Most answering services today are already taking and storing their messages on computer. Most also have the capacity to transmit that data electronically over a modem (their systems typically refer to this as "remote printing"). All that's needed, for ServiceDesk to feed this information into a Callsheet, is a common-language protocol by which we can distinguish from among the various items of information in the data stream. With such a protocol, ServiceDesk can easily place each such data snippet into its correct Callsheet location.
The protocol is simple. As part of their own software system (StarTel is one of the more commonly used packages), your answering service must already configure a customized inquiry page for your company (this is the page that comes up on each operator's screen when she is taking a call on your line). This page consists, basically, of a series of input lines, each preceded by a label which denotes the type of information that should be entered on it (see example in Exhibits).
Now here's the key. All you must do is have your answering service label its lines—on the inquiry page it uses for your company's calls—with the particular words ServiceDesk is prepared to recognize. These KeyWords are as follows:
Once your answering service has set itself up to precede each of its message lines with these keywords, and has taken a few messages under the format, go ahead and try getting messages electronically. In all likelihood your service will need to request "remote printing" from their software (if needing to help them out, you can tell them that on the StarTel system the appropriate command is Ctrl-R). In response, their computer will dial yours (assuming it's been provided with the correct telephone number). To answer and receive the messages, you'll need to bring up your ServiceDesk Communications form (Alt-R for 'R'eceive messages, or use the menu). From that form you can set for "Auto-Answer" before the phone starts ringing, or set to "answer Now" after it's already ringing. Once the connection is made, you should see the entire data stream fill rapidly into the form's receive box, while each item of information correctly pops at the same time into the appropriate position of its own Callsheet.
Your service should set its modem, incidentally, to communicate at 1200 baud, E,7,2 (ServiceDesk will look for your modem, internally, at whichever CommPort you’ve specified via the SettingsForm). If these settings won't work for your situation, let us know and we'll send you an updated version which allows you to change the settings.
A final note. It is standard on the commonly used StarTel system (used by answering services around the country) for each message to be separated with a string of hyphens (see sample printout in Exhibits). ServiceDesk looks for this string to determine that one message has ended and the next begun. If your service uses a different means to indicate message separation, let us know and we'll adapt ServiceDesk to comply.