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Most efficient for customer service: Shared mailbox or mail enabled folder? Or something else?

Posted on 2006-06-12
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Currently at my organization (running Exchange 2003 and Outlook 2003), our customer service staff use a number of mailboxes (for different brands) to support customers.  These "support boxes" are simply users within Active Directory, who I have then given read and send permissions to the customer service staff.  As our organization continues to grow, and we add more and more customer service staff, I'm finding it increasingly difficult to manage these permissions and changes on a per brand level.

The biggest requirements I receive are that the staff must be able to send as the support mailbox, but of course with the way it is set up now, all email sent out read "Sent by: John Doe on behalf of Brand Support."  This is annoying, confusing for the customer, and doesn't really shield our representatives from having a clever customer figure out their personal email address, causing loss productivity.  Originally I could have dealt with only one support box, but the inability to have the From: field send as an email alias instead of the primary address (aka support@brand1 vs the default support@brand2 set in AD), forced me to create multiple boxes.  It's messy, I know.

Another problem I am constantly facing has to do with auto response messages when sending to these support boxes.  Originally they were configured as rules, but we ran into problems when some customer also had auto responders on, creating infinite loops.  Then, these rules were switched to use the Out of Office Assistant within Outlook, in order to take advantage of the one response a day limit.  The problem with this is that customers receive an email with subject "Out Of Office Reply: <our custom subject here>," and I can't figure out how to disable that prepending text.  Of course the biggest pain is when managers want that message changed, I have to physically find some unused box, log in as the support user for that brand, and edit the rules within Outlook.  I tell you, I'm at my wits end.

I've read some about using mail enabled public folders, but am concerned about migrating all these thousands of email over to them, as well as minimizing downtime.  Would a public folder work for my situation? Will users be able to still populate the From: field, without the "sent on behalf" of message?  I know you can set rules on public folders, but can you limit it to just once an email/day/etc, without the Out Of Office notice?

Or perhaps there is some other way this can be done?  Any help would be appreciated, thanks.
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Question by:wvrgroup
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aa230002 earned 525 total points
ID: 16891317
Lets discuss about improving your current configuration - Shared mailboxes.
1. There is a difference between "Send As" permissions and "Send on Behalf" permissions. I have give "Send on Behalf" permission to users on your shared mailboxes and when the recipient receives this message it shows "Sent by: John Doe on behalf of Brand Support". But, if you will give "Send As" permissions, it will simply show "Sent By: Brand Support" and recipient (client) will never know that this message was sent by John Doe.

"Send As" allows a user to send messages as a mailbox. This is different from Send On Behalf Of permissions, because the person receiving the message cannot tell that the message has been sent by someone else. You delegate Send On Behalf Of permissions using the Delivery Options property page.
In order to give "send As" permissions, go to user object in active directory - properties - security tab - and then you have "send as" permissions.

1. Permissions on Shared mailboxes - In my organization, i have security groups created for all my shared mailboxes and these security groups have required permissions on these shared mailboxes, Everytime we have a new member, i simply add this new member to the security group and user gets the permission on the shared mailbox and if someone leaves the department or my company, i remove him from the security group. You will not have to manually go to each and every shared mailbox and manage the permission for individual users.


You can also use mail enabled Public Folders for this - To migrate messages, you can simply login to the mailbox, create a public folder and drag-n-drop all messages from mailbox to mail enabled public folder and configure the mail enable public folder properly as per your requirement.
You can also have "Send As" public folder permissions set.
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/331655/en-us


Thanks,
Amit Aggarwal.



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Author Comment

by:wvrgroup
ID: 16894026
Amit, thanks for responding.  Currently I also use security groups for the shared mailboxes, and you are right, it is indeed much easier to manage.  I was unaware of the Send As permission, and will have to look into this as well.  This would cut down one problem for sure, especially if I can just grant Send As permissions on a group object level.  I don't see this Security tab though where I can grant Send As permissions; perhaps this is a Windows 2000 AD option only, as we are running Windows 2003?  It does appear that this has changed in Exchange 2003 though, as per http://support.microsoft.com/kb/895949/ .

This also does not help with the autoresponder/rules/out of office assistant problem I described above; any thoughts on that issue as well?  Thanks again for all your help.
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Assisted Solution

by:Sembee
Sembee earned 225 total points
ID: 16898085
You don't see the security tab by default in ADUC.
You have to enabled "Advanced Features" off the View menu in ADUC to see the security tab.

You can't change the OOTO message format. It will always have that text at the start of the message.
One way I have got round the problem is to use multiple rules.
The first rule is a stop rule that says if the subject line contains "this" do not process the rules.
The second rule is the auto responder, and the auto response contains a specific subject line. It is this subject line that is put in the first rule as the "this" value.
If you insist on having the subject as the original email message, then add some text that you can track to the subject.

The key thing is to make sure that the rule is a contains, not an equal to. This will cover RE: and FW:. I would also include the "Out of the Office" text in that rule as well. It isn't perfect but is probably as close as you can get. I don't like auto responders for this very reason and try to avoid using them if possible.

Simon.
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