wants to have access too. That way everyone is in control of the information he or she receives.
And to avoid email overload, once someone replies to an email, it becomes automatically assigned to him. That means that he will be the only one notified if a reply comes. But the email remains accessible through the search for the entire team.
Also, if there’s a conversation where you don’t want to miss out on anything, you can just follow it and be notified whenever someone replies or comments.
Front is actually spreading transparent email all around, enabling teams to work together on all kind of different subjects. But if we’re fine with it being such a small team, we also need to think about how it works for our users who have much larger teams. For now, it’s pretty scalable thanks to the follow option which helps cut off some complicated cc and bcc of multiple lists. But we’ve also implemented new features that take effective email transparency even further:
Rules, which enable you to direct emails automatically towards an inbox or a person, or tag any incoming message.
Notification settings per inbox, enabling people to choose which updates they went to receive directly.
Email transparency is part of our DNA here at Front. We live by it on a day-to-day basis because that’s simply how we designed our email client: for sharing and collaboration. And more importantly, we hope that we help companies realized how much benefit can come out of shared inboxes and email collaboration.