I’m going to run through with you 3 ways you can very productively manage multiple email accounts for clients, quite effortlessly using 2 tools, ActiveCollab, the project management system, and Google Apps, specifically the Google mail facilities.
By setting up individual client accounts and using incoming mail boxes to create ‘tickets’ within those accounts, you can effectively manage all the incoming emails and assignments via the ActiveCollab interface. And here’s how!
Client Project Space.
First you’ll need to set up your client’s account as a project space. You can then filter the incoming emails from their dedicated email account into that project space to create a ticket, you will then process those tickets by working through each client’s project space.
1. The Optimal Solution.
This first solution I will take you through is what I have found to be the most optimal way to handle multiple email accounts for clients. It leaves little room for error, and can easily be ‘detached’ from your company if need be, because the emails are all on your clients’ company server, as well as in your ActiveCollab project management space.
1.1 Install Google Apps (the free version is fine) on the client’s domain.
1.2 Create a new ‘User’ in Google Apps to generate a client company email account, e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org
1.3 Set up that email in ActiveCollab as an incoming mail box (admin > incoming mail) to create a new ticket for every email that comes into that client’s project space. The screenshot below shows what the standard settings look like for an incoming Google Apps email address. At the very bottom is the option to select who is able to submit to the project space (only ActiveCollab users, or anyone) and also whether you want it to create a ticket or discussion, choose ticket.
How To Process The Tickets
Once that email comes into ActiveCollab, the 3 basic options for processing the tickets that have been created are as follows:
Option 1. If no action is required, you can close or trash it.
Option 2. If action is required you can then add individual tasks or comments to the ticket, log time, or assign to the ticket to a subcontractor or team member.
Option 3. If a ‘reply’ is required to the original email, you can login to the Google Apps account online, find the email and send the reply, because the original email will also be in the account, and then add the reply and date it was sent to a comment on the ticket to keep a record. Close the ticket according to when the task is complete.
2. The Client Doesn’t Want Google Apps.
If the client objects to the installation of Google Apps on their domain, and issues you with a standard email account from their company setup, you can work around this using your own Google Apps account.
2.1. Set up an incoming email box for the email account like we did in 1.3 above. You’ll need to obtain the correct settings for the email box from the client in order to do this.
2.2 Then create a new ‘user’ in your own Google Apps account, you can either use one single user for all of your client email accounts, or you can create individual users, it’s up to you. If you decide to only use 1 user and group all your client email accounts into that one, be sure to use the labels and filters to separate the incoming mail or it could get messy. If you are on the free version of Google Apps, you only get a maximum of 10 users in total, so you may want to stick to one account. Ideally, if you are working in a team, or new to this, create a new user account for each client in your own Google Apps account.
2.3 Then go to the Google Apps “Settings > Accounts” and set up the incoming mail using the “Get mail from other accounts” feature, similar to what you did in ActiveCollab, so the email comes into the user account you have created.
2.4 Then set up a ‘Send mail as’ email account, which is the client’s account. An email will be sent to the address (which should come into your ActiveCollab area), you’ll need to click the email confirmation link to verify you have access to the account, and then you will be able to send and receive email using that client account from your Google Apps account.
Please note, that if you use one user account for several client email accounts, and you are creating a brand new email, you will need to select the correct ‘send from’ email account in the drop down menu when you are composing an email. *If you don’t select the correct email account, you’ll end up sending and email from the wrong account, so be really, really careful if you go down that road.
3. Incoming Only.
If you’re not handling any email for the client, and you don’t need an outgoing email option, or an email on the client’s domain, but you would like to offer them a dedicated email address as part of your service that they can send email to and those emails will go directly into their client area, you can use a simple internal email setup.
3.1 Set up an email account on your domain, such as email@example.com.
3.2 Set up the incoming mailbox for that email account to come into your ActiveCollab and create a ticket in the client’s account.
3.3 Give the client their dedicated email address, and explain that they can send assignments to that dedicated email address and you’ll pick them up directly from their client area.
This should cover all of your bases!