Microsoft CRM’s E-mail Subject-Line Tracking Token

Microsoft CRM puts a tracking token onto the subject line of sent email messages.  This enables us to identify replies as CRM-related, copy them into the CRM system and create appropriate relationships to other records.
In CRM 1.x, this tracking code was a rather long, rather ugly GUID, preceded by "CRM:" and ended with ":MRC".  Understandably, this wasn't overly popular.
In CRM 3.0, this tracking token is more palatable and configurable.  The token is all numbers, of configurable length and the prefix can be changed.  (By default it is "CRM:" but could be changed to something like "ref:".  Changing the token prefix is also a good idea to prevent clashes when CRM systems mail each other.)  See the System Settings dialog to make changes.
Obviously, we'd prefer not to be putting anything into the subject line for tracking.  Unfortunately, we need a way to uniquely identify replies, and no other header fields survive transport through a number of different email systems.  (Believe us, we tried.  We’ve also had interesting suggestions like putting the token in white font, but subject fields are text only.)
The tracking token can be turned off on a system-wide basis. 
If the tracking token is turned off, the CRM Exchange-Email Router doesn't have a way to uniquely identify mail.  This leaves two options:

1.  Accept all incoming mail: In this scenario, the router will copy all incoming email into the CRM system.  Activity parties (sender, recipients) will be appropriately linked to their records in CRM, though Regarding record links will not be created.
2.  Manually promote incoming mail using the Outlook client: This option is available even when the token is present. 
If the tracking token is turned off, and "all incoming" is not being accepted by the router, then the router will not be creating any incoming mail in the CRM system.  The Outlook client will be the only option for creating incoming mail in CRM.  Activity parties will be linked.
NB: In this scenario, there is no need to install the email router.

 - Ilana Smith

Comments (12)

  1. Robert E. Spivack says:

    The tracking token in the subject line is really ugly and for marketing/sales use (versus customer support case/ticket tracking), there really needs to be an alternative.

    I trust when you say that "all other header methods" didn’t make it through all possible email systems.

    However, I would suggest a middle ground between having the token visible in the subject line and no tracking at all:  Please add an option to put the tracking token in two other possible places:

    In a real email "X-attribute" mail header.  Most email systems WILL allow this through.  With this option, the users can have "most" incoming email tracked and handled by the mail router and simply have to manually promote a few emails that don’t get tracked. That’s a reasonable tradeoff — no ugly subject line, but some, not all, emails may need to be manually promoted.

    Second option – put the tracking token into the body of the email.  Perhaps as part of the senders "signature lines" that are typically appended to the bottom of emails.

    This is much less visually annoying.  Of course, this puts more work on the email router – it would have to scan the body content of every incoming email.  But "we" already know how to do this – email spam filtering gateways do this all the time and very efficiently.

    In any case, upping the horsepower on the mail router server, or adding a 2nd mail router (if load gets too busy) is a viable option with a very predictable cost.

    Give us the ability to make this choice – I.E. let IT tell marketing "You don’t like those ugly subject line tokens?  We can get rid of them if you spring for $XXX of additional budget so we can install a higher powerpower mail router".  Sure, it costs more, but having an option, even at a price, is always better than simply saying "Sorry, either ugly subject lines or no tracking.  No other choice."

  2. Regan Murphy says:

    Having a standard tracking token in email subject lines might also open up the CRM in a "denial of service" type attack.  Enough emails with what look like valid tracking tokens and large attachments could conceviably be sent to an organisation and pollute the database.  Not to mention the risk of an organisation running out of space in the CRM database, backups etc. While the GUID option was ugly it would have lessened the opportunity for this potential attack.

  3. IlanaSmith says:

    @Robert: We have to be careful about how heavy-weight we make the email identification process as it has to parse a lot of mail (and this is done on the CRM server, not in the router which is a fairly dumb component).  We are looking into alternatives currently though.

    @Regan: The token still contains some uniqueness (it contains numbers) and has to be validated, so there is some protection against that scenario.

  4. Andy says:

    temporary, yet inelegant work around

    the subject line in CRM can handle 200 characters

    add blank spaces at the end of your subject line until you hit the 200 character limit

    the CRM tag gets pushed out of the way, so is not as annoying in at least some email clients

    and in some inboxes such as Outlook, the CRM tag may be hidden altogether by a narrower column width setting

    but I’d definitely prefer an actual solution

  5. Mike McClelland says:

    Personally, I think the CRM token being visible in a service-related email provides a feeling of comfort to the contact/customer who is being serviced by the CRM user, it visibly states that the issue (we call them issues) is being tracked and there is a better chance of follow-ups and escalation happening as expected.

    However, in a sales environment I think it presents a potentially very negative trait – that of you tracking a person as if they are just a number.

    Also, for us I would like:

    1. Service team: CRM token tracked on each case after ‘track in CRM’ pressed

    2. Sales team: All emails tracked against email addresses from contacts in CRM.

    I do not believe this can be achieved as the system runs in one mode or the other – am I right?

  6. Matt Queen says:

    When using Microsoft CRM Servic for creating ‘Support Cases’ a unique Case Ref No. is created. I have set up a number of templates which inserts this Reference No. into the Subject Field so that the Customer always has their reference to hand.

    "The CRM token being visible in a service-related email provides a feeling of comfort to the contact/customer who is being serviced by the CRM user"

    My experience has been that Customers are not aware what a CRM Tracking Token is or does and therefore it is not relevant to them and just confuses matters.

  7. Tom Georg Gundersen says:

    Hi, anyone who has extended the first three characters in the tracking token prefix to five characters ?

  8. Courtney says:

    The tracking code in the subject line is really annoying, you do not usually wish to let your consumers know that you are using CRM to remember them! although i agree that many of them might already know this but as soon as you seee CRM this makes it more beleivable and hence invaluable. id there absolutly no other way to turn it off, without losing the tracking feature. how come when other comoanies use CRM and send out messages the code does not appear?

    do they use a different software other than Microsoft, how do they manage to do this?

  9. David says:

    To track all messages without tokens:

    1. Within Outlook, select CRM (menu) -> Options… (menu item).  You will be on the General tab.

    2. Within the "Select the e-mail messages to track in Microsoft CRM" section, change the option from "E-mail messages that contain a Microsoft CRM tracking token" to "All e-mail messages".

    3. Click OK.

    This is perfect for Sales people that always communicate with customers whos entire conversation should be tracked.  Optionally, the salesperson can always track and then add in a Regarding Subject to further detail the thread’s relevance.

    For Support people, we continue to use the "Track in CRM" functionality as it allows you to pinpoint a Case or relevant topic.

    Note: The message is tracked when an inbound message is sent to your crm rules email alias on Exchange.  If you want outbound messages processed as well, add or adjust your Outlook rule to forward to your Exchange alias on sent items as well.  If you’d like to exclude or tune how emails are processed into CRM, you can also adjust the rule accordingly.


  10. Stuart says:


    What’s the best practice when using the tracking tokens? We have a system that has the default 3 number configuration for creating a tracking token and I’ve obviously become aware that quite soon the tracking tokens are going to have to repeat themselves for certain users.

    Does anyone know what happens to the tracking of emails once TTs start to be repeated and what the best practice is to deal with it? Is it just to increase the original 3 number configuration? Are there any ill effects if I now do it on a live system?

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