Welcome back! This is part two of a four-part series with our fictitious nonprofit Coalition Against Homelessness (CAH) to illustrate common situations we have faced with real organizations. In the previous post we saw how CAH used basic Cases functionality to optimize their internal support request processes and provide structure and efficiency around the fulfillment process. These improvements have been a huge success, and now Coalition Against Homelessness is ready for the next phase: extending this functionality to their external constituent requests.
As CAH worked through their strategic discovery and planning, it became clear that managing external constituent requests was a difficult and inefficient process. Even worse, it was not possible to evaluate how much effort was spent addressing issues because so much of the work was done manually with minimal tracking. For years CAH maintained a public email account (InfoRequests@theCAH.org) that its constituents used when they had general questions or weren’t sure who to contact for a specific request. Each message was screened by an administrative assistant, who either replied with a canned response via email, or forwarded the request on to another staff person for personalized follow-up. This process consumed a significant portion of the administrative assistant’s time, a large majority spent re-typing the same standard responses over and over again. This process also lacked the ability to log each request so that the organization could track the overall volume of requests, and identify constituents who are highly engaged. It was clear that this was another area that could be improved in the second phase of their project and would have an immediate impact on their daily work load and effectiveness at delivering their mission.
To address this issue Coalition Against Homelessness worked with their department teams to outline specific goals. They wanted a system that would:
- Capture inbound support requests
- Facilitate timely responses
- Track overall trends
Following the same process as before, CAH defined the specific steps and requirement they would like to have as their staff worked through the process of responding to a constituent’s request. The process was evaluated from the perspective of both staff and the constituent’s experience to make sure all needs and expectations were being met.
When it came time to develop a technical solution, the requirement pointed to a capability called “Email-to-Case” that existed in their current Salesforce system. “Email-to-Case” was designed to allow in-bound emails sent to the request email address InfoRequests@theCAH.org to be automatically routed into the Salesforce Cases module we explored in our previous post. This allows CAH’s admin to leverage automation and reduce the manual work required to respond to constituent requests. It also enabled the organization to effortlessly capture and report on in-bound requests in order to identify trends and areas for further enhancements.
Below is a detailed breakdown of what the in-bound case management process looks like after the revised process was implemented:
- Email-to-Case is enabled for the InfoRequests@theCAH.org inbox and all incoming messages are converted to Cases and routed to the “General Information” Case Queue, which is owned by the administrative assistant. The admin has also enabled Solutions, and created a solution record for each of their commonly used (i.e. “canned”) responses, such as “Where are you located?”, “How can I find your Annual Report?”, and “What is your position on xyz issue?”.
- When general questions are submitted to InfoRequests@theCAH.org inbox, the admin will review the case and either search for a corresponding Solution, or choose one from a list of “Suggested Solutions” which are automatically generated based on keywords contained in the constituent’s email. Selected solutions are then automatically embedded into a pre-formatted email response template that the admin quickly reviews and then sends to the constituent.
- For questions that require a personalized response from a specific staff person, the admin reassigns the case to the appropriate user, and adds in pertinent Case details such as Type and Subtype that will help the new owner to review and respond more quickly.
- If a particular constituent repeatedly contact’s the organization, staff will be able to review that person’s Case History in order to quickly see past questions submitted and responses given. This information might prompt staff to identify the constituent as a potential donor or advocate for future campaigns, or conversely, to flag them as an opponent who should receive more strategic responses.
- Marketing and Communications staff can pull quarterly reports on general information-type cases, summarized by volume per Type and Subtype, and use this data to determine what information might be helpful to update on the organization’s website, or even what the topic of their next white paper should be.
It’s important to note that these two (and the next two) discovery and strategic planning efforts did not happen independently, but at the same time so that the system change strategy was planned and evaluated as part of the whole. While individual fixes and adjustments can be effective and necessary in the short term, taking a holistic view of the strategy across teams and departments can reveal elegant solutions that improve the effectiveness of the entire organization. This is why putting adequate effort into the strategic planning process is critical for long-term success.
In this solution, Email-to-Case allows external constituents to easily send in-bound support requests with no extra effort, while significantly streamlining the process to help Support staff cut down on response turn-around time. It also allowed the internal and external support processes to have similar functionality and tracking for more consistent management and monitoring. For the development process, the key functionality items required to setup this solution include:
- Enabling Email-to-Case
- Creating Solutions
- Creating Email Templates
- Creating additional queues and assignment rules
- Custom Reports
We hope that he story of our fictional organization CAH provides you with insights on to approach your organization’s challenges. The next post in this series will look at Web-to-Case, and how it can be used to create unique web forms for even more targeted constituent support.Read the next post
If you have any questions on the information above, please contact us. We are happy to share case studies from actual client projects that outline specific solutions.