Customer database from the Callsheet

One of your options in the 'local' portion of the Settings form is whether you want the AutoCstmrDbase-Search feature enabled or not. When this feature is on, ServiceDesk will conduct a search of the CstmrDbase Index, in each of eight different Callsheet fields, as you are typing-in characters. These are the Customer and Location Name fields, the Customer and Location Address fields, and the home and business Telephone fields in both Customer and Location sections. For obvious reasons, ServiceDesk will not begin the search until enough characters have been typed to make it meaningful.

When ServiceDesk finds a match or matches between your entered text and items in the CstmrDbase, it will expand the Callsheet and display a list referencing each match. This will go on as you continue typing-in your entry, and on any reasonably-powerful computer (300 megahertz or above) ServiceDesk can easily maintain your pace, instantly updating the list with each of your subsequent keystrokes.

The CstmrDbase is based, simply, on the entire history of all jobs written and managed through ServiceDesk. More specifically, it includes the already-indexed portions of the JobsCurrent file and all of the JobsArchived file. By using an index set that refers to both files, the system is able to conduct complete searches in the tiniest fraction of a second, even after accumulating a history consisting or many tens of thousands of jobs.

Since references in the list may refer to either current or past jobs, there is a distinction in the manner each item is displayed, to let you know which category of job it references. Basically, if items are from the JobsCurrent file, their list references will be shown with a row of four asterisks before and after the customer's address. If from the JobsArchived file, the references will not include such asterisks. Thus, you can distinguish in an instant between references to jobs still pending and those from the past.

If you see an item in the displayed list that you'd like to view more fully (the list itself includes only name, address segment, and telephone number), you may either left-click on it with your mouse, or press F1. At this point ServiceDesk will display a shortened version of the JobsArchived form, with the referenced item loaded into it (if you used F1, it shows the first item in the list). Thus you can instantly see all pertinent details regarding the selected job, regardless of whether it's current or one that was completed years ago. In many cases, you'll want to look at more such items as you talk with a customer on the line. It's easy. Once a single list item is referenced and displayed, use your cursor keys to move up or down in the list and display adjoining items. Thus you can view all the jobs in a particular customer's history, in seconds.

In many cases, rather than wanting to review past history, you'll be more interested in using that past name, address and telephone number simply to fill-in your present Callsheet, and without having to type or ask your old customer for such info again. In this case, you may either right-click on an item in the list, or again press F1 to move into the list, then cursor down to the item and press Enter. With either action, ServiceDesk will insert into your Callsheet the same full name, address and telephone number set that were used on the previous job. You may also simply press Enter after you've selected a job for display, and ServiceDesk will similarly insert its customer data-set into your Callsheet. Alternatively, if you wish only to enter the name and telephone numbers from the CstmrDbase item (i.e., you just need the name and telephone number to remind you to check on something then return the person's call, or something similar), you may modify any of the above actions by holding down the Shift key. This will cause an insertion with address and city omitted. Also, you can do an insertion of the previous info set in “Recall” format by doing Ctrl-Right/Click.

In any event, each of these insertion methods provide a virtually instant means by which you can use a former name, address and telephone set and get them instantly into a new Callsheet—with something so close to zero effort as is almost magical (to help you remember all the various commands available in a Callsheet, there’s an instantly accessible command summary; see page 76). Plus, you should be aware the system is doing even other things for you at such time, behind the scenes. For example, as you insert a customer’s info set, the system simultaneously checks in your Accounts Receivable file to see if any amounts are outstanding from the same customer. If so, it brings it to the operator’s attention, and offers to place a note on the invoice advising the technician to collect as he makes the visit.

While it does not require any appreciable time for ServiceDesk to conduct its search of the CstmrDbase, substantial resources are needed for your display system to expand and contract while accommodating a list that must appear or disappear in rapid response to your keystrokes (depending on whether matching entries are found with each new resulting strike). If your system is not particularly powerful and you type quickly, there may be enough delay to be annoying. If so, you may want go to the Settings form (use the 'File' section of the main menu or press Ctrl-F1) and disable the Auto-CstmrDbase-Search feature.

Whether your auto-CstmrDbsSearch feature is turned on or off, incidentally, you can still conduct the same searches, any time you want, and on the same fields. Simply press F1 while your cursor is located anywhere in such a field on a Callsheet. Indeed, within our office (even though we always have the autosearch feature on), we find this last trick eminently useful. The reason is because it may occur to you after the data has been typed in (and the then-displayed list is now gone) that you want to again conduct a search on one of the fields. You could at such point use the F12-based search feature (see following paragraph), but that would require re-typing some of the same target text that, in this instance, already exists in your Callsheet. Or you might backspace into some of that already-existing target on your Callsheet, and by such action reinvoke an auto-search (assuming such feature is turned on), but then you’d have to re-fix whatever editing you did. In fact, it’s far easier, whenever you already have suitable target text in any of a Callsheet’s search-able fields (and especially if your cursor is already in that same box), to just hit F1. That invokes the same search as though you were typing in the field, but without actually doing so.

All this discussion, incidentally, is directed toward using the CstmrDbase from within a Callsheet (since using Callsheets is the larger topic of this chapter). You should know, however, that if you are not otherwise typing a customer's info into a Callsheet (or don't already have it there), there's a much easier way to conduct a search than by this method. Simply press F12 to bring up the TechInterface form (as discussed more fully at page 209). From this context, it will automatically load itself in a format that's immediately ready to conduct a CstmrDbase search for you. Your task is simply to begin typing characters from the name, address or telephone number that would be found in the record you're looking for. Immediately, you'll see a list popping into view (similar to that which is produced from within a Callsheet) that shows all matches. When you see an entry you're interested in (again as if in a Callsheet), just click on it for full display (or again you may simply press F1 to move into the list, then use the cursor keys to move up and down within the records offered). Experienced users will typically find themselves using this feature many times each day.