Can I use Airtable like an Inbox?


#1

Hello!

I am relatively new to Airtable, but so far it seems like a great program. Our company will sometimes send paid surveys out to our customers, and we need to keep a careful record of who we contact when, if we paid them/how much, etc.

When I send emails to our customers (sometimes 100+ in one day) I need to record the Who What When. I have been importing Excel files to our Access database to save updating individual records one at time, but it still can take a lot of time. I know I can send emails from my default email by clicking on email addresses within Airtable, but is there a way for Airtable to automatically record the fact that I emailed a person in our records? (Similar to how you can see the last time you emailed someone by looking in your Sent folder) Perhaps by creating a linked “email” table? The goal would be to set up Airtable in such a way so we can see at a glance who we contacted when, and to avoid the time-waste of going back-and-forth between email and the database to send the emails and then record that we sent the emails.

Thank you, any advice is greatly appreciated!


#2

Absolutely.

Assuming your mass email provider has a robust API (like MailChimp, Campaign Monitor, Mandrill, SendGrid, etc), you can setup a couple of webhooks and periodic API calls that will ensure your Airtable base tracks and displays all that you want it to.

The exact solution will depend on your desired workflow, starting with how you currently draft and send those emails, to exactly how you want the results displayed. i.e.: do you want to track payments by recipient only? or by recipient by campaign? i.e. if the same recipient participants in two surveys, you’ll need to show which one they were paid for.

I would imagine you’d have a table for “People”, “Surveys”,“Activity”, and possibly “List Merge Data”

You could use “List Merge Data” to create a recipient list for each survey (and include data specific to each recipient such as survey link or other survey and recipient specific information). Then, either export a specific view from “List Merge Data” to upload a recipient list to your mass email provider, or use your mass email providers API to pull data directly from Airtable. Then all send/open/click/payment activity could be recorded in Activity which would be linked to “List Merge Data” and Surveys. That’s all from the hip, and again it’ll all depend on your specific requirements and workflow.


#3

I’ve been dabbling in a way to do this. My current experiment uses an attachment field to attach text files of the email to the proper record.

I create the text files by connecting my email to Dropbox using Zapier: https://zapier.com/zapbook/dropbox/email/


#4

Thank you very much! I will investigate the email provider companies you mentioned. Right now, we send surveys via Survey Monkey, and payments via the company gmail. Survey Monkey can send mass emails, and record responses and activity, but the payments are sent out individually by us as customers respond. I then record the contacts/payments in (currently) Access.

I’m sorry, but I’m so new to this: when I see “API” I want to run! :slight_smile: Would there be a great deal of programming which would be involved in creating this workflow? (And yes, we do record which survey which customer takes, and the payment is recorded specifically to the customer and particular survey)

Like I said, I’m new, so let me make sure I understand your suggestion: If I create a contact list in the hypothetical “List Merge Data” table, I would be matching emails with their surveys, is that right? I could then filter this table by survey, export as a CSV, (or some other file type) and then import those contacts into Survey Monkey to be sent. I don’t understand how the open/click/payment activity would be automatically recorded back in Airtable. Survey Monkey does record this activity, but we have been manually recording it back in our Access database.

Essentially, I want to remove the “record/log” step as much as I can. When I send out payments to multiple customers, it’s “recorded” in our Sent Mail. When I send out a survey in Survey Monkey, their emails are recorded in “Recipients”. But, to easily see a profile of each survey customer, we have to manually log our activity with them in Access. This activity includes when we contacted them, for what survey, when/if they responded, and when/how much we paid them. Automating our database as much as possible would be ideal, but my abilities are very limited.

Thank you again, I really appreciate any help and advice!


#5

Looking into the SurveyMonkey API I think that the best you’re going to be able to do without investing in significant custom development is to use Zapier to update an Airtable table each time a new response is received. A potential roadblock is that the Airtable record that Zapier creates doesn’t include the name/ID of the survey, meaning you’ll have to setup a new “zap” for each survey you create AND possibly specify a new Airtable table in which to collect those responses so that you know to which survey each response should be linked. Not ideal!

EDIT
I just looked into it a bit more and Zapier can search for and update a record based on Email Address. So if you manually pasted a bunch of recipients into Airtable at the same time you imported them into Survey Monkey you could manually associate/link them to a survey and then just wait for those records to be updated with the Survey Status if/when they complete the survey. Again, not saving you too much there—you’ll do everything by hand except updating the record when a recipient becomes a respondent by completing the survey.

And unless you have a Pro Survey Monkey account you can’t just export a CSV of individual responses, which I find highly disappointing! I much prefer the functionality of JotForm and Wufoo, although they’re not specifically tailored to collecting surveys so their feature set is a bit different.

Anyway, like I said, it appears that without significant investment in custom development you’re looking at using Airtable much the same way you’ve been using Access. The alternative would be to change the survey and email tools you’re using to ones that already integrate more readily with Airtable or at least have more feature-full APIs than Survey Monkey which would allow more automation for your money.

If you did pay for custom development, you could:

  1. Create Surveys in Survey Monkey which would automatically create a corresponding row in your Airtable table, “Surveys”
  2. Create email collectors in Survey Monkey which would automatically create corresponding rows in your Airtable table, “Respondents”
  3. Watch the Status field of the Respondents table automatically change if/when a survey response is received by Survey Monkey.
  4. Depending on the capabilities of your payment solution (you mention you simply email them… how do they actually collect payment?) you could check a box on each record to indicate that payment should be sent—and payment would be emailed in the background.

This is all doable, but quite involved and would most like cost several thousands of dollars.