System Codes can be used for a variety of purposes such as tracking trending issues, quickly locating correspondence or casework, pulling lists of constituents, and reporting. To get the most benefit from system codes, try implementing our best practices below:
When creating codes anywhere in the database, stick to the following practices:
- Be consistent. The following guidelines are merely recommended best practices. However you decide to use the codes, be sure that the entire office is aware of your policies and procedures. A soft copy of a Policy and Procedures guide that your office can adapt is available for download here: https://helpdesk.iconstituent.com/hc/en-us/article_attachments/202267510/SignalCRM_Constituent_Services_Policy_and_Procedures_House.doc. This guide specifically addresses the Mail process, so you may want to set up a similar guide for managing casework.
- Establish a naming convention. In some offices, only one person is allowed to create codes to ensure the integrity of the database, and in others, anyone can create codes. In both scenarios, it is easy for codes to begin taking on a life of their own and become unmanageable if a plan is not in place beforehand. Establishing a naming convention will ensure that everyone in the office understands how codes work, how they are applied, and how they are created to avoid duplication and to save time. When creating related codes, it’s a good idea to begin them all the same way since you are always able to search for the beginning of a name. For instance, if the office has 15 group codes all related to education, beginning each of those codes with EDU will make finding them much easier and also help the office avoid duplicating codes.
- Include thorough descriptions. Whenever you create a new code, you must also give it a description. This is a searchable field, and it is also visible in many areas of the program such as the Home page when looking at the code name. When writing a description for a code, imagine a brand new staff member looking at your list of codes. Ideally, she should be able to easily apply interest codes to new correspondence based on the description.
- Interest codes should be used to label correspondence as relating to a particular issue. These may be rather broad and not updated very often. Examples include ENR for energy issues, BUD for budget issues, and EDU for education issues. More than one interest code can be assigned to an activity, so if you receive a letter from a contact that is concerned about energy issues and environmental issues, you would be able to apply both ENR and ENV to the activity.
NOTE: Depending upon your district, you may wish to have subcategories for certain issues. For instance, if a large percentage of your mail is always labeled IMM for immigration issues, then you may want to create more specific interest codes such as IMM_AMNESTY, IMM_REFORM, IMM_SECURE in addition to the general IMM code.
- Group codes should be used to group together similar incoming correspondence that can be answered by a single form letter. These codes will be more specific than interest codes but should still relate to an issue for easier searching. Examples include EDU-NCLB for grouping together correspondence concerning No Child Left Behind and ENV-KeystoneXL for grouping together correspondence concerned about the Keystone XL Pipeline project. Since activities will be grouped together to receive one message, you will only apply one group code to an activity.
NOTE: Many offices also include stance in the code (i.e. EDU-NCLB-CON).
- Sentiment is a new field. Each activity has a field to label sentiment as none, pro, con, or undecided. This field is optional. NOTE: This is a searchable field, but since it is not available in every area of the program, it is recommended that you continue to note stance in the group code if you plan to search and pull reports on constituent opinion.
- Letter Codes should correspond to group codes a much as possible for easier searching. If it does not make sense in a particular circumstance to have Group Code and Letter Code match, try to follow the same guidelines as above and include the general code first (i.e. ENV_CWPA). NOTE: Some offices also include the number of the Congressional session. (i.e. ENV_CWPA_114). This makes it easier to identify when a letter needs to be updated.
Ideally the mail process would work like this:
- See new incoming messages that could be grouped together.
- Create a new group code and assign it to the messages.
- Begin drafting a form letter and give it the same name as the group code.
- While the letter is still in progress, you can continue applying the group code to new messages that come in.
- Once the form letter is ready, you can grab all correspondence with the same group code name, assign it a form letter, and assign it to a print/email job.
NOTE: Letters written for casework, tours, or flags will follow a different naming convention, but there should still be a plan in place. For example, if you write casework letters and include specific office location in each, you may want to begin all casework letters you create with something like CW_STFD for casework letters written with Stafford location information. If you write letters for tours, you may want to begin each with the venue.
- Personal codes are used to label contacts and organizations. These codes are not based on any particular correspondence or expressed interest but might be based on occupation, memberships in the community, frequency of communication, or participation in events. Examples include FW for frequent writer, VET for veterans, NON-PROFIT for non-profit organizations, and TTH for Telephone Town Hall participants. If your office has purchased Voter File data, then that information is appended using personal codes, as well. Personal codes are one of the easiest codes to search by since they are listed on the right side of the Contacts module. These can also be color coded, so if there are certain groups of contacts you would like to recognize whenever they appear in the system, then you can color code them and that color will display whenever you search for the constituent.
NOTE: Do not color code all personal codes since the colors will tend to lose their significance if used to frequently.
- Restricted indicates that the contact has been restricted from receiving mail. You will notice that the contact has a red "Restricted" badge or that the contact is crossed out. This is a checkbox within the constituent's record.
- Subscriber indicates that the contact is a Constituent Gateway eNewsletter subscriber. This is a checkbox within the constituent's record.
- Case types are used to categorize casework. Only one case type can be applied to a case. These are usually based on the problem the constituent is having. Examples include VET or VA for veterans’ issues, SSA for Social Security issues, or IMM for immigration issues. Similar to interest code, if your district receives a lot of the same type of cases such as VA, you may wish to have more specific case types such as VA_Disability, VA_Health, or VA_Benefits.
NOTE: These codes are not connected with organization records in any way. They are merely used to categorize the type of case. Organization contacts are added after the case has been created since some cases may require that you contact multiple agencies depending upon the contact’s specific request.
- Categories are used to manage your own records. While the category list displays for everyone, when a category is assigned to a record it only displays for the user who applied the category. These can be color-coded to help you quickly identify specific records in your viewer. You can also add a column to your viewer for category if you use this option heavily.