Is there an easy way to audit how long it takes our company to reply to emails?
March 31, 2006 1:43 AM   Subscribe

Is there an easy way to audit how long it takes our company to reply to emails?

Our company attempts to answer all customer emails within a 48 hour period: however, we currently have no system in place that allows us to say, on a monthly basis for example, that 70% are answered in 24 hours, 95% in 48 hours etc.

Is there any way of doing this via Outlook/Outlook plugins/third party software or can we only do it by laboriously entering details in Excel? How do other companies handle this?

(For reference: we use Outlook and emails are, generally, sent to one public mailbox (our info@ address) from where they are either answered directly, forwarded to the relevant person if they address specific areas or moved to another mailbox (for example technical@ or dispatch@ etc) for handling later)
posted by Hartster to Work & Money (5 answers total)
How do other companies handle this?

My guess would be they use the information available in the message headers ("In-Reply-to"? not sure), stuff those in a database, and do some statistics shenanigans from there.
posted by slater at 1:48 AM on March 31, 2006

How do other companies handle this?

We built a customer service system for our client's rebate site that "strongly encourages" users to use our online form to post a question. The benefits of this are numerous: We can parse their personal information and determine which rebate they're inquiring about, and even do a rudimentary lookup automatically based on the info they entered and prepare a completed set of templates that our CSRs can just select from a dropdown and then custom-fit for the situation.

Every ticket in and out is in the database, and replies are linked happily to their parents, so we can see the full course of a thread.

Outlook plugins may provide some sort of solution, but it'd be complex and unreliable, based on the fact that you forward and have multiple installations.

If nothing else, it'd be more reasonable to write a script (say, in PHP) that parses and interprets the email, before forwarding or resending it to the box it was intended for, so that you could make a db entry. Linking a reply from within Outlook to your db's entry would be a huge pain, though I have a few ideas about how that *could* be conceivable.

If you'd like more details and would like to contact me directly, feel free to check my profile for my email.
posted by disillusioned at 3:26 AM on March 31, 2006

"Issue Trackers", like the classic workhorse RT, are made for exactly this situation, and are what most companies use:

Your info@ address is intercepted by the issue tracker, then optionally forwarded to the people who are "admins" for that address. It is also stored in a web-accessible database that manages all the information you could possibly want to track for any email, including: time worked, priority; who's responsible for the ticket; relationship to other tickets; and a complete history of all correspondence and other changes, and who made them.. Your technical@ and dispatch@ addresses would be separate "queues" in RT terminology, and would be similarly separable in different systems. Whether you're using the web interface or email, your replies go through the RT gateway and are processed and sent to the right people.

A list of other issue/bug trackers is on wikipedia -- also with links to other lists.
posted by xueexueg at 6:06 AM on March 31, 2006

I think if it were me I'd write a perl script that keeps track of the Message-IDs and timestamps of all messages received to the info@ address, and then scans outgoing mail for the In-Reply-To: and/or References: headers and correlates the two. On a *nix system running exim/sendmail/postfix/qmail this is pretty easy to integrate since logs are plaintext and the MTA can be configured to run all outgoing mail through a script relatively easily. If you do it at the server level it means it's handled automatically, regardless of the client software used, as long as the end user actually does reply to the forwarded copy of the original email and the MUA adds one of those two headers.

If that's not an option I'd say you should have the info@ emails delivered to a script that injects them into some kind of trouble ticket system, and then use that interface to reply. Or maybe you just write your own simple handler, where incoming mails to info@ are queued, and then you use this web interface to forward them to the appropriate person for reply. That would let you record at least the time from receiving them to the time they were forwarded to the individual (who would presumably be ready to reply immediately, otherwise they wouldn't have forwarded the message yet.)
posted by Rhomboid at 6:06 AM on March 31, 2006

KANA Response does reporting, thread management, and time-to-response brilliantly, at the expense of a somewhat clumsy user interface.
posted by Sallyfur at 1:14 AM on April 1, 2006

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