Thursday, January 22, 2015

Good practice: Always confirm you received an email to keep your customers happy

When a customer sends an email to a company, no matter if it is a support request, pricing question, or business partnership proposal, he (or she) usually wonder: "Have they received it? Will they read it? When will they answer?".

If there is no answer from you for longer than a couple of hours, most probably you will soon see another email hitting your mailbox: "Please confirm you received my message".  Things can get even worse when the customer's matter is urgent. Your lack of response makes you look rude, or even ignorant, not caring about your customer's problem. This is a quick way to lose your reputation and eventually - your customers.

Therefore, it is good to quickly respond and confirm receiving the message. But what to do when there are tens or hundreds of emails reaching your Exchange server? The answer is - automate the task and set up a simple auto-reply that will send the confirmation email, while you can lean back and relax.

With MSH Exchange Autoresponder it is a simple, 4-step process:
  1. In the main window of the program click Add to create a new autoresponder rule.

  2. In the Add New Rule wizard, in the Auto Reply tab, create your confirmation email. Make sure to keep the message short and informative.

  3. Decide, when the rule should be activated by setting up its Conditions, e.g. your support team's
    mailbox address. This way, when your customer sends a message to the support dept, it will be automatically answered with your confirmation.

  4. Leave other options unchanged and save your rule by clicking the OK button.
And voila! You have now a machine doing the hard work and, at the same time, keeping your customers assured that you received their feedback. Your company's email communication looks professional and your reputation is maintained. Lastly, do not forget to make sure that your support team keeps the promise and responds to your customer with a solution!

Follow the link to learn more about MSH Exchange Autoresponder.

Friday, January 16, 2015

What is Exchange transport agent and how to change its settings with PowerShell?

Microsoft Exchange server allows to access the message transport pipeline with transport agents. They are small programs that have a direct access to messages processed by the transport service of Exchange.

This is especially useful when you need to e.g. scan contents of incoming emails for spam, detect viruses or trigger any other action with the information found in the message.

MSH Software Exchange Autoresponder also works utilizing the transport agent. When the message contains a specific keyword or is sent from, or to the specific email address it performs an action and sends a reply.

To check the list of currently installed agents on your Exchange server run the following command in the PowerShell console:


The resulting list shows three columns:
  • Identity - name of the transport agent,
  • Enabled - the state of the agent. True means that the agent is turned on,
  • Priority - the order in which the message is checked by transport agents. When the agent is set to priority 1 it means it will process the message first.

PowerShell (PS) console also allows to change various settings od these agents, most commonly to disable or enable them, or change their priority.

To disable specific agent, e.g. MSH Exchange Autoresponder you need to run the following command in PS:

Disable-TransportAgent -Identity "MSH Exchange Autoresponder"

Enabling the agent is very similar:

Enable-TransportAgent -Identity "MSH Exchange Autoresponder"

To change its priority run the command:

Set-TransportAgent -identity "MSH Exchange Autoresponder" -priority 1

Note that all other agents will automatically change their priority to match the new situation. In the above case, the priority of the rest of available agents will be changed up by one position.

Instead of the PowerShell console you can use the graphical interface of MSH Exchange Autoresponder. It's much easier and allows performing described actions with just a couple of clicks:

Exchange transport agents' settings window in MSH Exchange Autoresponder
Use graphical interface to manage Exchange Autoresponder transport agent.

Click here if you want to learn more about MSH Exchange Autoresponder.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

How to avoid common mistakes and create a good automatic reply

The difference between the usual email and an automatic response is that the latter is much more annoying for the original sender. Not only it says, "Sorry, you need to wait for the answer" but also bears the same negative experience for the end user as the automated phone system or the answering machine - it is not from a human being.

To minimise this bad impression, it is good to create your automated reply according to the usual email etiquette and using a bunch of tips described below.

  • Make the response short and concise. Include only the most important information - nobody likes to read an elaborate email just to learn that it was received or that it'll be answered after you are back from your annual holiday.
  • Make sure to include an alternative contact for urgent matters. Whether it is your supervisor or your colleague it is good to include their phone number or email address. After their consent of course.
  • Avoid obvious and usual sentences. Responding with "I have received your email" is stating something that obviously happened. Even if it's automatic message from the customer support mailbox it's better to write something less "duh", such as e.g. "Your email is being currently processed by our mailing/CRM system". 
  • Do not promise a reply "As Soon As Possible". ASAP means that the original sender should receive a message from you within a couple of minutes. Or hours. Or days. Unless it is an OOF message and you know when you are back in the office it is better to avoid ASAP. However, if you really want the sender to know when she or he should expect you reply it is better to state "I'll respond within next 24 hours". 
  • Inform why the automatic response is sent. The most common statement used in auto responses is "This is an automatic message". It is good to put it right at the beginning of your email together with a short explanation why it's the automatic response. E.g. "This is an automatic message from our CRM/mailing system", "This is an Out Of Office message", or "This is an automatic reply - your order has been received".
  • Make the reply a bit funny. A good joke or funny statement can remove some of the bad experience. Make your recipient smile with e.g. " I am away for three weeks as I joined the circus." or " I cannot reply at this moment - someone stole my keyboard." Keep in mind however that this kind of funny message might create a completely opposite effect, depending on cultural differences or the urgency of the message. Make sure to not annoy your recipient with rude or too elaborate jokes. 
  • Take time difference into consideration. If you receive messages from different spots around the globe, let them know about the time difference by adding the time zone abbreviation (GMT, EST, etc.), or even a link to the online time converter.
  • Inform about your availability. If you are not working 24/7 then it is good to schedule your autoresponder's activity periods. Also adding "I am available between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm." to the message is a good practice.
  • Write a message you would like to receive. This is the ultimate hint - try to recall all the worst autoresponder messages you received and create an honest, straight to the point and informative mail that you would love to receive.
Nobody likes to receive an automatic response, especially when waiting for the real reply. With the above tips and common sense you can create the autoresponder that won't leave the original message sender stranded or frustrated, and also saving your good reputation.