Standard Responses? More like Stellar Responses!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Blogger Universe. Don Hoyt again. One of the things I’d like to talk about on this Blog are the features in MailFlow that the MailFlow community of users know, love, and of course, take for granted, but that non-MailFlow users are missing out on. Today, I’d like to talk about standard responses.

Pre MailFlow, I was an ambitious young man who was genius enough (or so I thought) to copy my most often used emails into a Word doc. Every morning I’d open it up and throughout the day copy and paste messages into Outlook. A few problems with this strategy: one is that I can’t share all of my poetic prose with colleagues, and going from Outlook to Word, then scanning through my library of responses, copying the exact, applicable text and pasting it into the appropriate spot in Outlook was cumbersome to say the least.

While MailFlow customers around the globe have different environments and utilize different features, the feature that customers utilize as much as any other, and appreciate immediately when they start using MailFlow, is standard responses. The amount of time that this feature saves is astronomical and the level of uniform quality assurance, especially for users coming from no collaborative message sharing to MailFlow, is a giant leap. Some of the things I love about our implementation:

1. My colleagues make me look good. Because this is a global SR library, I can use the SR’s created by colleagues that are more proficient in some areas than myself, and get the correct message across to the customer. This is a great way to share knowledge between your staff.
2. MailFlow Knows Me So Well. MailFlow automatically keeps track of which standard responses I use most often and gives me a quick menu to choose from. Turns out our customers have a lot of the same questions on their minds, and instead of clicking through the library of responses, I’m just one click away from SR’s I use on a daily basis. It’s a little thing, but it saves a whole lot of time.
3. Sky’s the Limit. There’s no limit to the amount of Categories of SR’s or SR’s in each category. You can make your categories and responses as broad or as granular as you like.
4. Just the Right Amount of Automation. Depending on the amount of email your organization receives, amount of staff devoted to email, and the importance/value of a lead in your organization, it’s tempting to want to have your email system analyze inbound messages and automatically send a response that (hopefully… fingers crossed) adequately answers customer questions. Looking at systems that provide this functionality, one thing is clear, there is no way to guarantee an accurate, automated response to inbound inquiries. And while some organizations might be comfortable with an “X” % accuracy rate, the result of an errant response to a customer that took the time to write your organization is lost business opportunities, and this truly goes against the way MailFlow is designed. So (stepping off my customer service soapbox), MailFlow instead allows you to enter “keywords” that apply to each SR you create, then it indexes each inbound message and presents Agents with a percentage likelihood that a SR would apply. This “suggestion” implementation is the best way we’ve found to introduce a level of automation into SR’s, but we still find that some level of manual selection or sanity checking is best.

MailFlow V3.8.1 to Offer Improved Reporting

Friday, October 24, 2008

We're planning on releasing an minor VisNetic MailFlow (V3.8.1) GA build in the near future that will feature some new pre-defined reports, and a couple of under the hood bug fixes.

The reporting features were added in direct response to the needs of our customers. New reports available in MailFlow V3.8.1 include Open Tickets, which will allow you to view the status of all the open tickets in MailFlow by ticketbox, owner, or category, over a specific time period. The new Ticket Count Summary report will show you (again, for a specific time period) the number of tickets open and closed also by ticketbox, owner, or category. The final new report added is the TicketBox Details report that provides information (on a per ticketbox basis) the number of tickets open and closed, the closed percentage (a measure of efficiency) and what agent "owns" them.

The best way to get a look at the new reporting feature are to visit our online live demo system and set up an account. Once you are logged into MaiFlow, select the "reporting" tab in the left pane and select the new report you wish to view.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Hello Blogger Community. Don Hoyt here. Long time blog reader, first time blogger. I’m here to talk about VisNetic MailFlow, email customer service, and other ramblings from the perspective of a long time MailFlow user, and someone who’s worked closely with the MailFlow development and marketing teams over the years. I’d also like to delve into day to day life with MailFlow as someone using MailFlow each day to communicate with clients and gather information, to examine practical applications of MailFlow and why it’s just so darned handy.

First, a little bit about myself and what I do. My official title is Marketing and Sales Representative with So, when you send an email or call in to , and ask for additional product information, can MailFlow do this or that, questions on pricing, licensing, etc., I’m your man. But, in addition to marketing and selling VisNetic MailFlow, I’m also a client, and quite possibly, its biggest fan.

I was introduced to email management software when I began working at in the spring of 2000. At that time, VisNetic MailFlow was just a gleam in our developers’ eyes… We used an email management application called Adante (no longer in development).

My first impressions of email management software were:

1) It was an easy, and logical way for me to segregate my communications between customers/channel partners and internal staff. I continued to use Outlook for my internal communications with Deerfield staff, appointments, and calendar info, but all customer correspondence was routed through our email management application.
2) It allowed our sales staff and myself to respond concurrently to emails in one inbox as a team – which promoted team work and helped us quickly answer all inbound emails.
3) Traditional email clients that I had used up till then could not have sufficiently addressed the needs of a company like ours, that was receiving hundreds of emails a day, and had double digit staff members all answering or referring to customer emails – we needed a tool that was specifically designed for email customer service.

While Adante gave us the fundamental functionality we were looking for (automated message routing, email queues, customer history, etc.), we felt that it was lacking features that we, and businesses like us, would benefit from on a daily basis, and the interface and usability were a bit clunky. So, with a tremendous amount of customer email correspondence and a work force begging for a solution that better fit their needs, we did what any good electronic software distributor with a knowledgeable and professional development staff would do: Toga party! But after the party, and a few dozen pots of coffee, we decided to create our own solution based on our experiences and feedback from our channel partners and end users. And hence, VisNetic MailFlow was born.

At, we distribute 16 different products, ranging from dynamic dns to IP PBX’s, and everything in between. VisNetic MailFlow is a product that is near and dear to our hearts due to the fact that soooo many companies would benefit tremendously from MailFlow, but they continue to carry on with their traditional, isolated mail clients, oblivious to the fact that customer emails are being answered improperly or are going unanswered altogether. So we continue to fight the good fight, improving email customer service one business at a time.

More Than Ever, Everyone Counts!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

What a contrast today to the economy of the 1990's and the early 2000's as those of us in the tech sector, and many other manufacturing industries thought we could do no wrong. We felt invincible as we enjoyed growth of 40% + in sales and profits for a number of years. As we've progressed through the 2K's we've been reminded at many intervals that the economy is dynamic and every upturn is greeted with a downturn and vice versa.

It's hard to ignore that the current banking and financial crisis is unprecedented in most of our lifetimes and professional careers. Many of us have seen many years of earnings erased in just a short couple of weeks in our various retirement planning investments. However the most important play for all of us is what we do next. Will we react like Chicken Little, or like David against Goliath?

I believe that in challenging times - there are basically two types of individuals. The first type shouts "the sky is falling!" as they throw up their hands and run away. The second type of individual is ignited inside to not only survive, but persevere. I believe we must fall into the latter category.

What does this have to do with this blog about email customer service? Lots. Especially in times of tighter economic conditions customer service is king! A slower economy moves a seller's market toward a buyer's market. The value of a new customer rises exponentially. More vendors are competing more aggressively for less customers; whom are looking to maximize their purchase dollars. One quick and easy way to lose a customer is to ignore their email inquiry of your company. Remember, when dealing with sales organizations - many customers prefer email because they can avoid the hassle of being hard-sold by a sales associate over the telephone. But, if you do not respond quickly, they will move to another vendor. In the minds of the email/web savvy customer, response time is a measure of a company's overall stability. The first impression, and sometimes the last.

The unfortunate thing is that if online-enabled companies knew how poorly they were handling their customers email, they wouldn't stand for it. Sometimes we don't know what we don't know, and study after study seems to indicate that companies do not realize they are alienating their customers by mishandling their customer service email.

MailFlow can help reduce or eliminate this problem entirely. If you are using the web and email to reach your customers, you owe it to your organization to honestly assess your ability to handle your customer service email. Especially in challenging times every customer is an important customer.

MailFlow To Get Performance Mods

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Today, we'll talk a little bit about what we're working on for the initial release of MailFlow V4, and the reasoning behind doing so.

In the early life of VisNetic MailFlow, the product was positioned to meet the needs of SOHO's and SMB's, and MailFlow enjoyed growth in these sectors. As the product and its market have evolved over the years, MailFlow is finding it's way into larger email customer service departments. Additionally, many of MailFlow's customers who originally bought SOHO/SMB license sizes have upgraded to much larger user sizes. These customer have started to ask us for infrastructure level features such as load balancing, and high availability, while also wanting more granular control over security features. Up to and including the most recent version of MailFlow, we concentrated primarily on usability features, however a fair amount of work has been done in the security area of the product and logical customer service team load balancing.

For those of you that enjoy the geeky details, here's what's up. Currently, MailFlow is presently limited to running a single instance of the Web (EMSIsapi.dll) and Engine (MailFlowEngine.exe) services against the MailFlow SQL database. This limitation is acceptable to most small business users, however as the MailFlow enabled organization grows, incoming customer service email increases, and more agents are needed to respond to them. Most online enabled companies refer to this as a "good" problem to have. However, with this growth the need to scale the Web and Engine services to support load distribution and fail-over in MailFlow also grows.

We have a healthy list of user-contributed usability features that we plan to implement in VisNetic MailFlow V4, however in the interim release - we are going to work on the "engine and drive train", and improve the product in 2 main areas. The first iteration of v4 will address the aforementioned limitations by allowing for the addition of any number of MailFlow Web and Engine servers to be run against a single MailFlow database. Extending MailFlow to support multiple servers will specifically address the following:

  • If Agent web access performance is degraded, additional Web Services servers can be added. Agent access to these servers can be configured in any number of ways, including restricting access to a single or multiple server(s) by Agent or Agent Group. Web Services Server access can also be managed by implementing load-balancing solutions and/or by manipulating DNS (round-robin, etc.).
  • In addition to Web Services, additional Engine Services Servers can be added; the backend responsibilities these servers perform can be configured via the MailFlow Administration panel. Message Collection, Message Delivery, Database Maintenance and Scheduled Report Processing can be assigned to one or many Engine Servers.
Security and Availability:
  • The ability to add Web and Engine Servers to a MailFlow installation greatly enhances fail-over security. This can be accomplished by utilizing industry available fail-over systems and services for Windows servers.
  • MailFlow will also support the automatic fail-over of back end Engine responsibilities to other servers, if a server goes offline for a pre-determined period of time.
Adding these enhancements to MailFlow now will ensure that we have the solid foundation that we need to build a great feature set upon. Once this initial work is completed (much is already done now by our development team) we will continue to roll out usability improvements based on the feedback of our users. We also have a new client application in the works that will improve VoIP integration, email notifications and overall presence information.