Tag Archives: MailClark

Odds and Sods: MailClark is out of beta, etc.

screenshot_102816_104525_amMailClark, the eMail robot for Slack came out of beta on October 27th. They have instituted reasonable pricing and even include a single eMail address for free, which should work for us at least temporarily. I was hoping that they would introduce nonprofit pricing,  but with the free address, and a price of $9.00 per month for unlimited inbound and outbound emails   we can probably afford it if necessary.

filemaker_cloudJust after buying our FileMaker 15 server license, FileMaker announced FileMaker for the Cloud. Essentially it looks like Amazon Web Services running an instance of FileMaker server.  Oh well. We’re pretty happy with our server running on a Mac mini,  with up to five users and have been deploying our nonprofit CRM to production, adding users one-by-one using desktop licenses for FileMaker Pro.   I still think there is a case for reasonable fixed pricing as opposed to subscription pricing,  and this is what we’ve got through TechSoup.

screenshot_102816_104818_amApple announces new MacBooks.  Fair enough.  Expensive though…. the least expensive MacBook, without the OLED touch bar is $1500 for 256GB SSD disk and 8 gigs of RAM.  The OLED touch bar adds $300.00 to the price! Oh and they upgraded Apple TV.   What about the MacBook Air,  Mac mini,  and the iMac?  Nichts, nada, silence….

 

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Progress with MailClark, Slack, FileMaker, WordPress

Somemotor-1381998_1280times you just have a week where you are grinding away at things, and nothing particularly new or spectacular happens, and no new revelations are on the horizon. This was one of those weeks.

MailClark and Slack

The MailClark experiment is moving into its third week. As I hoped, it  appears to be working well as an application for low-volume  email customer support. In another couple of weeks, I will introduce this to the rest of the customer support team, so that more than one of us can respond to emails and questions sent in to our help address.

FileMaker CRM

Our FileMaker CRM is taking shape. I have built the basic tables, and am working on the data entry screens. I’ve hosted it on a new Mac Mini with an SSD drive using FileMaker Server. This is the first time I’ve ever used an SSD up close and personal (all Linodes are SSD based), and I’m impressed with the speed.

FileMaker has been steadily improving the web client of the application called WebDirect. This is an effective implementation of the regular FileMaker desktop interface, but rendered in HTML5 and CSS for a web browser, which eliminates the need to install the FileMaker software client on your desktop workstation.  My thought is that we will provide access to the CRM via a virtual private networking connection rather than allowing direct access through our firewall.

Similar to FileMaker Go, the FileMaker client that runs on iPhones and iPads, I  expect to build dedicated data entry screens for the web clients. This means that each platform gets its  own screens….desktop,  iDevice, and web.  The startup script for the application will contain a CASE statement which determines which platform you are connecting with, and point you to the correct screen.

So far the data design and use cases appear to be pretty accurate and for the most part remain unchanged. One thing I have done is add a “reference” section. This will provide a front-end for the National Center for Educational Statistics database of public and private schools.

WordPress and Apache

I spent a couple days faffing about with my Apache / WordPress installation, trying to figure out what what slowing down our blog. It turns out to be hidden in plain sight, and here is one explanation.

 

MailClark: Use Slack for Customer Support

One thing that is pretty wonderful about Slack is the number of integrations available. We have integrated Trello, Google Calendar, Dropbox and Google Drive with our Slack installations. Now a new one has presented itself that allows you to create what I would call a “threaded customer support system”. This appears to be ideal for relatively low-volume eMail support. Here’s how it works:

Hire a Mail Clerk, (named Clark).

The key is a terrific application called MailClark an email bot for Slack. If you have worked with Slack at all, you know about the “slackbot”; an artificial intelligence “user” which you can communicate with to perform various tasks, or to get help on Slack. (Think Siri for Slack). MailBot is a similar “bot” but one that allows you to send and receive eMail directly to and from Slack channels.

Adding MailClark to Slack adds a new user called @mailclark, and provides you with an intermediate email address that includes your team name and the channel that you are going to use for inbound questions.  So, for example if your Slack team name is  “tfnphelpteam”, and you have a Slack channel called “grantsupport” you will get an email address of grantsupport@tfnphelpteam.mailclark.ai.

Emails sent to that address will show up in the techsupport channel showing the complete email address of the sender and a reply button. Screenshot_071416_110006_AM.jpg

If I click on the reply button, MailClark will create an entirely new Slack channel for the conversation, including the original query.  This channel will be named similarly to the original (inbound) channel, but will be randomized for the individual. The channel will show up with unread messages…  and you can then click on the channel to reply to the original question.

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The crux on the replies is that you need to follow the your reply with @mailclark send on its own line at the end of the message.

 

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What’s cool, is that any subsequent emails to or from this person will stay in the channel, so that you have a threaded discussion of an entire conversation. This is the equivalent of a “trouble ticket” system like ZenDesk.

Of course grantsupport@tfnphelpteam.mailclark.ai. isn’t a particularly intuitive email address for help. So, we created our own own google eMail address, something like grants@tfnp.com (not a real address!) which then gets forwarded to the MailClark address.