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Hello HomeLink Members,
Below is our first monthly newsletter supplement addressing your comments received from our survey.
The bulk of this month’s supplement addresses various aspects of our Internal Messaging System. However, I felt it important to first address the issue of updating your listing’s information as this continues to be the most received comment, on a weekly basis, not just from our survey.
This month’s installment addresses the following issues:
Explanation of Internal Messaging Notifications/Accessing Listing
Personal Email vs. HomeLink Internal Messaging System
Bulk Email Requests
Responding to Messages
As always, don’t hesitate to contact us if you would like to discuss any of this in more detail. Our email address is: email@example.com
Karl & Katie Costabel
SUBJECT: UPDATE YOUR LISTINGS!
COMMENT: We received comments from our members worldwide on an almost daily basis about outdated Preferred Dates and Destinations in our current members’ listings
ANSWER: Please take the time to update your listings with new Preferred Dates and Destinations. While updating this section of your listing, please read the descriptive text you have entered as many of our members refer to specific dates in this section, as well.
I have included detailed instruction for our new edit functions below for your convenience. Please update your listings as soon as possible.
EDIT LISTING INSTRUCTIONS:
To edit your on-line listing, go to our website, http://www.homelink.org/usa and click on the "Member" button then "Log in to Site". Enter your Username and Password and then "Submit".
Next, click on the "Edit My Listing" link under the "Member Options" menu and click on one of the three available options for editing (main text @ "Edit this listing", dates & destinations or photo album).
The fourth button that is now available replaces our previous, "Have Exchange" annotation if you wish to temporarily hide your listing from member searches. This button is a toggle switch, so click on the "Hide" button to hide your listing from searches and then go back to this button to "Show" your listing when you are ready.
Once you have made the necessary changes at the main body text for your listing you need to take a couple more steps to save your changes. First, click on the "Preview the amended listing" button at the bottom of the edit page. Then, after previewing the listing, click on "Update the database" button and changes will be saved.
The dates & destinations edit page and the photo album page automatically save your changes once you add/delete/edit those items.
MULTIPLE DATES & DESTINATION INSTRUCTIONS:
Log in to our new website at http://www.homelink.org/usa, click on the "Edit my listing" link found under "Member options" at the left of the page. Next click on the button titled, "Edit dates & destinations".
When you are at the dates and destinations page, you need to click "Add new set" to get started.
Select the dates by clicking on the day within the calendar. Make sure you have clicked on the proper month and year. You will see the dates you have selected directly below the calendars.
To get to another year, you can either scroll forward or back, by clicking on the months found in the upper right and upper left corners of the calendars OR you can click on the particular year (2010, 2011, 2012...) at the very top of the calendar section.
Below the calendars is where you select your preferred destinations. Use the pull-down menus to select your preferred country (and region of the county if you like) and click the "+" icon to the right of the country selection to add that country. To delete countries click on the "-" icon.
If you wish to add another set of Preferred Dates and Destinations, click on "Add new set" (bottom left) and follow the instructions above.
Once you select your particular dates and destinations, your choices are automatically saved.
Click on the "View my listing" link or "Return to main page" to move on from there.
UPLOAD PHOTO INSTRUCTIONS:
Members may upload as many as 20 photos directly to their listing now.
Once you log in to our new website at http://www.homelink.org/usa, click on "Edit my listing" then "Edit Photo Album." Next click on "Browse" to locate your photo on your computer. Once you have selected the photo to upload, click on "Upload the photo file".
Please note that you can only upload one photo at a time...not a whole file containing your photos to upload.
The accepted photo format is JPEG (.jpg)
If your photos are too large to be accepted on the site (also "Photo too tall" message) and you are unable to reduce them in size, or any other uploading problem, email them to me and I will reduce and upload them for you.
Simply attach the image to an email containing your name & means to identify you and email it to the address above.
You may also mail in conventional color photo prints or a CD containing your digital photos and we will scan and upload it for you. Maximum size is 8.5 by 11 inches.
SUBJECT: INTERNAL MESSAGING SYSTEM AUTOMATIC NOTIFICATIONS/ACCESSING SENDER’S LISTING
COMMENT: “…When away from my home computer, it's sometimes tedious to respond to inquiries. I am not able to view their photos unless I go into the website. Then I always forget my password and sign in so I need to e-mail you guys to get them. I like the easy response at the bottom, but unless you have the access to the photos you don't know if your answer is yes or no. Sometimes I think it would be easier to be e-mailed directly rather than having to go into the site to get mail from other members…”
ANSWER: Hopefully, the instructions below will help clarify the process of replying to requests you receive and the ease of accessing the listing of the sender from within the notifications…It is actually only a few clicks away!
There are two different ways to reply/access a listing. Either through the notifications you receive at your personal email address or by logging into our website and viewing the requests at our internal messaging system.
Internal Messaging System Instructions:
Currently our system is set up to send you an automatic notification that is titled, "Message in your HomeLink inbox" at your personal email address.
Once you open that notification and read the member's request, look to the bottom of the notification. There you will find 3 different links...
The first two are for direct replies to the request. You reply to these requests from the notifications with either the "Quick-Reply" or "No Thank you-Quick-Reply link.
Viewing the listing from the notification is only a few clicks away…
The third link takes you to our website to view their message there. This third link takes you to our login page, however, if you are already logged into our website, this link will take you directly to our messaging system where you can view the message sent to you.
Next, click on the message you wish to read and read the message.
You go directly to that member's listing by clicking on the access links to their listing in the top right of message page you are viewing, including the accessible thumbnail photos of their listing in this section.
SUBJECT: COMMUNICATION VIA PERSONAL EMAIL vs. HOMELINK INTERNAL MESSAGING SYSTEM
COMMENT: “…It's much easier and quicker to communicate with exchangers via e-mails rather than through your websites…”
ANSWER: A large part of the reason for our internal messaging system is related to spam issues. Our server was continually blacklisted by well-meaning ISPs and subscribers inadvertently identifying emails as spam.
The email system was broken because a substantial percentage of email was never delivered to the intended recipient. Neither the recipient nor the sender was informed that an email had been identified as spam by the ISP or spam-blocking system and summarily deleted.
Under the current system, all messages will be on the server regardless of external issues.
Furthermore, if your email address changes and you fail to change it in the system, or your mailbox is full, the messages will still go to your account so you will not miss any. If you are on the road, you may use any computer to check your messages.
Also, security plays into the picture. We eliminate the potential of unscrupulous people posing as members or hacking into our website to gain access to your personal email for malicious purposes.
SUBJECT: SENDING BULK MESSAGES
COMMENT: “...I plan on getting a lot more exchanges in the years ahead--mostly overseas. Is there a way to email all members in a certain area requesting an exchange? Like everyone in Sweden? Or is that not realistic? Keep up the good work!!! :)
ANSWER: Our messaging system does not allow sending bulk requests to multiple members due to the privacy feature of not providing our members' personal email addresses online.
Also, many of our members have expressed their preference for a more personalized approach for communicating with one another.
As an alternative to bulk messaging, our messaging system offers a template function, where you create an exchange request template one time and then insert that template in the multiple requests you wish to send. This saves you the time spent re-typing the same message to different members.
Of course, personalizing the salutation of your templates to the individual HomeLink members is always recommended.
Instructions for creating templates along with other valuable guidance on our messaging system can be found at the "Full help" link beneath the various folders (Inbox, Sent, Trash, etc.) at our messaging system.
SUBJECT: TRANSLATION MECHANISM FOR MESSAGING SYSTEM
COMMENT: “…My parents and family did about 12 home exchanges, mostly with HomeLink, though I never exchanged my own home. We have our first scheduled for May 2011. I have found your website cumbersome to use and would prefer a translation mechanism that would automatically convert messages to the members primary language…”
ANSWER: Our messaging system is designed to default to the English language with our automatic replies. However, if a member chooses to send a free-text message to you in their native language that is other than English, our system is not designed to detect this random occurrence, as the majority of our members write their messages in English.
I have found the numerous free translation sites on the Internet to be very useful in translating the messages I receive that are in a foreign language. Simply search for free text translation.
We also have our HomeLink Organizers around the world who are always happy to help translate for all of our members. We encourage all of you to ask for our assistance with any & all of your translation needs.
SUBJECT: LACK OF RESPONSE TO REQUESTS
COMMENT: “…I have been very disappointed with the lack of response from my attempts at exchanges…”
ANSWER: This is a great opportunity to remind everyone about the importance of replying to ALL exchange requests you receive.
Our Response Rate % feature, has proven an effective tool at bringing attention to the often frustrating experience of not receiving replies to your requests.
The bottom line with this is the simple value of common courtesy and respect that is shared throughout our HomeLink community. Please keep this in mind with each message you receive from another HomeLink member and be sure to send them a kind reply.
Rest assured, our Homelink Organizers worldwide, participate in this continued effort at reminding our respective members to reply to their messages.
Another item we have found useful is to follow-up on an initial request you have sent if you do not receive a reply. We generally wait 1 - 1.5 weeks for request replies and if nothing is received then we follow-up with a friendly reminder to our first request. We apply the same time frame to Info messages as well.
However, while on an exchange and your exchange partner does not reply within the next day to your attempt at contacting them, I would consider contacting Karl and I, to see if we can't help somehow.
Karl & I encourage you to contact us if you ever want our assistance at trying to contact a member for whatever reason.
We are here to help!
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