What’s An SMS Inbox? How to Text as a Team With an SMS Inbox
Kyle Kuczynski
Kyle Kuczynski
MessageDesk Co-Founder & CMO
Updated: Apr 28, 2022

Learn About SMS Inboxes and How to Text as a Team from One Phone Number

Everyone’s used to texting from their personal phones. iMessage, Google Messages, Google Voice, WhatsApp - all of these texting platforms are great for sending and receiving SMS messages 1-on-1 with friends and family.

But these inboxes have limitations - especially for businesses, organizations, and teams.

You can’t:

  • Assign teammates to conversations
  • Route incoming text messages to a specific team or teammate
  • Reopen old SMS conversations or close new ones
  • Set granular conversation permission levels
  • Snooze conversations for later
  • Let multiple people text from the same number

To do these things you need to:

  1. Know how an SMS inbox works
  2. Know how to set up a team SMS inbox
  3. Know what steps to take to unify your teams’ text messaging

So read on for more. I’ll cover each in the following article.

Try a team SMS inbox for free. No credit card required.
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What is an SMS Inbox?

An SMS inbox is a unified team inbox where multiple people can read and respond to text messages. Organizations use SMS inboxes to unite everyone’s text conversations into various views, tied to one or many phone numbers. The advantage of using a shared SMS inbox is that it makes it easier for team members to collaborate and gain visibility into conversations.

So in other words, SMS inboxes allow multiple people to log in, access, read and respond to text messages on the same phone number. When everyone on your team has their own phone number, there's no way to unify conversations - SMS inboxes solve this problem.

How Do SMS Inboxes Work?

The two main features that make SMS inboxes work are conversation routing and assignment.

The whole idea of an SMS inbox is to make sure that all inbound messages get accounted for and routed to the right person or team. Many SMS inboxes, like MessageDesk, can assign and route conversations automatically with text campaigns or manually through the team inbox.

Here’s an example:

You advertise on your business or organization website “text us @ (xxx) xxx-xxxx.” When someone texts your number a contact automatically gets created and their new conversation automatically gets assigned to a teammate or team.

The contact could be asking for an estimate or quote, to schedule an appointment, update billing or have some other question. But magically, the inbox assigns that new conversation to whoever is best at answering the contact’s question.

Once a teammate responds, everyone else on the team can see their response and know that things got resolved. All of this can take place across multiple phones, devices, and teammates. But everyone on your team is texting using the same phone number.

The advantage of a shared inbox like MessageDesk is that the right conversation gets to the right person without having to manually assign responses to team members.

You can also think of it as your SMS mailbox. It’s a mobile SMS inbox online that’s available from anywhere, including phones, tablets, and computers.

An SMS inbox ultimately makes it easy to answer questions and resolve issues, which leads to efficiency, time savings, and more revenue.

How to Get Started With a Shared Team Text Message Inbox

Setting up an SMS inbox for your team is quick and easy. Start by selecting the right shared team inbox. You can also create a free MessageDesk account at any time and start a free 14-day trial.

Regardless of the text message inbox you choose, once you create an account you’ll need to do the following.

1. Choose a phone number

The first step in setting up an SMS inbox is selecting the phone number you want your team to text with. You can use a new or existing local 10-digit phone number or a toll-free 800 number.

I’ll explain the difference.

10-digit local phone number

A 10-digit local number (10DLC number) has a three-digit area code plus a seven-digit telephone number. It’s the most commonly used type of phone number.

Businesses and organizations can often port over or text-enable a landline or existing 10-digit business phone number to receive SMS online.

☎️ Here’s an example:

(775) 313-9465

Toll-free 800 number

A toll-free 800 telephone number also has 10-digits, but it comes with an 800 area code. 800 numbers work best for delivery verification purposes with mass text messaging or high-volume SMS marketing campaigns.

800 numbers are often the default temporary phone numbers that SMS inboxes come with. Most SMS service providers allow you to change this number at any time.

🌐 Here’s an example:

(833) 638-7366

🔮 Suggested article: A Guide to P2P SMS, A2P SMS & 10DLC for Bulk Text Messages
Learn about P2P, A2P, 10DLC, toll-free SMS, and long codes vs shortcodes for bulk text messaging

2. Invite teammates and set permissions

Everything is better with friends, right? Once you’ve got your number set up, you’ll want to invite teammates to your inbox. Almost every business texting platform makes it easy to invite teammates either one at a time or in bulk.

And as I mentioned earlier, most SMS inboxes also come with granular permission levels. This allows you to give team members access to specific contact information and conversations.

3. Promote your text-enabled phone number

Ok, so you’ve got a number, an inbox, and teammates. The next step is to let people know that your business, organization, or team is textable.

You don’t necessarily need to develop a new channel to get messages flowing into your shared SMS inbox. You can use the same channels you already use to market your brand. Just let your people know they can also reach you via text message online.

But for added oompfff you might consider:

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6 Tips for Unifying Your Teams' Text Conversations

Alright, we’re getting to the good stuff.

The magic happens when your team finds it easy to manage conversations and maximize productivity. So I’ve put together six tips to help you unify your teams’ text conversations.

1. Assign teammates to conversations

Assigning team members to conversations makes it easy for you to scale your messaging. It also makes everyone on your team more responsible. When conversations have owners, they’re more likely to get resolved.

With MessageDesk’s SMS inbox, you’ll find it’s easy to assign conversations. Conversation assignment can happen when contacts text a keyword like “QUOTE or ESTIMATE”.

You can also assign teammates to conversations manually from the inbox.

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2. Open and close conversations

Closing answered questions, and resolving conversations gets you and your team closer to achieving inbox zero. You get to avoid information overload in your inbox while keeping the priority stuff top of mind.

You can always re-open a closed conversation, view the thread, and see who was assigned. But opening and closing conversations makes it possible for team members to better manage their assigned conversations.

MessageDesk Team Inbox

3. Create views using filters

Not everyone needs to see every conversation. This is where filters are handy. They can help you configure your inbox into views for specific teams or teammates.

MessageDesk comes with advanced filters that make it easy to sort by “newest to oldest” or “oldest to newest” and by status: new, waiting, replied. You can also filter by assigned conversations.

For even more advanced filters, you can use custom fields. Custom fields make it possible to add custom information to contacts and conversations. You can then sort, filter and create views based on custom fields.

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4. Save reusable text message templates

Time savings start with text message templates. You’ll soon find that when you text as a team, different team members will send the same message over and over again to different contacts.

This is where pre-saved, reusable text message templates, tags, media, and links come in handy.

Templates certainly save time. But they also help keep messaging consistent across your entire team. This can reduce errors and omissions of critical information while allowing team members to focus on resolving conversations quickly.

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5. Add notes to contact profiles

Contacts and conversations often go through a lifecycle. This means that at each touchpoint, there’s often the need to record extra information.

The best way to track and add comments is with notes. In MessageDesk, you’ll find that each contact profile has a notes section. This is where teammates can leave valuable information for the next time that contact starts a conversation.

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6. Enable push and email notifications

Push and email notifications let you and your teammates know of incoming messages. This makes sure nothing slips through the cracks and every conversation gets a response.

Notifications can also lower response times. This results in better engagement and customer support and service.

Quick follow-up can also make a difference when it comes to sales. For service-based businesses and organizations, response times make an impact when it comes to closing deals.

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Try a team SMS inbox for free. No credit card required.

Ready to improve your team and customer communication?

There are plenty of free SMS inboxes and other worthwhile SMS inbox solutions on the market. The trick is deciding if a free or text message inbox or paid SMS inbox is right for you and your people.

Need an SMS inbox for iPhone? Looking for an SMS inbox for Android? Our SMS inbox works for teams on their iPhone, Android, iPad, or iPod touch and on any computer with access to wi-fi or the web.

For questions, you can always meet with a MessageDesk messaging expert to discuss your team communication and inbox needs.

You’re also free to try out MessageDesk’s shared team inbox and team messaging features by starting a free trial.