Making a Customer Mailing List

While we have long believed the best method for generating customer goodwill is by providing superb service at a good price, we have found there are servicers who believe it's profitable to do even more. Specifically, some have made it their habit to follow up every job with a "Thank You" note mailed to the customer, not to mention annual holiday greetings, and so on. We think this is a lot of expense, and that customers might be happier thinking their payments did not provide so much profit as to pay for such friendliness. However, since several buyers have requested a utility for generating mailing lists from within ServiceDesk, we have chosen to provide it.

Actually, and all fun aside, some companies use mailing lists for direct profit-making activity, sending out mailings that offer things like air conditioning tune-ups in the spring, or winterization of plumbing in the fall, for example. It's our understanding that such direct-marketing campaigns—to customers you already know—can be most successful.

In truth, we initially resisted creating a Mail List-making utility because there are so many potential complications.

For one thing, there are many customers you will have done jobs for repeatedly, yet certainly, you don't want to send multiple pieces of mail to them, at least not within the same mailing. You therefore need some means of assuring that subsequent jobs to the same customer are equated within the computer system, so that it will produce only one entry for that customer within your mailing list. This might sound simple, but computers are not that smart. If a single letter of a name spelling is different (or a different first name used, or a less complete name, or whatever), it will look to a simple computer algorithm like a different customer, and in result (absent some solution) you'll get multiple references within your mailing list, in spite of the fact that it's the same fundamental customer and household involved. This can result in much wasted money in your mailings, not to mention making you look less than efficient to your customer.

Another problem is that entries in a mailing list eventually become old and outdated, suffer inaccuracies that need correction, and so on. A mailing list may also take up hard drive space that could better be used for other purposes, and require effort on your part to manage, correct, update, and so on.

In creating a Mail List-making utility in ServiceDesk, we were determined to create no additional overhead in terms of input and maintenance, and to make a reasonably accurate list, with absolutely no redundancies, and no separate file storage requirements. We are pleased with the result, and hope you will be too.

To create your mailing list, load the MakeMailingList form from the ServiceDesk 'File' menu. Press the 'MakeList' command button, and ServiceDesk will do the rest. Repeat this routine as often as you want to update the list to include jobs that have been completed since the last time you created it. The list itself is created de novo each time, based on entries in your JobsArchived file (remembering this is your source, you should not expect that jobs will be referenced that are not yet complete and archived out of the JobsCurrent file), in combination with your CstmrDbase indexes (thus, if these are not current at the station from which you run the routine, results may be inconsistent).

For a particular job's customer name and address to make it into the list, it must be the most recent job for that customer in the JobsArchived file, and must include full mailing information, including state and zip, etc. (this means that if you want all your customers to potentially be included in a mailing list, you should select the option within the SettingsForm that will consistently provide for such insertions—see page 225). In determining whether any two jobs should be equated as belonging to the same customer, ServiceDesk compares the name, address and telephone numbers of every job in your JobsArchived file. If any one of these three fields is the same between a set of jobs, ServiceDesk concludes that all such jobs must be from the same customer, and, therefore, allows a resulting Mail List entry for only one of them (again, the most recent).

The resulting output file (file name and location specified by you) consists of customer name, first line of the address (i.e., street number and street name), second line of address (i.e., city, state and zip), and date the source job was initiated. It is in comma-delimited, Ascii format, which should work fine as a source for creating form letters or mailing labels from most word processors. You should further be able to specify, from within your word processor, a range of dates (from the ServiceDesk-made list) that you wish to include in your mailing. Thus, you might specify the creation of mailing labels only for those mail list entries that include dates between, say, January 1, 1996 and the present—or whatever you choose.

In general, you should find the list is remarkably accurate. However, it certainly will not correct for misspellings in the originating documents, and there are a few other limitations. It is necessary in creating the list, for example, for ServiceDesk to convert the all upper case format of each source JobRecord into the upper and lower case that is suitable for a more formal mailing. ServiceDesk is fairly effective in this regard, but unfortunately, lacks the brains to realize that the "O" in "P.O." (as in P.O. Box) needs to be capitalized, or that the "M" in McMurtry should be, and so on. Thus, there will be some imperfections in a few of your Mail List entries, but certainly, not so many (at least as created by ServiceDesk) as to be significantly embarrassing.

Since it is in simple Ascii format, you can easily view your Mail List (and edit it if wanted) from any word processor. Simply load the file name you specified when creating it.