Troubleshooting tips for replying to an email notification

We've recently noticed some usability issues for users attempting to use the "reply-to" behavior to respond to an email notification (as opposed to clicking one of the response links within the message). This article provides a summary of the issues at play, and some recommendations for anyone using this function.

What is the "reply-to" response behavior?

One of the ways users can respond to an email notification is to send an email reply back to xMatters. In the reply's subject line, the user types the word "RESPONSE", followed by a response choice. This is what we refer to as a "reply-to" response.

Plain-text only

The reply-to behavior is intended to be used with plain-text emails only. There are a number of reasons for this (one of which is that clicking a link to respond is just so much easier), but it's largely due to issues with email clients when attempting to render HTML emails.

For xMatters to be able to properly process a reply-to response, the reply's message body MUST contain the response token (as illustrated in the following image) that identifies the notification and allows xMatters to associate the response with the correct user and the related event.

emailResponse.png

When creating and sending email notifications, xMatters sends a multi-part email with both an HTML-formatted version of the message, and a plain-text version. To help reduce confusion and clutter in the email messages, and to hopefully speed the response process, HTML emails display the response choices as links that will automatically submit the user's response and other related information back to xMatters. HTML emails do not display the response token and instructions, which are contained within the plain-text version of the message only.

Unfortunately, not all email clients (or client configurations) are created equal, and some plain-text clients are rendering the HTML portion (sans formatting) instead of the plain-text version of the message. Thus, when a user replies to the notification, xMatters cannot process the response because the reply does not contain the required information.

Troubleshooting tips

Frankly, the only sure way to fix any issues you may be having with reply-to responses is, well, to stop using them. The best way to respond to an email notification from xMatters is to click one of the response choices right in the email message. It's faster, more reliable, and much easier. 

Also, as we are announcing in conjunction with this very article, we'll be removing the reply-to functionality from xMatters On-Demand by February 2018 (along with the plain-text email content). Check that link for more information about the features that we're working on to replace reply-to responses and extend the capabilities of the response links. 

If you're dedicated to receiving and responding to plain-text emails for as long as you can, here are some things to try:

  • Check your email client settings and configuration to make sure that the emails you receive from xMatters are being rendered in their entirety. If the email message you receive does not include the text shown in the image above, then your client is not showing the entire message properly, and your replies will not be processed.
  • If you cannot adjust your email client configuration, you may need to inspect the raw source code of the original email to locate the response instructions and token. (Consult your email client's documentation for how to access this information.)

Also, we would heartily recommend the ultimate solution to all plain-text email notification issues: the xMatters mobile apps.

 

 

xMatters internal reference: DTN-6788

 

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