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Send that email, stat !
August 11, 2008 11:34 AM   Subscribe

I'm working for a newer growing, small business (4-5 employees or so). We have to send emails containing the same information to existing customers. For example, we have to notify customers about their accounts (for example, their CC/billing information becomes outdated) or customers send us a question. We're looking for an efficient way to do this.

Right now, we want to send out emails more efficient and rich than our current system: using Apple Mail (our office is using Mac OS X Tiger, and will continue to use Tiger, and Leopard, once Tiger is no longer supported by Apple) having a templates folder, selecting the send again button and then inserting the person's email. More importantly, Apple Mail (to the best of my knowledge) doesn't send out emails in HTML. Also, the ability to edit these emails before we send them out (like, adding an extra sentence to it before hitting send).

Instead, my boss is looking for a system that would create more professional looking emails (ones that you get from an established web business) and will allow someone with no web development expertise to send them out to customers.

Related to this, is there a way to automate this so that an html version of the email, and a plain text version is also automatically generated ?
(For this second question, I'm hoping there's an easier way
than writing a script from scratch (I'm familiar with java, but I think that isn't appropriate for this) to assign the content that changes to variables, and then inserts the content to the variables in templates that already contain the formatting.)

Forms look like a way to go, but I'm not sure if javascript or PHP is a better way. I'm leaning towards php, because I read there's the ability to integrate php with sql, eventually creating a database record of customer interaction (phone calls, emails, etc).
posted by fizzix to Computers & Internet (5 answers total)
 
You might check out HelpSpot, which does a lot more than you're asking for but will also fulfill your requirements (see automations, here). You can sign up for a free hosted trial to check it out - it looks pretty good (i'm trialling it myself right now)
posted by ukdanae at 12:01 PM on August 11, 2008


Quicktext is a Thunderbird extension that lets you set up variable chunks of boiler plate. I just use it for signatures and the like, but you can include variables, like "Dear " and such, so it might be worth checking out as a simple (and in one version free) solution, if I follow your question correctly.
posted by Mngo at 1:00 PM on August 11, 2008


I use a Thunderbird add-on that inserts my pre-defined text in my message, whereever the current cursor is, with just a shortcut key. It's originally for "signatures" -- I use [Ctrl]-D for a two-line signature that I add to some messages but not others -- but you can define arbitrary blocks of text and arbitrary shortcut keys. It's called "Signature":

> http://signature.mozdev.org/

Very simple, very quick to use. As with most quick-to-use things, there's a little bit of a learning curve (training people what the shortcut keys are), but it could be a fairly elegant solution for you. Also free, and you can get it up & running in less than an hour, once you get Thunderbird installed.

You might want your boss to know that a lot of people think HTML e-mails are kind of lame.
posted by amtho at 1:02 PM on August 11, 2008


OK wait. Even though they may both be delivered via email, billing and support are separate functions. When you say you're looking to be "efficient" are you saying you're looking to automate this?

For support, you can use any of a billion helpdesk apps. If someone emails support@yourbusiness.com, this can open a ticket on the helpdesk automatically and auto-respond to the sender with a ticket number. Support requests are then replied to by staff within the helpdesk app. You can open, close, escalate, etc and the customer is informed of progress all along the line. At the end of the month, you can run reports that are interesting and informative, which is nice.

For exppired CC #s, I'm assuming you have these #s stored in some kind of database. You can set up a cron job to do a nightly whip through and trigger an email that tells the customer that the card on file is about to expire, and how to update it.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:35 PM on August 11, 2008


Thanks to all of you for your replies.

Darling, They are two different entities.
As for support, a quick sourceforge search did bring me some results. I'll look into a couple of those pieces.

As for the credit cards and billing aspects, we use a software that designed for our 'niche' industry (if that's a good term for it), designed for the very specific industry that I'm working for. I'm sure a couple of our competitors use the same software, so I can ask to see how they work with this problem (of emails with billing, etc).

amtho,
HTML E-mails: I'm not a fan of them either, but a lot of companiesstill use them, and my boss think it's more professional looking (we want to offer the option of sending plain texts).
posted by fizzix at 10:31 AM on August 12, 2008


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