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Guide to Customizing and Integrating Zendesk

January, 2011

Guide to Customizing and Integrating Zendesk January, 2011

Table of Contents


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Every Business Is Different

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How To Get Started


About Zendesk



Guide to Customizing and Integrating Zendesk


If you’re responsible for using or selecting a customer support or help desk system, there are many tradeoffs you’ll face when implementing a solution that best meets your needs. But two things you should not compromise are the ability to customize and integrate your customer support system into how your business works.

This whitepaper describes how Zendesk can be customized and integrated to match the needs of a wide range of businesses. Whether you’re an on-line retailer building your first customer support system or a multi-national Fortune 500 firm implementing an IT help desk system, Zendesk can meet your needs.

Zendesk is the world’s fastest growing customer support help desk solution. The company provides a web-based solution that is used by more than 5,000 companies in approximately 100 countries worldwide. Zendesk is easy to use and easy to get started with. Zendesk enables companies to deliver exceptional customer service and support at a fraction of the cost of traditional on-premise or custom-built systems. Zendesk is Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) delivered over the Internet, so there’s no software to install, no servers required, no database to set up. And because Zendesk uses a multi-channel strategy, you can support customers using the web, email, online chat, social networks, mobile phones, smart phones or however customers want to interact with you.

According to IDC, small and medium businesses are embracing Cloud-based applications that run over the Internet without requiring purchase of hardware or installation of on-premise software. Chief among the advantages cited by IDC include the affordability and flexibility since there’s no big up-front licensing fees.

Every Business Is Different

While every business is different, successful companies have one thing in common: they have many satisfied customers! And no matter how successful a business you have, there’s always a need to provide better customer service. For many of the most successful businesses, great customer service has become the distinguishing characteristic that has helped them carve out a competitive advantage in a crowded marketplace.

But every business is different, with different types of customers, products, policies and procedures. And growing businesses are always changing: adding new products, entering new markets and developing new ways of interacting with customers, whether over the web, social networks or mobile devices.


“Software that is accessed through the cloud is often free or pay-per-use—a more affordable model than paying big, upfront licensing fees. Half of small firms that use ‘the cloud’ say it has improved their bottom line, according to a survey this fall by Microsoft Corp., which provides cloud services.”




DEC 29, 2010

Guide to Customizing and Integrating Zendesk

Guide to Customizing and Integrating Zendesk Figure 1 – Support Agent View of Zendesk Interface Table

Figure 1 – Support Agent View of Zendesk Interface

Table 1 – Zendesk Channels

Zendesk enables you to support customers over a variety of channels and platforms including:



Online Chat






So how can you ensure that a customer support system will meet the needs of your business today and in the future? It’s important that the system you select can be customized and integrated into your business the way you want it to be done. You also want to make sure that the solution is easy to use and can scale to keep up as your business expands.

Many organizations adopt Zendesk as a departmental solution in one area and then expand its use more broadly in the organization. Zendesk is used by organizations across a broad range of segments including eCommerce, Retail, Technology, Travel & Hospitality, Media & Publishing, Telecommunications, Financial Services, Professional Services, Government, Education, Healthcare and more.


Guide to Customizing and Integrating Zendesk

Table 2 – Featured Zendesk Customers


Harvard Business Publishing

O’Reilly Media

Adventist HealhthCare



Amber Alert


Oxford University Press

ANZ Royal Bank


Qatar Airways




Bed Bath & Beyond


Retail Solutions

Blue State Digital

Jamie Oliver

Rogers Communications



San Francisco Examiner

Booz Allen Hamilton

John Lewis


BrightStar Healthcare

Johnson & Johnson


CALE Parking

Kaplan Virtual Education

Sears Canada

Cambridge University Press



CBS Interactive


Sony Music

Chicago Symphony Orchestra

LG Electronics

Standard & Poors

Coldwell Banker

Live Person

Thomson Reuters

Columbia University

Lonely Planet


Condé Nast Publications



Cubic Telecom



Denver Broncos

National Geographic Society

Vignette Corp

FileMaker Inc

NBC Universal


Fox International Channels

New Zealand Post


Griffin Technology


Zappos Insights



and thousands more

Zendesk is used by companies that are renowned for delivering excellent customer service including: Adobe, Jamie Oliver, SmugMug, Rackspace, Zappos Insights and more. Zendesk also includes some of the fastest growing companies like Groupon, Kobo, and Twitter among its customers. These companies have continued to rely on Zendesk to serve their needs as the business has expanded to serve global markets with hundreds of customer support agents relying on Zendesk daily. With Zendesk’s powerful customization and integration features, we make it easy to deliver great customer service as your business grows.


Guide to Customizing and Integrating Zendesk


Even though you can be up and running in just minutes with Zendesk, it’s also easy to customize so that it fits in with your existing web site and business processes. In fact, customers can interact with your business through web, email, online chat, mobile phones and social networks without even knowing that you’re running Zendesk. All they’ll know is that they’re getting great service.

Customized Look and Feel

By default, Zendesk lets you easily set up a web page that works as a portal for your customers to get self-service information about common issues, workarounds or frequently asked questions. They can also request support directly from the portal ensuring that any incident that is reported, whether over email, web, online chat or other channel is recorded and tracked. Because Zendesk provides multiple channels of support, you can ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.

You can easily customize the look and feel of your customer support portal by changing the color settings, adding your logo, customizing the support domain name, support email addresses, HTML email template and by selecting local languages. These settings can be adjusted by selecting the Personalize Your Zendesk option from the Account Menu within the Zendesk web application without any programming.

within the Zendesk web application without any programming. Figure 2 – Zendesk Personalization Settings “Zendesk is

Figure 2 – Zendesk Personalization Settings

“Zendesk is excellent web-

based customer support

software that our team uses

daily. It’s our central point of

communication between end

users and support personnel,

and because it’s so

customizable, we can handle

all requests and needs in an

organized manner. The

triggers and targets have let us

automate a lot of redundant

jobs and save time.”




Advanced users and web developers can also define Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) for complete control over the support portal’s design if you should so chose.


Guide to Customizing and Integrating Zendesk

You can override standard CSS settings using the Zendesk CSS Global Widget. For example, you can change the background color, header and margin as follows:

body {



#header {


background-image: url(' header-export.png'); background-position:top left; background-repeat:no-repeat;



#page { /* removes the white margin */ padding-left: 0px;



#table_header { /* hides the previous logo */ visibility:hidden;


div#container { /* adds margin back below header */ padding-left: 10px; padding-right: 10px;


Figure 3 – Modifying Your Zendesk CSS settings

Here’s an example of a fully customized interface using CSS:

settings Here’s an example of a fully customized interface using CSS: Figure 4 – Customized Zendesk

Figure 4 – Customized Zendesk Support Portal


Guide to Customizing and Integrating Zendesk

While most users are comfortable customizing Zendesk’s settings, we also maintain a list of certified partners who are experienced customizing and integrating Zendesk.

Customized Business Processes

Customizing a customer support help desk system entails more than just the look and feel. You can also implement your own custom business processes for dealing with customers, responding to requests, escalation, routing and so on. Zendesk is designed to be completely operational as soon as you sign up for the free trial. It also includes three facilities for implementing your own business processes through triggers, automations and macros.

Triggers enable you to define tasks to run automatically whenever a certain condition, or triggering event, occurs. For example, Zendesk includes a helpful trigger that automatically notifies the user of any public comments that have been updated to a support ticket. This keeps your customers aware of any progress on their issue without requiring extra work on their part or on the part of the support agent. By default, customers are only notified of public comments, not of internal or private comments between support agents. You can easily customize any of the default triggers and create new ones that match your business needs.

triggers and create new ones that match your business needs. Figure 5 – Editing Zendesk Triggers

Figure 5 – Editing Zendesk Triggers

“Zendesk’s triggers are

ideal for helping a small

staff communicate

effectively with users. With

Zendesk, every time the

trouble ticket system is

updated, the user receives a

status update by email and

they know we haven’t

forgotten about them.”



Automations are like triggers, but instead of executing based on the fields of support incidents, they are executed based on time. For example, Zendesk includes an automation that automatically closes resolved issues after four days of inactivity. This eliminates the needs for agents to wait to hear back from customers before moving on to other work.

But perhaps in your business you want to have a shorter or longer period before closing incidents. Or maybe you don’t want to close incidents until a senior manager has reviewed them. You can customize any of the default automations or create your own.


Guide to Customizing and Integrating Zendesk

You can capture just about any business process using Zendesk’s triggers and automations. They’re easy to set up from within the Zendesk application without requiring any custom programming. All you need to do is select the fields you want to examine and specify what type of action to take. For example, you may have a frequent support question regarding lost passwords. You can easily create a trigger that searches incoming tickets for particular phrases and automatically sends an appropriate response, perhaps with a link to generate a new password.

response, perhaps with a link to generate a new password. Figure 6 – Defining a Custom

Figure 6 – Defining a Custom Trigger within Zendesk

“I was spending 10 hours per

day answering support emails,

doing lots of copying and

pasting to provide the same

answers again and again.

Thanks to these macros, that

time immediately dropped to

four hours per day. I can reply

to commonly received

questions with one click.”




Macros offer another powerful facility for customization. Macros enable you to establish consistent responses that can be sent to customers. For example, let’s suppose customers often contact you via your support email address when they have a billing question. You can automatically respond to such inquiries with a custom trigger that looks for certain keywords in the email. And you can then have an automated message be sent (sometimes called a “canned response”) that is defined in a macro.

But just because the response is automated, doesn’t mean it can’t be personalized. Zendesk enables you to take advantage of pre-defined placeholder fields so that you can add custom elements to any response. There are placeholders to fill in the name of the customer, the company name, the date and time of the inquiry, the name of the agent responding and so on. You can easily create a macro that provides a personalized response, for example when assigning an open ticket to development, as shown below.


Guide to Customizing and Integrating Zendesk

Guide to Customizing and Integrating Zendesk Figure 7 – Defining a Macro Using Placeholders Table 3

Figure 7 – Defining a Macro Using Placeholders

Table 3 - Zendesk Placeholder Fields











































Together, triggers, automations, macros and placeholders enable you to further customize Zendesk to implement your organization’s best practices automatically. That way you enable your customer support agents to deliver better service, faster.


Guide to Customizing and Integrating Zendesk

Customized Reporting

Zendesk includes built-in reporting and graphs so that you can see exactly how your support organization is performing. These reports let you see trends or patterns that may be important to your business, such as how many tickets are being created each month, how quickly issues are being resolved and so on.

You can easily create your own custom reports and graphs to highlight whatever data is important to you. You can set conditions to define what types of tickets you want to view (created, resolved, unsolved, etc.) and set filter for specific attribute (priority, ticket type, group, etc.)

for specific attribute (priority, ticket type, group, etc.) “Zendesk makes a world of difference. It lets

“Zendesk makes a world of

difference. It lets our cloud

customers see the current

status of their tickets, which

increases their overall

confidence in us. It also feeds

us performance reports on how

promptly we’re responding to

their support needs.”




Figure 8 – Standard Zendesk Report Showing Resolution Times by Group

In addition, you can export your data in CSV or XML format for further analysis in applications such as Excel, Crystal Reports, Business Objects and so on. You can schedule CSV exports of all tickets or updated tickets on a daily basis.


Guide to Customizing and Integrating Zendesk


For most organizations, Zendesk becomes their system of record for tracking and responding to customer inquiries. As its usage grows, Zendesk is often integrated with other systems, whether they are internet-based systems running “in the cloud” or on-premise software applications run by the IT department or elsewhere in the business.

Zendesk includes “out of the box” integration with the most popular web-based applications including: Atlassian Jira, GoodData, Google Analytics, NetSuite, and more than 60 others. That’s more integration than any other help desk system available. And because of its open architecture, it’s easy to integrate Zendesk with virtually any application you’re using.

Table 4 – Featured Zendesk Integrations

you’re using. Table 4 – Featured Zendesk Integrations These integrations extend the power of Zendesk tremendously.

These integrations extend the power of Zendesk tremendously. For example, if you’re using Customer Relationship Management (CRM), you have immediate “two-way” integration between Zendesk and Salesforce. This means that your sales reps can see any open support incidents from within their Salesforce application in real-time without having to switch screens or login to a new system.

Salesforce users that are also Zendesk agents can update and create Zendesk tickets directly from within Similarly, your customer support agents can see important details about a customer or prospect all from with the Zendesk application. You can specify exactly how information should be mapped between and Zendesk to exactly match your needs. The result is that it’s easier than ever to deliver exceptional service to your best customers without having anything fall through the cracks.


Guide to Customizing and Integrating Zendesk

Guide to Customizing and Integrating Zendesk Figure 9 – Mapping Fields Between Zendesk and Integrating

Figure 9 – Mapping Fields Between Zendesk and

Integrating with the REST API

Zendesk provides an open API (Application Program Interface) that enables web developers to create plug-ins to integrate with almost any web-based application. Zendesk includes a REST API, a Remote Authentication interface, a Javascript Resource API for building Zendesk widgets to integrate external data into your help desk interface, as well as an interface for integrating via email.

The REST API (Representational State Transfer) is implemented as plain XML or JSON over HTTP using all four standard REST commands: GET, POST, PUT, DELETE. Every resource in Zendesk, including Tickets, Users and Tags has their own URL and can be manipulated in isolation.

The REST API can be called from any programming language including Java, JavaScript, PHP, Python, Ruby, Visual Basic, etc.

<script> new Ajax.Request('/users.json', { method:'get', asynchronous: true,

onSuccess: function(transport){ var obj = transport.responseText.evalJSON(); $('active-views').innerHTML = '<p>' + obj.length + ' users in your help desk.'

+ ' First user is '

+ obj[0].name + '</p>'




Figure 10 – Example Javascript Code Using JSON to Integrate with Zendesk REST API


Guide to Customizing and Integrating Zendesk

Zendesk’s open API also enables you to integrate JavaScript resources using any of the standard Zendesk text placeholders to include information about the selected objects, such as the ticket description, priority, the name of the assignee or requester, and so on. These can be referred to using the standard curly brace notation demonstrated previously with macros.

Table 5 – Zendesk Placeholder Fields


Ticket description


Ticket priority


Ticket assignee full name (if any)


Ticket requester full name


Ticket requester organization

You can also create Zendesk widgets using Javascript that integrate with external data sources. This enables you to pull data from other applications into Zendesk or vice versa. For example, you can create custom widget that enables support agents to track their time spent on a ticket and record that information into a third party web application such as Harvest.

<div id="harvest-time-tracking" domain="" use_ssl="true"> <h3 id="title"></h3> <div id="content"></div> </div>

<script src="/javascripts/push/harvest.js" type="text/javascript"></script>

Figure 11 – Sample Widget Code

harvest_resource = new Zendesk.Resource( {title: 'Harvest time tracking', anchor: 'harvest-time-tracking', domain: $('harvest-timetracking').readAttribute('domain'), use_ssl: $('harvest-timetracking').readAttribute('use_ssl') || 'false', enable_resource_cache: true, login_content: login, application_content: application, application_resources: [ {resource: 'daily', on_success:

projects_selector} ]



Figure 12 – Initializing the API Resource Object

A more thorough discussion of integration using the JavaScript Resource API along with the complete source code is available at the Zendesk site at:


Guide to Customizing and Integrating Zendesk

Integrating with the Email Interface

You can also integrate with Zendesk from any standard email system using the email interface. This enables a support agent to respond to tickets, set properties or add comments when working with tickets via email.

The way you do this is to include the id of the ticket in the email subject header along with any placeholder properties you wish to set. For example, by including #12345 {{assignee:Joe priority:high}} in the subject header, you can assign ticket 12345 to Joe with high priority. You can set the ticket status, ticket type, requester, group, tags or public/private settings via the email interface.


Zendesk is an easy to use yet powerful customer support help desk. It was designed from the ground up to be completely customizable and integrated into other web-based or on- premise applications in order to provide a seamless experience to your customers. By using Zendesk, you’ll be able to spend less time and money on implementation and better focus your efforts on deliver great service to your customers.

This whitepaper has given just a few examples of how you can customize and integrate Zendesk into your own business environment. With more than 5,000 customers, Zendesk has proven itself to be a flexible system in helping organizations improve their level of customer service.

“First, we designed an architecture based on a positive customer experience. We then used Zendesk’s APIs to integrate ticket management into the process. Our Zendesk rollout was like nothing I’d ever seen. Word spread quickly that our trial team was having a great experience with Zendesk. I actually had people demanding that they be brought onto Zendesk ahead of schedule.”





How To Get Started

Visit us to sign up for a free 30-day trial with full access to all features at Contact Zendesk to get started at +1 (415) 418-7506 or email

About Zendesk

Zendesk is a leading provider of web-based help desk software that is reinventing how companies engage with their customers. The company serves more than 5,000 businesses large and small, including Groupon, MSNBC, Twitter and Rackspace Cloud. Zendesk products are easy to customize, integrate, and use so companies can quickly start offering better customer support. Founded in 2007, Zendesk is funded by Charles River Ventures, Benchmark Capital and Matrix Partners. Learn more at

and Matrix Partners. Learn more at . ZENDESK, INC. • 410 TOWNSEND ST. #350 •


410 TOWNSEND ST. #350 •


Toll Free 1 888 670 4887