Smarter Room and Equipment Booking Response Emails in Exchange

by Ed Sparks

Room and Equipment mailboxes are extremely useful in Exchange, especially when combined with the Resource Booking Attendant to automatically accept or reject invites.

What isn't well implemented is the ability to have the Booking Attendant respond with information that is relevant to the response.  Microsoft provide's the More Information option which allows the response to include some extra text, but this information is unfortunately sent with every response - accept, deny, or change.

For resources like conference call lines, or specialized meeting rooms with booking restrictions this can lead to confusion.  Why is the room denying my request, then sending me useful information about the room?  

Behold the Transport Rule

To work around this limitation, an administrator must instead turn to the flexibility of Transport Rules.  Transport Rules allow for the checking of the response type and then including more relevant information for the end user.  Why was my request denied? What do I do next? What do I need to know about the resource?

The trick to making these work is the Append Disclaimer Text Rule Action, which will then allow some basic HTML to be entered.  This will get appended to the response message from the Booking Attendant (below the canned information that Exchange adds).  One caveat is that due to the way Exchange and Outlook utilize embedded special messages for Calendar Response Emails, most HTML is stripped.  Therefore the disclaimer text should only use very simple HTML tags like <FONT>, <B>, <BR>, etc. Most notably Tables and CSS will be stripped. However, if all your users are using OWA instead of desktop Outlook, quite full featured HTML is allowed. YMMV.

Putting it all Together

  1. Modify all of your Resource Mailboxes to remove any Add Additional Text settings under the Resource Information tab.
  2. Create a new Transport Rule under Organization Configuration/Hub Transport.  One rule for each type of response is necessary.  i.e. "Room Booking Accepted" and "Room Booking Denied for Permissions" or "Room Booking Conflict"
  3. For the Condition of the rule, choose the From People and When the Subject Field or Message Body Contains specific words.  Be sure NOT to choose the text patterns option, as this will not work for calendar responses.
  4. Click on these new rule conditions in the bottom pane and select each of the Resource Mailboxes in the From settings.  Then, in the subject or body selection, type the exact phrase that is part of the appropriate built-in Exchange meeting response.  For example, "your request was accepted" (no quotes)
  5. Click next, then choose Append disclaimer text and fallback to action if unable to apply for the Action.  Click in the bottom pane on append and enter the raw HTML for your response.  It is best to create and test the HTML elsewhere, than paste it into the box as there is no sort of preview or editor.
  6. For the rest of the settings of the Transport Rule accept the defaults.  Finish and close the rule.
  7. The responses should work within about 30 seconds of creating or modifying the rule
  8. Repeat as necessary for different resource types and responses. 

Note, this works equally well for Office 365/Exchange 2013/Online, but obviously the steps are slightly different through Exchange Admin Center.  An additional item to keep in mind is that it is unfortunately not possible remove the embedded canned response text that Exchange always includes. We refer to this as the "above the line" text, as exchange puts a horizontal rule and "Sent by Microsoft Exchange Server..."

This method has been of tremendous value to many of our clients to get much more useful responses, and happier staff.

Need help configuring this in your environment? Is your Exchange server out of control?  Contact us today!