Using the Microsoft Portal that comes with Dynamics 365 CRM just makes sense for any organisation with a customer service or support function. I see more and more companies moving away from a model where clients send emails and moving more towards a fully functioning self service portal. One aspect of the portals that can use a little tweaking is the activities timeline. You can opt to display various activities, but can also create something quite slick and professional just using the comments function. So, how can you go about creating consistent communication using portal comments?

First let’s look at the standard timeline. Each type of activity has a specific icon next to it. Most of them make sense, but the task is an asterisk. Tasks also don’t show anything about who has created it. The portal comment is the one right at the bottom with the person icon. It’s nice and clear and easy to understand, with a clear indicator of who the portal comment was created by, who it was sent to, when, and even better…. if documents are added they will be accessible via the timeline.

So let’s get modifying. First, go to the Activity entity in your solution and find the Portal Timeline View.

Next, click on Edit Filter Criteria. You can remove all of the other activity types (although if you read through my article about portal comments here you will see this isn’t needed), and make sure you change the Activity Status to Completed. This is important for making sure only the complete portal comments created internally by the case owner will be displayed on the timeline. Consider how adding notes with attachments work, you have to save the record first before you have access to do this, therefore making sure it’s just the complete portal comments that get shown is a good idea.

Next, add the following fields to the Portal Comment Main Form. You might want to consider making the Actual Duration a required field. When resolving a case, the total time calculated is based on any completed activities linked to the case. Once you set the Actual Duration and save the record, the Actual Start and Actual End will be populated.

Now go back and confirm you are only seeing Portal Comments (you might need to delete your browser cache first if you are still seeing all other activities).

OK, now this next thing is a bit of an annoyance of mine so this isn’t needed, but I think it makes for a better process. When adding the portal comment from the portal itself, your client has no way of adding a subject. This is a required field within CRM, and without it you end up with 100’s of activities without a subject making it harder to find the right ones. So with a workflow we can take care of that. First we will check to make sure the direction of the portal comment is incoming, and that the status equals completed. Next we will change the status and Open the comment so we can edit it. Next, we will update the Portal Comment record and add in something like ‘Client Comment – Date Created’. Finally, we can change the status of the portal comment back to Received.

So now when reviewing the activities thread on the wall is a clear indication that it is a client comment and exactly when it was made. Compare this with the original portal comment and you can see it just looks better!

Right, now we will use that same workflow and add a few more steps. By default there is no notification letting the owner of a case know that a new comment has been added via the portal. So we should create one! Quick shout out to my friend Bruce, creator of D365 Notify because you could totally use his solution available in App Source to create pop up notifications. For this article, we are going to use an email notification created via a workflow. Add in a step of Create Email. We want to Create rather than Send so that we can then find any documents that were attached and then send it after that. Use a queue as the From email address. Something like Do Not Reply or Support perhaps. Send the email to the Owner(Regarding (Case)). Add in a relevant subject then pull in fields from the Portal Comment record.

Now these next steps are done using an awesome solution called Dynamics 365 Workflow Tools by MVP Demian Raschkovan. We are going to use the Entity Attachment To Email option first to get any attachments that have been added to the portal comment that the client added. The Main Record URL is the record url of the portal comment. Add *.* to grab all of the files in the File Name field. For Email, click on the drop down Look for list and scroll all the way to the bottom. You should see the Create Email step that you added. Finally, set the last option to False to tell it to look at the Notes section.

Next we use the Workflow Tools again and pick Send Email.

We look for the Email we created first (scrolling all the way to the bottom of the Look for list) and add it to the value.

So here is the full and finished workflow that will kick off when a client adds a comment via the portal.

So that’s the internal case owners taken care of. What about when the case owner adds a portal comment via CRM to the case. The client needs to know right? So let’s create a second workflow for Outgoing Comments. This time the status reason should equal sent, portal comment direction equal outgoing and regarding (case) case should contain data. You can see that most of the steps are the same as we set in the first work flow. However, the first step is using yet another option in Demian’s Workflow Tools solution. 

When we email the client, we want to give them quick and easy access to the case, so providing a direct link to that specific case is a nice touch. We need to get the record GUID though, not the case number. So the Get Record ID option allows us to do that. Find the Regarding (Case) in the list and then add the Record URL(Dynamic) as the value.

In the Create Email step, add in something like this. This will create a hyperlink to your portal. After the ? you need to add in the extracted string from your Get GUID step above. This will append the case GUID to the end of your portal URL, taking them to the edit case page.

Please click here to access the case directly in the support portal{Extracted String(Get GUID)} 

Finally, either add in one workflow to delete the emails that you are sending, or add in logic at the end of your other workflows. You are using CRM as the mechanism to send the alerts but really don’t need to keep those email activities that aren’t linked to anything. Start the workflow when the email record is created, then add your conditions to check the email has come from your queue and that the email regarding field is empty. Wait until the email is sent, then wait 5 mins before deleting the email. The Delete Record option is also part of the Workflow Tools solution.

That’s it! Well, a few steps, I agree, but working through this then provides a nice clear timeline in the portal.

  • Your CRM users only need to remember to create and mark complete one type of activity.
  • Their time is tracked against the case.
  • They get notifications each time the client adds a comment.
  • The client gets a notification when the case owner (or any other user) adds a portal comment within CRM.
  • Documents are attached to the email notifications
  • Your notifications are cleaned up and not stored in CRM
  • It looks pretty awesome!

What other modifications have you made to the portal to make it work in a way that works for your organisation?

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