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Setting Up Notifications

Stay in constant contact with workers and customers using the powerful OnTime Workflow Designer notification system.

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In this video, we're going to discuss how to setup notifications in OnTime. Staying in communication with both those in the field and with your customers is an important way to improve the overall customer experience. OnTime gives you many flexible tools to automate that communication via text message and email. Let's take a look at some of the primary ways that you can do this.

I'm going to show you, in OnTime Management Suite, some of the things to keep in mind when setting up these notifications. The first thing you want to do is clearly have established the methods of communication. In other words, the email addresses and text messaging addresses that you want to reach out to. There's two primary groups that you want to ensure that this is done for: your Users, which could represent people in the field, and your Customers.

Let's take a look at a user. I'll open up the user and two fields we want to pay attention to are the Email field and the SMS gateway field. These addresses will be used when communicating with, for instance, drivers in the field. It's very important to have these accurate so that the person receives these messages in a timely fashion. The Email is, of course, going to be their preferred address for receiving messages, perhaps on their smart phone. The SMS gateway field is where you can put in a person's cell phone or mobile device number, followed by the domain or suffix for that mobile provider. There are many ways to find out what the gateway address is for any one of the providers out there, it's just a matter of looking that up. For example, here we have a 10-digit phone number followed by That is the suffix that AT&T uses in the united States to relay text messages. The reason that we use SMS gateways in OnTime is to lower the cost for you as the courier company. Normally these SMS messages can cost upwards of $0.20 each to send out, so you can imagine, if you're sending hundreds or thousands of these per day, how quickly that can add up. If you relay them through the SMS gateway, they are free for you to send, so that can be a big cost savings.

Now that we've established the communication for Users, let's look at the Customers. I'll go to the Customers list and open a customer. Again, the field that I want to pay attention to is the Email field. This is the general email address. There's also another field under the Billing section for the Billing email. Those will both be available in notifications, so I want to make sure to have both setup. One tip that I can share for specifying the email address: sometimes, when it comes to customers, they want multiple email addresses specified because they want information sent to multiple people. If you're ever in that situation, you can specify multiple email addresses by simply separating them with a comma. So, I have one email address here. If I add a comma and then start another, the system will recognize that comma and split the addresses up so we will be sending to two different email addresses instead of just one. So, that is how you can send to multiple addresses.

Now that we've ensured that both the Users and Customers have addresses, how can we setup notifications to go out to those people? We do that through the Workflow Designer, which you'll find at the top under the Home tab in OnTime Management Suite. If I click on the Workflow Designer, there will be a list of many different Workflow notifications that we've setup. The idea behind a Workflow notification is that it's going to respond to events in the system, automatically generate an email, address it, and send it in response to that event. That means that instead of you or one of your customer service reps having to sit idly by and wait to send these messages when something happens, OnTime will do it automatically. Because it's setup to respond to these events, it will do so 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Nobody needs to maintain that or watch over it to make sure that it works, it will just send to your customers immediately.

Let's see how one of these Workflow notifications is setup. In this example, we are setting up a delivery notification to a customer. In other words, a POD. We give it a Name, so that we can clearly identify the type of notification. Under Scope, we can have it sent to Everyone or only to Selected Customers. When it's set to Everyone, that means every person or customer in the system is potentially able to receive this message. When it's set to Selected Customers, only customers that we choose will receive this particular notifcation. That can be very useful if you have a customer with specific requirements and they want you to relay a POD or status update in a very specific format, with specific information. Maybe that doesn't fit the rest of your customer base, but only that one customer. This will allow you to setup a custom notification for that customer, which is sent to only them when that event is triggered.

Under Properties, we are able to determine which Area of the system we want to monitor for events. Under Events, we can choose the type of event that is going to be triggered by this. In this case, we're looking at orders and we want to respond to particular events as an order goes through its life cycle: submitted, picked up, delivered, whatever the case may be. In this case, we want when the order is marked as delivered by one of our drivers in the field. Finally, the Action allows you to set the type of correspondence that's relayed. That can be either email or SMS text message.

This Content section may look a little more familiar because this is how we would typically assemble an email message. We put in the From address, put in who it's To, put in a Subject, and our content here at the bottom. That's all we need to do to create one of these messages. Now, whenever an order is marked as delivered, this message will be generated, addressed to this person, and email will be sent.

Because we have some literal information here, it's always addressed to John Doe, and it always has a greeting to John. This wouldn't be very useful because we would have to create a new or separate notification for every possible customer. Wouldn't it be much better if we could have dynamic, flexible information in there? If you're ever used the mail merge feature in a program like Microsoft Word or a spreadsheet, you know that allows you to create a template, and then merge in a list of names and addresses so that you can have a more dynamic approach. OnTime does a very similar thing with use of Special Fields. If, for instance, I remove the To address and click Insert Special Field, I can choose from any number of fields across the system. When the order is processed and this notification is created, OnTime will reach into the order, pull out that field, and insert whatever information was input into the Special Field. In this case, we'd like to grab the customer on the order's email address. So, I will choose Customer, choose Email Address, and then click OK. We'll notice that it puts curly braces in with some information. That's the key to tell OnTime to go, find the Shipper on the order, get their email address, and replace that, so that when the email is addressed and sent out, it goes to the proper address. Let's take a look at a Workflow notification that I have setup that is filled with these Special Fields.

Here is that same delivery notification to a customer, except completely dynamic and flexible. For instance, it's tied into the dispatcher's email address. That way, if a customer hits reply to a message, it will go back to the right dispatcher. It's set to go to the email address of the customer. In the subject line, we can see a more dynamic approach to crafting our text. So, instead of just saying "Delivery Complete," we say "Delivery Complete:" and list the tracking number of the order, which is going to be much more meaningful for the customer. Down here in the greeting, instead of "Dear John" hardcoded, it's going to say "Dear" and then whatever the name of the customer is. Again, that's going to be much more personal to our customers. You'll notice that this particular Special Field looks a little different because it also says "Valued Customer." That is what we would refer to as a default value. Let me show you how that works.

I'm going to delete this Special Field and go to Insert Special Field again to craft this. We want the customer's name. If we were to just insert that, we would end up with just the customer name. To add a default value, we will put the default value in the Default text box. What that tells OnTime to do is to first try to get the customer's name, but if the name is blank, it will use the default value. In this case, it may say "Dear John," but if the name wasn't there, it instead would say "Dear Valued Customer." This is another way to make the notifications rich and meaningful.

Now let's take a look at a message that you might send to your employees in the field, like your drivers. Let's take a look at this driver assignment notification. This one is meant to go out as a text message as a brief alert to one of your drivers that an order has been submitted and assigned to them. It can be a great way to get their attention if they need to act on something quickly. In this case, you'll notice that the Event is set to Order submitted and assigned to a driver. It's going to send them a message. The Special Field here is going to look for the driver's SMS address and send to that. Then you'll notice that we have a very brief message because text messages are limited in size. We're just sending minimal information so that the driver can know they have something to do and get the basic information from that text message. That can be an easy way to stay in communication and alert people in the field, on their cell phones.

Let's talk about how to test and use these Workflow notifications. As we said earlier, the notifications are designed to go out automatically in response to events as they happen throughout the system. Sometimes, especially when in the testing phase, it's nice if you can manually trigger these notifications to see if they are working how you intend. One of the easiest ways to do that is to go to the tracking view and use an order as a test subject. What you do is right-click on an order and go to Process a Notification. This is going to give you a list of all of your Workflow notifications and you can click on one of these to have it immediately processed for that order. For instance, if I wanted to test my Driver Assignment Notifications, I can click on it, send it out, and check on the cell phone to make sure that it was received as intended.

Another way of testing is to, again, right-click on an order and choose Trigger Event. What this will do, instead of just triggering a particular notification, this will trigger an event through the system. It's only for the purpose of the notifcations, so choosing Order delivered is not going to cause this order to be delivered, but it will tell the notification system that it has been delivered and to send all notifications subscribed to that event to be processed. If we have five or six notifications that are setup to respond to this event, it's going to trigger all of those. Sometimes this can be used for testing. Sometimes a customer may call up and say "I didn't receive a notification for some reason," you can come in here and use this to reissue that notification to the customer.

Let's talk about ways of verifying the messages that have gone out. At this point, we can go to the Home tab and choose Pending Notifications. This is going to give us a list of all of the Workflow notifications that are having a problem getting sent out. It also details the reason why they weren't set out. The log is telling me that I have notifications that have been trying to go out, but there's a problem and they can't be sent out for some reason. If we look down here in the log, we can see the tracking number, the number of times it has attempted to send the message, and the error. In this case, many of these are saying that the Workflow is paused. Oftentimes you might pause a notification to work on later. That will queue up all of the events that happen in the system so that when you unpause it, those can be released using the new modifications. This one is a little more meaningful because it tells us that the recipient must be specified. So, evidently, we forgot to specify the email address for this driver, so it doesn't have an address to send the message to. This can be very helpful in diagnosing notifcations that are having problems getting out. Once you rectify the problem, usually the system will push them out. You can also use the Process All Messages Now to forcibly process those all at another time.

Another log that you can look at is the Sent Messages window. This is going to show you a list of all of the notifications that have been sent successfully during a period of time. You can double-click on them to get a little view of what was sent out to that email address and when. You can be confident that any item that appears in this list represents a message that has successfully left OnTime and been relayed to the appropriate mail server.

One last place that you can check to understand if your notifications are going out on a regular basis is the Start page. Usually when you start OnTime Management Suite, you're taken to this Start page. It's going to tell you if there are any notifications that are having a problem being sent out. If you double-click that, it will take you to the pending notifications window we had open earlier. So, that is a front-and-center way of being reminded if there's a problem.

We mentioned mail servers a moment ago. If I go to General Options and down to connections, we'll see an area that allows us to specify the email server used. All of these notifications that we've talked about so far, whether they are email based or directed through SMS gateways, are all going to be relayed through a mail server. By default, it's set to use the OnTime mail server. We will take care of all of the messaging to make sure that those are sent out for you. By and large, that's a very good method to use. But if you're comfortable with setting up your own mail server or perhaps have an IT person that knows how to do that, then you can come in here and set it to use a different mail server, like your own. This will give you the fields to fill out, you'll need to get this informaion from your IT dept or network administrator. This will allow you to relay all of those notifications through a different mail server that you have control over. One of the benefits to doing it this way is, if there's ever an email that doesn't go through, you'll get a bounce-back email that tells you that the person didn't receive the message and why. If you use your own server, you'll get those bounce-back emails because you would be the sending mail server. If you're using the OnTime server, you won't get those types of messages. So, if you want complete control over how your notifications are being sent out, look at using your own mail server to relay those. Our suggestion is, once you get that set up, to use the testing tools and make sure you have the notifications flowing freely before you use it with your customers and personnel.

This has been a video of how to setup notifications across OnTime. If you have any questions about how to more fully use these features in your business, please contact OnTime Customer Support.

We have used it for 5 years and it has been a great tool, we started with basic package and are now at full suite. The online access is used by many of our customers who want faster order entry.

Anastasia Leveck | Best Delivery