Employee Directory with Node.js and Express
Learn how to implement an employee directory that you can query using SMS. Request information from anyone at your company just by sending a text message to a Twilio Number
Here is how it works at a high level:
- The user sends a SMS with an Employee's name to the Twilio number.
- The user receives information for the requested Employee.
Create an Employee Model
The first thing we need is a collection of employees. We will be using Mongoose for this.
Our employee entity has a few fields for contact information, including their name, phone number, and a public URL containing an image of them.
Now that we have a model that represents an employee, let's see how to search for employees by name.
Search for an Employee by Name
employee-finder module allows us to search the database for employees either by name or by their unique database identifier. When searching by name, we'll return a list of employees whose name might match a search query, or just one if we find an exact match. If we know the ID of the employee we're looking for, we can return it right away.
Now, let's use this search functionality when responding to an SMS from a user.
Receive an Incoming SMS
When your number receives an SMS message, Twilio will send an HTTP POST request to our application. This will be handled by the
We check for the cookie and numeric input (line 15/more on that later) or perform a query for the desired employee. The results are packaged up as a TwiML response through the
twiml-generator module and sent back to Twilio and, in turn, the original sender of the SMS.
Now that we have our search route, let's see how we can request a specific employee by name.
Respond with a Single Match for an Employee Name
Let's say it finds a single employee matching the text message. In this case, we simply write out a response that contains the employee's contact information, including a photo, making our response a MMS message.
A single matching employee isn't the only scenario, however.
As you can see, The Twilio Node.js Helper Library simplifies the way you can generate and send SMS messages. Together with a simple database query, the application is able to return valuable information over SMS. Let's see how we handle multiple or no results next.
Handle Multiple or No Results
If we don't find any employees, we can simply return a "Not found" message.
What about multiple matches? For this case, we want to return a list of the matching employees' names along with an incrementing number the end user can use to make their selection. For example, if someone searched for "Man" they might get something like:
We found: 1-Spider-Man, 2-Iron Man - Reply with # of desired person
Let's see how these options are stored next.
Cache the List of Possible Matches
For the message text returned to the user, we build a numbered menu of possible matches.
Our app needs to remember — between SMS messages from the user — the mapping of the 1, 2, 3 selection numbers to the actual unique ID's of employees. You will notice we are placing them in a cookie, which Twilio will send back with every HTTP request to our application.
When the user that queried the employee directory receives the message with a list of employees, they will text back a number that corresponds to the result on the list that they are interested in querying further. Twilio will send a request to the webhook which handles incoming SMS messages. At this point, our app will try to parse the user's message to determine what to do next.
Return Employee's Contact Information by Number Choice
When we receive an SMS message, we check whether:
- The body of the text is, in fact, a number.
- A cookie exists with the mapping of numbers to id's.
If any of those checks fail, then we'll simply proceed with our typical name lookup.
Otherwise, it will check if the chosen option exists in the cookie. If it does, we return the single employee that matches their selection.
Only thing left to do is celebrate.
We have just implemented employee directory using Express. Now you can get your employee's information by texting a Twilio number.
Where to Next?
If you're a Node.js developer working with Twilio, you might also enjoy these tutorials:
Learn how to use Twilio Client to make browser-to-phone and browser-to-browser calls with ease.
Learn how to implement ETA Notifications using Express and Twilio.
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