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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.
Let's get started!

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.


        Employee Model


        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

        Search for an Employee by Name

        The 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.


              Employee Search Service


              Now, let's use this search functionality when responding to an SMS from a user.

              Receive an incoming SMS

              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 /directory/search/ route.

              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.


                    Employee Directory Route


                    Now that we have our search route, let's see how we can request a specific employee by name.

                    Respond with Single Match for an Employee 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.

                          TwiML helper methods for creating messages.

                          Get Twilio Response For Search Result

                          TwiML helper methods for creating messages.

                          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

                          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
                                TwiML helper methods for creating messages.

                                Get TwiML for Multiple Results

                                TwiML helper methods for creating messages.

                                Let's see how these options are stored next.

                                Cache the List of Possible Matches

                                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.


                                      Get TwiML Response for Employee List


                                      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

                                      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.


                                            Cached Employee Lookup Logic


                                            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?

                                            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.

                                            Did this help?

                                            Thanks for checking out this tutorial! If you have any feedback to share with us, we'd love to hear it. Tweet @twilio to let us know what you think!

                                            Jose Oliveros David Prothero Kat King
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                                            Need some help?

                                            We all do sometimes; code is hard. Get help now from our support team, or lean on the wisdom of the crowd by visiting Twilio's Stack Overflow Collective or browsing the Twilio tag on Stack Overflow.


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