Notifications for Incoming SMS Messages

Databuzz pioneered the sending of SMS messages directly from the FileMaker Platform 20 years ago and fmSMS, our FileMaker solution for sending/receiving SMS messages, has been used since then to send and receive millions of SMS messages by organisations all around the world.

When Claris released the FileMaker API for PHP with FileMaker Server v9 we knew we finally had a reliable way to receive incoming SMS messages as soon as they were sent using webhooks. Essentially the SMS Gateway (e.g. Twilio) would be configured to sent via an HTTP POST a notification to a PHP file containing the details of the incoming message when it was received (sender number, message body, timestamp etc). The php file would then convert that data into a record in a FileMaker table using the FileMaker API for PHP. To users this looked like magic – incoming messages would automatically appear within seconds of being sent and be linked to a Contact record so you could see the history of all sent and received messages.

The only downside of having incoming messages automatically pushed to a FileMaker solution is that it happened in the background, and unless someone was monitoring the Messages/Replies table to see if new messages had been received they might not be aware of these.

Over time customers have been asking for ways to be notified when a new incoming message has been received. We’ve come up with a number of options over the years, each of which have their pros and cons. Some of the options we’ve deployed over the years include:

  • simple email notifications for new messages. These emails could include an fmp url link which users could click to open the FileMaker file and navigate to the new incoming message record. The downside of this is that a lot of emails could be generated if you received a high volume of replies or incoming messages.
  • a calculation field on a layout that is frequently accessed showing a total of messages in the replies table that were not flagged as ‘dealt with’. This also relied on users to frequent the layout and notice this new field (many customers would make this field bold/red etc to stand out)
  • using a dedicated window to show Replies sorted in descending order. This window could get lost amongst the various application and FileMaker windows that users could have open
  • we developed a Chat View that shows messages in style similar to Apple’s iOS Messages app. This was limited to showing the conversation between a single Contact, though it could be modified to just showing incoming messages. It also required a refresh to update the Web Viewer to see if new messages had been received, which was typically done using the Install OnTimer Script which was set to run periodically. The downside of using the Install OnTimer Script is that it can interrupt the user’s workflow (e.g. if they are in the middle of typing in another FileMaker window) and is inefficient as it has to run regardless of whether any new incoming messages have been received
  • for some customers we’ve deployed the technique that can trigger a script on multiple FileMaker Pro clients using the OnRecordLoad Script Trigger when a record is deleted that results in a found set of zero records. This can call a script that shows a new popup style window alerting the user to a new incoming message. Unfortunately this can also interrupt users when they are in the middle of something in another FileMaker window when suddenly a new window appears. It’s also not suitable to sites that receive large numbers of incoming messages.

Recently we’ve been exploring a variation of the last approach for the macOS platform that uses the Notifications feature and AppleScript to display a Notification when a new incoming messages has been received. The notification generated looks like this:

This uses the same OnRecordLoad Script Trigger that is attached to a hidden window that is generated when the FileMaker solution is first opened that only ever contains either 1 or 0 records. Each time a new incoming message is received by FileMaker Server it calls a FileMaker script that updates the table to either add a new record or delete the single record. This then triggers the OnRecordLoad script on any clients that have this hidden window configured. Users then receive a standard macOS notification that displays for a few seconds. The advantage of this approach is that a new FileMaker window isn’t required and if the user is away from their computer they can still see these in their Notification Centre along with all their other macOS Notifications. You can also control through a User Preferences table which users need to receive these notifications so you’re not sending notifications to all users unnecessarily. The FileMaker script to generate the AppleScript only requires a few script steps so can perform quickly – for details on how to create macOS Notifications from FileMaker using AppleScript check out this article from HomeBase Software.

Like all the other methods there are some downsides to this approach, including:

  • it uses AppleScript so it’s limited to macOS users
  • it does require the fmextscriptaccess extended privilege to be enabled for the required Privilege Sets
  • there’s no way to customise the action that is performed when the users clicks the Notification in the Notification Centre. I couldn’t find a way to include an fmp URL that would take the user to the particular record directly – currently it just opens the FileMaker Pro application

Here’s a short video we recorded showing this in action as a new incoming message is received (you can also watch this on YouTube here):

If you have come up with any alternative options for displaying alerts to users please let us know in the comments below. In our next article we’ll look at integrating FileMaker with Slack to generate notifications in a Slack channel when incoming messages are received.

The Benefits of MMS Messaging

I’ve been talking to a lot of customers recently about whether to go with SMS or MMS messaging when it comes to integrating with their Claris FileMaker business apps. I received the following notification a few days ago from a business that I was hiring a tuxedo from which served as a timely reminder about the benefits of using MMS messaging:

This type of message is much more engaging than the usual “Hi your garment is ready to be collected …” type text message that you’ve most likely received many times over.

We’ve been helping customers integrate their FileMaker solutions with SMS messaging for over 20 years now using our fmSMS solution. There are a number of benefits to using SMS messaging, including:

  • they are perfect for appointment reminders, phone messages, segmented marketing, school absence alerts
  • they can be used to reduce cancellations and no-shows for appointment based businesses
  • reduces the amount of time spent playing “telephone tag”
  • higher open rates (98% vs 20% email)
  • higher click rate (29% vs 2.5% email)
  • you can integrate 2 way messaging into your FileMaker app: send and receive SMS messages all from FileMaker

MMS messaging gives you all the benefits of SMS messaging and more, including:

  • you can include multimedia messages (pictures, video, audio, gifs, QR codes etc)
  • you’re not limited to 160 characters per message segment – you can have up to 5000 characters
  • you can also include message subjects which act as a headline to your message
  • higher click through rate than SMS which leads to even higher engagement
  • a picture tells a thousand words (the human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text)

I’m always keen to find out from our customers how they intend to use our fmMMS solution and was talking with a customer recently and they explained that they work with a chain of stores in outback Queensland, Australia and farmers and graziers are wanting to take a photo of a piece of clothing (hat, trousers etc) and send that to the store with a message (e.g. needing to get a replacement for some trousers). Using fmMMS they can receive these directly from their customers and have them linked to their account and also send backup mockups of embroidery for approval.

MessageMedia have a useful best practice MMS messaging guide which includes 10 common templates you can use for inspiration to creating your own MMS templates. They recommend using MMS for:

  • Brand-led messaging that draws customers in with visuals of products, locations or events (think Instagram)
  • Sending QR codes, tickets, check-ins or maps to customers
  • You just want more variety and dynamic options

If you would like to discuss integrating SMS or MMS messaging with your FileMaker business app please get in touch for a free initial consultation to discuss your requirements. Free trial versions of fmSMS and fmMMS are also available from our website.

fmSMS Now Supports Chatti SMS Gateway

fmSMS, our FileMaker solution for sending and receiving SMS messages from the Claris FileMaker Platform, has been updated to support the Chatti SMS Gateway based in Australia.

Chatti specialise in connecting businesses with their customers across the most advanced communication channels. Chatti is the exclusive APAC partner of Vonage, the global industry innovators.

You can download a trial version of fmSMS to test with the Chatti SMS Gateway from the fmSMS website.

fmSMS Now Supports sms77 SMS Gateway

fmSMS, our FileMaker solution for sending and receiving SMS messages from the Claris FileMaker Platform, has been updated to support the the sms77 SMS Gateway based in Kiel, Germany.

sms77 has been a trusted partner for communication solutions since 2003.

You can download a trial version of fmSMS to test with the sms77 SMS Gateway from the fmSMS website.

fmSMS Now Supports TextTeam SMS Gateway

fmSMS, our FileMaker solution for sending and receiving SMS messages from the Claris FileMaker Platform, has been updated to support the TextTeam SMS Gateway based in Australia.

The TextTeam platform is designed with the business user in mind – there are no lock in contracts or subscriptions with TextTeam, you simply buy SMS credits as you need them.

You can download a trial version of fmSMS to test with the TextTeam SMS Gateway from the fmSMS website.

fmSMS Chat View Update

In a recent update to fmSMS we updated the appearance of the Chat View Web Viewer to a more current iOS iMessage style as it was starting to look a bit dated. We first introduced the Chat View back in July 2015 to show you the sent and received messages for an individual Contact in a much more graphical interface compared to a traditional FileMaker view using portals.

We’ve updated from the original look here:

to the following which represents a more modern style similar to the current iOS Messages app:

We find this a big improvement when viewing a conversation with a single Contact – you can see all the outgoing and incoming messages in a thread as they are sorted by timestamp and quickly send a new message to the Contact from this window. By comparison the traditional view of the SMS History for a Contact with 2 portals for the sent and received messages looks like this:

The fmSMS Chat View works in a similar way to the recently released JavaScript add-ons and with new features in the FileMaker 19 Platform such as the JavaScript integration with web viewers and the Execute FileMaker Data API script step we’re looking into ways that we can have the Chat View update dynamically without having to use OnTimer Scripts that are constantly running in the background attached to a FileMaker window. We’re also looking into WebSockets to see if we can have that push updates to the web viewer.

We are also bringing the Chat View to fmMMS, our FileMaker solution for sending and receiving MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) Messages using the Claris FileMaker Platform. The fmMMS Chat View has a few more challenges as we need to incorporate the display of any images that were sent or received using fmMMS, as well as any text (body and subject). We plan to include this in the next update to fmMMS which will be a free update for all existing customers.

fmSMS Now Supports RingCentral SMS Gateway

fmSMS, our FileMaker solution for sending and receiving SMS messages from the Claris FileMaker Platform, has been updated to support the RingCentral SMS Gateway based in California, USA.

RingCentral is a leading provider of global enterprise cloud communications, collaboration, and contact centre solutions. With the RingCentral SMS API you text any SMS-capable phone number in the world.

You can download a trial version of fmSMS to test with the RingCentral SMS Gateway from the fmSMS website.

fmSMS Now Supports Beem Africa SMS Gateway

fmSMS, our FileMaker solution for sending and receiving SMS messages from the Claris FileMaker Platform, has been updated to support the Beem Africa SMS Gateway based in Tanzania.

Beem have created an integrated communications & financial services platform with the largest mobile network operator reach in Africa, helping businesses drive their success quickly throughout the African continent.

You can download a trial version of fmSMS to test with the Beem Africa SMS Gateway from the fmSMS website.

fmSMS Now Supports TeleSign SMS Gateway

fmSMS, our FileMaker solution for sending and receiving SMS messages from the Claris FileMaker Platform has been updated to support the TeleSign SMS Gateway based in the USA.

TeleSign Two-Way SMS enables businesses to send and receive text messages from customers in 84 countries around the globe in order to provide support and engage them in the most ubiquitous method available.

You can download a trial version of fmSMS to test with the TeleSign SMS Gateway from the fmSMS website.

fmSMS Now Supports Sendsei SMS Gateway

fmSMS, our FileMaker solution for sending and receiving SMS messages from the Claris FileMaker Platform has been updated to support the Sendsei SMS Gateway based in Australia.

Sendsei uses local carriers to guarantee 100% delivery rate and can send messages globally to over 30 countries including Australia, Hong Kong, India, New Zealand, Singapore, the UK, the US, and many more.

To download a trial version of fmSMS to test with the Sendsei SMS Gateway visit the fmSMS website here:

https://www.fmsms.com/fmsms-now-supports-sendsei-sms-gateway/