About customer messages


If you've been introduced to Customer Messages and are ready to get started using it, please skip ahead to Installing Customer Messages



This topic describes customer messages,  message jobs, message job plans, commands to select recipients, and the processes by which messages, jobs and job plans are managed.


Why Customer Messages?


The Customer Messages feature extends the usefulness of H2OS from an office/operations tool to a database centric marketing tool.






What can I do with Customer Messages?


In general, you can use Customer Messages to send boilerplate or custom messages to one or a selected group of customers, using the optimum sending method for each customer.


If your business has hundreds or thousands of customers you'll benefit from automating some routine tasks, such as sending reminder notices for upcoming work, follow-up notes for new installations, ads for special offers, etc. Your current customers are an excellent source of new business and this feature helps you stay in touch with them for minimal cost.

Imagine you're reviewing a completed job ticket and see a note attached with a follow-up action needed for this customer, saying we need to get back to this customer with a price for something. With Customer Messages you can look up the requested information, click Msg and send a note with this information.  


Or, suppose you want to send "thank you" notes to customers you've serviced 'yesterday', reminders to those being serviced 'tomorrow', reminders to schedule seasonal work, announcements for new services, to distribute an informational article of interest, etc. And suppose you want to send these messages every day with a minimum of time and effort.


Or, suppose you want to send your customers an advertisement for a special offer, and receive responses by e-mail.


With your H2OS database you can do these things and more. The only limitations are imagination and available data.



Customer message jobs must be run by the operator

Running customer message jobs must be performed interactively by the H2OS operator. That is, H2OS does not automate the actual running of jobs and sending of messages.  It will manage a schedule for these jobs, but the operator has to check and follow the schedule manually. See the Customer Message Jobs Schedule page.




How do I use Customer Messages


Basically, the H2OS operator sits at a workstation and uses H2OS features to conduct ongoing marketing oriented activities. The more opportunistic the operator, the better the results. For example, if a note is added to a job ticket citing an on-site observation, or a customer mentions a special need in conversation,  this is a way of following up to transform these opportunities into work orders.



2 interfaces for Customer Messages

There are 2 ways to use Customer Messages, each using it's own interface


(1) to send individual messages to specific customers using the Msg command


(2) to send batch messages to selected groups of customers using the Customer Messages Jobs Manager



Both interfaces allow for the use of boilerplate notes that can contain text substitution keywords.




Used for

Procedure Methods of delivery Comments
Individual messages   1. To increase sales by not missing  work opportunities
2. To improve customer coordination for on-site visits
3. Improve customer relations by being on top of things that need to be done.


Sending messages to the current customer. Created during routine operations (when viewing a customer to whom you wish to send a message) by clicking the Msg command, .


The Msg command will launch the Create Customer Message screen that you can use to enter the message. When the message is entered, either click SEND NOW or  SAVE TO SEND LATER to either send the message now or add the message to the outgoing messages queue.


Messages that have been saved to send later can be viewed and sent using the Customer Messages page


Messages are transmitted using the customer's preferred contact method, if present, or by a method selected by H2OS, based on available information.  


1. the MSG command on the main screen (or type =MSG in the SEARCH entry field))
2. The MSG command on the Job Ticket Details screen
3. the NEW MSG command on the CUSTMSGS page.
Messages are transmitted using one of these methods (prioritized in this order based on customer preference or H2OS selection and available data)
1. Text messaging
2. E-mail
3. Telephone (call list)
4. Printed and mailed
The method used depends upon information and individual customer preferences (as stored with customer records, see the Tel, E-Mail page).
For batch customer message jobs, each recipient is assigned a method consistent with customer preferences if present or H2OS's algorithm, which is send messages electronically when possible (information is available), but if not possible will use the telephone, and if telephone information is not available, it can print letters to be sent by postal service.
Messages added from the NOTES library can include text insertions
Batch customer messages


Batch messages are sent to one or more customers that match specific selection criteria. For example you may wish to send a message to all customers who have work scheduled tomorrow.


Information about your batch messages is stored in the form of "job records" which are stored in a database table for re-use. Each such job is assigned a unique job name. The job control record contains this job name, the name of the message to be sent and the name of the record selection command used to get a list of recipients, which typically changes from run to run.


The Notes library stores boilerplate complete and partial notes for insertion into customer messages.


The Select library is used to store SQL SELECT commands that are used to obtain lists of recipients for different messages.

Message jobs can be run interactively or scheduled for a future time. When a message job is scheduled for the future a run date is added to a copy of the job record that is added to the Schedule table and can be viewed and worked with on the Message Jobs Schedule page.


Customer message jobs scheduled with run dates of  "today" or earlier are highlighted in yellow on the Message Jobs Schedule page. The operator can click RUN HIGHLIGHTED JOBS to run these jobs. The operator can alternatively use the checkbox in column 1 to mark/select certain jobs and then click RUN SELECTED JOBS (on the Customer Messages Jobs Manager screen) to send these messages now.


As in the case of individual customer messages, the system respects the preferred contact method for each customer in the selected group,

1. Click the Batch Msgs command on the Customer Messages page
2. Type the =BATMSGS command in the SEARCH entry field
The Message Jobs Schedule page on the Customer Messages Jobs Manager screen can be used to run all jobs scheduled for today or earlier (or selected jobs on this list)


What are Batch Message Jobs?

Customer Message jobs are stored as 1 record per job in the CUSTMSGS_JOBS table. Some sample jobs are shipped with H2OS and can be viewed using the Message Jobs Library page. You can consider/revise/use these samples as you wish. You can also create your own.  


Click Batch Msgs on the CustMsgs page to launch the Customer Messages Jobs Manager.


What are Batch Message Job Plans?

Customer Message Jobs can be grouped into Customer Message Plans. One plan can contain one or any number of jobs that are treated as a group for scheduling purposes. You can, for example, using the Message Job Plans page to schedule a bunch of jobs (plan) at once. You might have groups of jobs you wish to run seasonally,  e.g. "summer plan", "winter plan". etc



Operator training

There are 3 levels of involvement (and complexity, thus knowledge/skill required) with Customer Messages


Sending individual messages to customers
Minimum training and no setup required. The operator simply brings up the customer to receive the message, clicks Msg, types the message and clicks SEND NOW
Creating and running customer message jobs
Either select a sample job or create a new one, perhaps cloned from an example, and either run the job now or schedule it to run sometime in the future (and, optionally, repeatedly at designated intervals)
A good conceptual understanding of Windows and H2OS/databases is required. For example, the operator needs to understand that jobs are records in a control
table, which is part of the H2OS database
3. Sending customer message jobs to the batch machine
Have the batch machine perform repeatable tasks, such as sending "ready" message jobs (highlighted yellow on the schedule page)
Takes someone with technical skills and deeper knowledge of the computer processes involved.
For LAN installations requires the batch machine to be running on the server. Operator needs to understand LAN centric and client-server computer operations


Despite our best effort to make Customer Messages easy to understand and simple to use, there is a minimum level of complexity we cannot go below. We are trying to overcome this difficult with a growing collection of useful sample applications that you can use, clone and tailor as you see fit.



H2OS Favors electronic messaging

H2OS respects the PREFERRED send method set in the TEL, E-MAIL page  If the PREFERRED field is blank, H2OS will send messages using the 1st of these methods for which SEND data is available. (in this order):



Send method
Required information for this Send Method
Cell phone text message
Cell phone # + Cell Carrier name
E-mail address
Telephone Call List
A telephone number


Individually printed letters


Address block



This list is biased in favor sending messages electronically. Advantages include little or no cost to send messages, and almost immediate receipt of messages. Using the telephone call list and/or printed letters are significantly more expensive and also delay the process.


H2OS will assign the send method based on this criteria, when messages are entered. The operator can over-ride the method selected by H2OS on the edit screen. .


About messages


All messages used by Batch Customer Messages are stored in the NOTES table, with each note assigned a unique name that is referenced by one or more message jobs.  


The notes can include variables that will cause data substitution from your database as messages are sent.


The messages are the verbiage to be delivered to recipients.





Some sample notes are installed with H2OS. These messages can be cloned and revised to suit your purposes. You can also add new notes to the library.

Customer messages history

Customer Messages began life as Customer Reminders, but as candidate applications for the feature expanded and it became clear we didn't want to limit the facility to reminders only. It can also be  used for tasks such as distributing information useful for your customers, soliciting new and even different kinds of work, and to maintain and improve customer communications in general. The Internet is fast, reliable, readily available and low cost for messaging, and it's an ideal medium for ongoing customer communications.






Considering the possible uses for customer messages, this feature can be seen as example of a larger topic: computer automation.


Some questions you may want to consider on the subject of computer automation



1. Does the business want to use computer automation? Do the owners see the benefits?


2. Does the H2OS operator have the technical skills to use the feature?  


3. Does the H2OS database contain needed customer contact information?


4. Do you have a high speed Internet connection?




Some history


This feature was originally called "Customer Reminders" because sending automatic reminders was a need already expressed by our customers. For example we were asked to add the ability to notify customers who had ordered a necessary seasonal service last year but have yet to schedule for the service this year.


As development progressed it became clear that we have the ability to send "this note" to "these people", why not also use this capability to send announcements, special offers, even general information of use to your customers, in addition to just reminders? And so the feature was renamed "Customer Messages" to take into account these other uses. We also considered that the feature isn't limited to working with customers only, since it can work with any database that contains the needed contact information, such as the Prospects, Rolodex and Employees databases. It would be expensive to rename this feature again, so we'll stick with Customer Messages, but it does indeed work with other databases



Who does what


We provide software, procedures and samples, you provide the database, the messages, the scheduling and operator administration.





There is also provision for scheduling recurring message jobs, such as sending "thank you" messages for yesterday's completed jobs.