It actually did not work this way at all. When I downloaded our data some months ago, the format of the date in the .csv file was recognized by Excel in the way that you are describing. I just had to change the cell format to "date" and Excel converted it. When I compare the recent download with the previous one, this new one is formatted differently. For example, the year comes at the beginning of the string now. Excel was not able to recognize the contents of the field as a date when I changed the cell attribute, and it retained the properties of a text string. I had to use string clipping functions to extract all the date/time information.
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