Zendesk facilitates knowledge sharing between agents and other teams, allows for prioritization of tickets while considering a variety of factors, and even helps save agent time through a robust knowledge base offering.
Overall, we were impressed with how many Zendesk features are designed to make support team best practices easy and fast to implement.
Overall, we were impressed with how many Zendesk features are designed to make support team best practices easy and fast to implement. Zendesk facilitates knowledge sharing between agents and other teams, allows for prioritization of tickets while considering a variety of factors, and even helps save agent time through a robust knowledge base offering.
Here are our top three pros of Zendesk.
Our favorite discovery while learning about Zendesk was the deep integration between knowledge base articles and the support app.
In our experience, it’s very common for a company to end up with product knowledge that’s segregated in different places or even completely undocumented. That’s not the case with Zendesk. The Zendesk support app can help your team aggregate and document product knowledge (and answers to other FAQs) using knowledge base articles, Answer Bot, and macros.
Once you’ve created knowledge base articles in Zendesk, you have everything you need to turn on Answer Bot. By activating the feature and adding a quick code snippet to email replies, you can start saving your agents’ time and helping users resolve their issues faster.
Answer Bot uses artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze a user’s support ticket text and suggest knowledge base articles that may be related to their issue. For example, if the user submits a ticket referencing a forgotten password, Answer Bot can suggest an article about password reset. Then, if the suggested article resolves the user’s issue, they can mark the ticket as resolved without needing to engage with an agent.
For tickets that aren’t fully resolved with Answer Bot’s suggestions, you can use macros to save time. Macros allow you to automate a set of tasks — all the agent has to do is run the macro and, presto, the set of tasks is complete. Some example tasks are:
For example, a software company that often gets support ticket requests about a navigation bar bug could build a macro that:
The features above focus on leveraging your knowledge base articles to save agents time. But Zendesk also supports continuous improvement. That means your team can easily keep your knowledge base articles up to date by taking advantage of each agent’s product knowledge as they answer tickets.
Zendesk allows agents to leave flags and comments on existing knowledge base articles to suggest changes or additions. When an agent adds a comment to an existing knowledge base article, Zendesk creates a new ticket. The new ticket includes the agent’s comment, a link to the knowledge base article, and a link to view the original support ticket that prompted the update. This makes it easy for an agent with knowledge base edit access to review these tickets and keep the knowledge base pages updated efficiently.
While Zendesk isn’t the only customer support tool that has skill-based ticket routing, we are big fans of the way Zendesk handles skills.
In Zendesk, you can label tickets and agents with a variety of different skills — things like languages spoken, departments they work in, areas of expertise, and more. Setting up the skills is intuitive and flexible. And it accommodates any skills you may need to track by letting you define new skill types and new skills. Within minutes you can set up a comprehensive list of relevant skills and assign them to agents.
Another unique way that Zendesk handles skills is by not directly assigning a ticket to an agent with the relevant skill. Instead, Zendesk provides a view of tickets that are unassigned with specific skills. This view shows an agent all the tickets that are currently unclaimed, which match their skills — even if they have multiple different skills, such as the ability to speak Spanish and handle invoice questions. This keeps each agent’s view clean and easy to understand and prioritize.
When an agent is ready to respond to a new ticket, they can:
This ensures that even with the complication of necessary skills for resolution, higher priority tickets are still addressed before lower priority ones. It means you’re less likely to have an SLA breach or deferred resolution due to a particular agent being out of the office. And it’s easier for managers and other administrative staff to track tickets that are at risk of SLA breaches.
We definitely struggled with the Salesforce integration in the beginning (as you’ll see in our next post), but it was well worth it once we had everything configured correctly.
The Salesforce integration offers a two-way sync between Salesforce and Zendesk, enabling your sales and support teams to collaborate and share context on all of your accounts. Changes to your Salesforce accounts are reflected in your Zendesk organizations, and changes to your Salesforce contacts are reflected in Zendesk end users.
Custom fields are supported as well, so you can bring any data into Zendesk that might be of use to your agents or necessary for Zendesk triggers or automations. For example, if you have different subscription tiers, you can pull this information into Zendesk from Salesforce, so you can apply different SLAs to organizations based on their subscription levels. You could also set up a trigger to add a tag to each ticket that labels the end user’s subscription tier. This allows your Zendesk support agent to have detailed information about a customer without having to check in Salesforce.
The two-way sync between Zendesk and Salesforce also benefits your sales team. If you set up Zendesk Ticket View in Salesforce, you can load a list of related Zendesk tickets from the Salesforce Account, Contact, Lead, and Opportunity pages. Without leaving Salesforce, your sales agents can stay current on important issues or questions that their contacts and leads have raised.
Overall we were extremely happy with Zendesk’s comprehensive customization features. However, there were a few places where we struggled to understand how to achieve our goals. We'll share three features we had difficulty with and how we were able to meet our requirements in the end.
Ticket routing is an important feature of any user support service. Zendesk definitely offers robust functionality in this area. It’s able to handle almost any kind of routing you could hope to accommodate. Unfortunately, we found it a bit confusing to set up.
In Zendesk, there are multiple ways to route tickets, but no single screen that lists all of your routings. To review or configure how tickets are routed, re-routed, or tagged, you have to look at three separate settings screens:
Triggers and automations can be set up to directly assign a ticket to an agent or group. Skills, however, do not directly assign a ticket to any agent. Instead, agents use a customized view to see all the tickets that match their skills. With three different screens and two ways of matching tickets to agents, it definitely took us some work to organize our requirements based on Zendesk functionality.
Use a tool such as Whimsical or Lucidchart to organize your routing requirements.
It’s likely that you’ll need a combination of triggers, automations, and skills, so having a document that visually maps your ticket routing can be very useful. We like that these tools let you color-code the steps so that you can easily see which ones need to be configured on creation or update (triggers), after a certain amount of time (automations), or “routed” using skills. A document like this also helps you remember how all the pieces fit together.
There were other places we struggled with configuring triggers and automations, too — such as which one to use for a particular use case, whether to use an “all” or “any” condition, which unit of measure was being used, and how to set up bump-bump-solve automations.
While setting up a configuration to escalate a ticket to a manager, we had to go back and forth between both the trigger and automation settings to understand the functionality. For example, we wanted to create different automated processes to mark a ticket as needing a manager when:
Each of these use cases requires a different configuration. We needed to create individual triggers for negative behavior and urgent priority (because we wanted them to execute immediately after a ticket is created or updated), whereas we needed to configure an automation for an SLA warning, so that Zendesk would perform an hourly check for any tickets nearing a breach.
When we were setting up triggers and automations, we were also uncertain about how to configure the conditions. We could specify whether we needed “all” conditions to be met or “any” of the conditions to be met, but there were different options depending on which we selected. For example if we wanted to add a condition based on “Hours since” or “Hours until” an event, that condition had to be within an “all” conditions met section.
Something else we found confusing was that for some fields the unit of measure wasn’t specified. For example, when we were creating a trigger based on a custom date field and had to enter an integer, we weren't sure which unit was being applied (we discovered that it’s Days in the example below).
Since implementing bump-bump-solve emails is a common industry standard, we expected it to be a built-in feature in Zendesk. Instead, we had to manually implement bump-bump-solve using these instructions.
Note that if you’re setting up a configuration like this, even a small typo can completely break your flow, so be sure to triple check everything.
For complicated configurations, we recommend googling for examples, looking at support forums, and playing around a few times before you build your intended setup, so you know what each feature does and what the limitations are.
This is one of many instances when TestBox truly shines. It provides a sandbox environment so you can test features and make sure they work as you expect. Once you’ve built the configuration you want in TestBox, we’ll make sure you can take that setup with you to jumpstart going live with your production environment.
If you’re a Salesforce user, the Salesforce integration is arguably one of the best reasons to choose Zendesk. Once it’s set up properly, you have a two-way sync between your CRM and customer support tool.
This allows everyone on your team to have access to in-depth context about all your customer accounts — in Zendesk, you can see all the information about a given customer and their company, while in Salesforce, you can see all the tickets that a given customer has submitted.
That said, we didn’t find the integration to be straightforward.
The first issue we ran into when connecting Zendesk and Salesforce was the lack of a backfill option — the ability to load data into Zendesk that already exists in Salesforce. At first, we assumed that we hadn’t integrated the two tools successfully. However, after doing some research, we discovered this is how the integration is actually designed.
Numerous articles online suggest different ways to backfill your data into Zendesk. For example you can create custom fields in both Zendesk and Salesforce, map the fields, and then modify the field in Salesforce to get the backfill to load into Zendesk.
We found this a very tedious way to complete the task. Even after we deleted the custom fields, the accounts still showed a label in the Zendesk company list that said “Sync” (the name of the custom field we used for import). While that might be an insignificant inconvenience for some, it clutters up an area that could otherwise be used to store helpful contextual information.
Depending on the number of records you need to backfill, you might want to load your data into Zendesk directly using a Salesforce report. Or use a third-party service to handle adding data to Zendesk.
Something else that surprised us was that not every update in Salesforce syncs to Zendesk. Zendesk is only updated when you modify Salesforce fields that are mapped to Zendesk fields. And even then, changes only trigger an update if the change was made in Salesforce a certain way.
For example, when we used the Salesforce UI to manually change a single Zendesk-mapped field, the change was reflected in Zendesk. However, when we used the Salesforce Data Import Wizard to modify Zendesk-mapped fields, the changes were not reflected in Zendesk. That’s because the Salesforce Data Import Wizard uses the bulk API, which does not trigger a sync. This is definitely something to be aware of.
A final observation is that if you want your Salesforce users to be able to access ticket information from Zendesk, you need to set this up manually — it’s not part of the initial integration. You need to follow the directions here to add the Zendesk view to your intended Salesforce views.
The good news is that the more familiar we became with Zendesk, the fewer hurdles we faced. Although we haven’t found Zendesk the easiest customer support tool to learn or configure, that’s probably because it’s incredibly comprehensive and feature-rich. If you have a large customer support team and need to be able to customize it to meet your needs, it’s very likely Zendesk can accommodate you.
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