Email Integration with Clarify
Over the last 12 years of working with Clarify, email integration always seems to be a key topic of conversation, and I get many questions about email integration capabilities. So hopefully this post will answer most of these questions. I’m sure there will be details I’ve missed (especially on some of Clarify’s later version capabilities), so please leave a comment.
Outgoing email is typically initiated via a Log Email action (for example, from a case) within the Client. When a email is “sent”, the client saves the email details to the database, and then also adds a new time_bomb. This time_bomb tells RuleManager that it needs to send out this email. The Clarify client does not connect to a mail server or service, so it can not send the email, so RuleManager does it. On Windows, RuleManager connects to Outlook to send the mail. On UNIX, it uses a built-in mail command, such as /usr/ucb/mail, mailx, etc.
Clarify’s RuleManager sends all emails out from one address. For example, all outgoing emails appear to come from firstname.lastname@example.org.
RuleManager is also responsible for sending notifications via email, i.e. as a result of a business rule.
Incoming Email is processed by the “clerks”, emailclerk for ClearSupport operations, cr_emailclerk for ClearQuality. Emailclerk can perform two operations: Create Case and Log Notes. Emailclerk will also invoke an auto-destination rule (EMC_DISPATCH) when a case is created, allowing new cases to be dispatched to a certain queue.
With newer versions of Clarify, there is a new program available called eResponseManager (eRM). eRM was first used to process incoming dialogue communications. A dialogue is a new object available in later versions of Clarify. eRM can also be used to replace EmailClerk. In addition, RuleManager was used to invoke a command line script, which would communicate with the Delano/eRM process for sending outgoing dialogue communications.
I worked on one of the first implementations of eRM, customizing it to create cases, log notes, etc. eRM also used a new application called the Routing Server, which allowed for more robust routing (compared to auto-destination rules) of cases to queues or users. This was back in 1999. At that point, eRM was built on top of a product called Delano, and used Clarify’s eBusiness Framework for all database activity. This was the last time I used eRM, so I don’t know what has changed in this product since then.
Dovetail Software has a few products that enhance email capabilities.
Outgoing Email in the Clarify Classic Client
For the Clarify Classic Client, Dovetail’s Enhanced Email Out product allows the Clarify Client to be integrated to Outlook. EEO uses Object Linking & Embedding (OLE) to communicate with Outlook.
* Access to Outlook address books
* Uses Outlook signatures
* User preferences for subject and body templates, including variable substitution
* CC and BCC
* Unlimited Attachments
Because email is sent from the user’s Outlook account, the email comes from the individual agent’s account, not from a generic email address. This allows replies from the customer to be sent back to the same agent. Some customers like this, some don’t – just depends on how they like to do business with their customers.
Dovetail provides a product called SuperEmailClerk (SEC.NET), which is a superset of Clarify’s EmailClerk application. It is entirely written in .NET, and runs as a Windows service. It connects to any SMTP/POP3 server, so Outlook or Exchange is not required. In “freeform mode”, it can create cases, and log notes to cases or sub-cases. It supports auto-destination rules, so newly created cases can be routed to the correct queue. Responses are sent back to the sender, and all of these responses are customizable via XSLT templates.
SEC.NET also supports “API invoke mode”, which allows any of the hundreds of available high level APIs from the Dovetail SDK to be invoked. This was originally written to allow systems to send email for integration purposes. For example, if a network monitoring system senses a problem, it could send in a formatted email, and a case could be created, notes added, case priority set, dispatched, etc. If the monitoring system notes the issue as resolved, it could send an email which changes the status or closes the case. Although this capability is available, it is typically not used in modern systems. This capability was built years ago, before the prevalence of SOA architectures. Modern systems will typically just call an API directly, or even make a WebService call, as opposed to invoking an API over email (basically, RPC over email).
Outgoing Email in the Dovetail Thin Client
Dovetail has a complete agent-facing application for Clarify, allowing customers to switch from the Classic Client to a web client. The Dovetail client works on any version of Clarify, so an expensive upgrade is not necessary. Our web client can use either traditional Log Email, where the email is sent out via RuleManager, or it can also integrate with Outlook, with the same features available in our EEO product (described above).
Dovetail has its own RuleManager application, which is a plug & play replacement for Clarify’s RuleManager. One of the features of the Dovetail RuleManager is that it supports the use of the FR: tag within the outgoing email com_tmplte. What this means is that Log Emails sent via the Dovetail RuleManager can be configures to come from a single address (such as email@example.com), or from the agent’s email address. This gives organizations more control over how they want outgoing emails presented.
How we use Email here at Dovetail Software
No surprise, we use our own web application for supporting our customers. We also use our own Dovetail RuleManager, and our SuperEmailClerK (SEC.NET) application.
SEC.NET listens to a defined mailbox, superemailclerk at dovetailsoftware.com (NOTE: this is not the actual address used, it’s used here for illustrative purposes only).
We also use Outlook for our email client application.
When we want to send an email to a customer, from within the Dovetail web application, we choose the “Log Email” option, and the EEO page is presented, automatically filling in the customer’s email address, setting the subject to “About Case 1234 :: <case title>”, and pre-fills the body with the user-configured template.
The image below is what the page looks like after first choosing the Log Email option. Notice that the To address, subject, greeting, and signature are all filled in. This all happens automatically. I can then simply type in my body text and click send.
Upon clicking the Send button, the web application communicates with Outlook, which sends the email to the customer. The from address of the email is the agent (me, in this example).
When a customer replies, it shows up in my Outlook Inbox. If I want to add the customer notes to the case, I simply forward the email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and because the subject contains the string “about case 1234”, SEC.NET knows to add the contents of the email to the case. In addition, SEC.NET can be configured to strip any previous notes from the email, for example, anything after the “—- Original Message —-” tag. This prevents duplicate data from cluttering the case history. SEC.NET then sends me a reply, so I know that my notes were added successfully.
If I want to reply to a customer that has replied to me, from within Outlook, I simply hit reply, and I BCC to superemailclerk at dovetailsoftware.com. This sends the email to the customer, as well as to SEC.NET, so the email gets sent to the customer, and automatically added to the case.
As a request from one of our engineers, we’ve also added a “Send Outlook Email” option to our case action menu.
This allows those users who are more comfortable working within Outlook to do so.
When choosing this menu option:
* A new email is opened in Outlook
* The to address is set to the contact for the case
* The subject is set to “About Case 1234 :: <case title>”
* The BCC is set to superemailclerk at dovetailsoftware.com
* The body is set to:
—- Original Message —-
< Case History >
The image below is what is presented after first choosing the Send Outlook Email option. Notice that the To address, BCC address, subject, and body are all filled in. This all happens automatically. I can then simply type in my body text and click send.
This sends the email to the customer, as well as to SEC.NET, so the email gets sent to the customer, and automatically added to the case.
Dovetail SelfService & Business Rules
We encourage our customers to use our Dovetail SelfService application when submitting or responding to support cases. We allow our customers to submit cases online, and to add notes or close cases online. Whenever a new case is created, it is automatically dispatched (using auto-destination rules) to the Support Cases queue, and a business rule notifies all of us that a new case is there and needs to be handled. Whenever a customer adds notes or closes a case online, another business rule fires that notifies the case owner that the case was modified by the customer. We all use email as our notification preference. In addition, we also use email to send notifications to our mobile devices ( i.e. cell phones) in certain circumstances.
I know this is a long post, but hopefully this answers some of the common questions regarding email integration with Clarify, as well as an overview of how we use email integration here at Dovetail Software. Please let me know if there are areas I’ve missed, details you would like to contribute, or further questions.