Zendesk Expert. Pythia CEO & Co-Founder.
Any growing startup needs a professional customer support system sooner or later. There are many solutions on the market (just look at G2 Grid here), but I personally prefer Zendesk for its flexibility, simplicity and good UI. I know Zendesk from a very early time and still love it.
Finally, I am a true Zendesk Expert. I have been doing professional Customer Service & Zendesk consulting for the last 8 years and have implemented Zendesk many times for startups and mature companies.
It can be really hard to learn all the nuances and define a clear setup roadmap but it is very important to do things right and utilize all available features. That's why I decided to share my expertise and create an ultimate checklist for the Zendesk setup since the process is, in general, the same for all.
The checklist is designed for Zendesk but you can use it for any other customer support system with the proper adoption. It helps you to prepare your technologies and build a customer support strategy and service culture on top of it.
The checklist has more than 50 points and is organized into groups based on the main functions of the typical customer support system including the next sections:
For most of the points, I have placed the links to Zendesk Help Center articles where you can find the details of the implementation. There is also some descending order of sections and points inside each section (some points rely on others).
1. Register Zendesk account
Zendesk has a special 6-months credits program for startups. For other options consider buying product packages like Zendesk Support Suite or Sales Suite. My personal attitude is to buy better plans to have more features (saving your agents' work time) and hire fewer agents. But it really depends on your business case.
2. Branding & Localisation setup
After the signup, you can visit Admin > Settings > Account and set up your account name (keep it short for simplicity), upload custom favicon, set time zone and time format, as well as add support languages (one or multiple).
3. Set up Security settings
In Admin Center you can define security settings for your Zendesk signup and login process (for customers and agents), 2FA authentication and SSO. I always suggest setting the requirements on the highest level to avoid any security issues. Many people manage passwords via special software without any hassle.
4. Create groups
In Zendesk groups are collections of agents. Usually, they are created in accordance with organizational structure (like Support, Sales, Finance etc) but you can create 'virtual' groups for any particular reason. Go to Admin > Manage > People > Groups to create or edit your groups.
5. Create agent profiles
Adding agents to Zendesk is very easy. Use real names and work emails when creating an agent and add Alias on the profile page to show it instead of the real name in outgoing email notifications (available from Professional plan).
Go to Admin > Manage > People > Agents to manage your agents. More suggestions about profiles setup are below (Branding section).
6. Add your email support address
The process is super easy if you use Gmail. You can connect the inbox in one minute following the instructions. For other addresses, you need to add support address to Zendesk and set up email forwarding to Zendesk.
7. Add social channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)
See articles Setting up your Twitter channel and Setting up your Facebook channel to add Twitter and Facebook. If you run Facebook ads campaigns you can get them as tickets in Zendesk too (with some limitations described here) – check the setup process here. For Instagram you need to use paid apps from Marketplace – like Instagramer for DMs and Instagramer Comments for post comments.
8. Set up integration with Amazon, EBay or Walmart
There is an amazing one-stop solution for all these channels – ChannelReply. Purchase the service plan (or get a trial), install the app from Zendesk Marketplace and follow the instructions for your platforms. You can receive and reply to Buyer Messages from Zendesk and have all the order and buyer information in the ticket app.
9. Set up Zendesk Talk for phone support
Zendesk Talk allows you to start with phone support in minutes. You can add a new number or port yours to Zendesk. Enable Talk and make basic configuration. Accepting incoming calls and making outbound calls is very easy (via browser or physical phone) and all are integrated with Zendesk tickets.
10. Set up Zendesk Chat for phone support
Zendesk Chat can be used together with Zendesk Support or as a separate product. Follow this initial setup guide and train your agents to start with the Chat. Make sure they also go over these articles before working in Chat. There are a lot of other settings and features you might use in the future.
11. Set up your Help Center (Knowledge base)
With Zendesk Guide (Lite plan) you have a free Help Center out-of-the-box. Follow this guide to set up your Help Center. Be sure to set this asap and provide a self-service option for your customers. Having the most important FAQ-like articles is already a good start. More articles mean fewer tickets (and spendings).
12. Add Web widget to Help Center / Website
Web Widget is a great way to receive tickets because unlike emails you have much more control over the submission process and results. You can define mandatory custom ticket fields to collect the required details for further workflows (see p. 2 above). Check other useful resources for setting up and customizing Web Widget.
13. Add Google Play and App Store integrations
With Mobile SDK from Zendesk, you can add your Help Center and Tickets experience into mobile apps with almost zero-coding efforts. Finally, you can do a lot of custom things with your custom developments (check SDK documentation).
15. Install apps for online shops, delivery systems, and other integrations
16. Add avatars in agent profiles
Looking more human is better than a no-name Support Agent. You can use your real photos or create custom avatars using tools like this.
17. Add signatures in agent profiles
Signatures are useful for providing branded contact details, links etc. They add a bit more personalization to your customer service. You can add individual and branded signatures and design them very differently using Markdown. I always suggest keeping them short until you don't need to have long ones for some specific reason. For more control over signatures you can use Zignatures or Signature 4 Groups apps.
18. Add your brand name to Email template
Default Email template in Zendesk has a footer placeholder like "This email is a service from YourZendeskName". You can remove it or replace it with your own text like "This email is a service from BRAND X".
19. Change Help Center address to branded one
Starting from the Zendesk Support Team plan you can set up a branded Help Center address instead of BRAND.zendesk.com/hc. You can use more official support.BRAND.com or more friendly help.BRAND.com as a custom address. And you get a free SSL for this web address! Go to Admin > Settings > Security > SSL to set this up.
20. Add SPF and DNS records to verify your branded emails
This may sound too technical but actually is very easy: just add several records in your domain management system (like GoDaddy). One SPF record (details here), 4 CNAME records (details here) and one TXT record (details here). You can do it yourself or ask your IT professional. It takes up to 5 minutes.
21. Use grouping and sorting in Views
Views are a great tool to organize tickets in your Zendesk, especially when you group the tickets by some attribute and sort them inside this attribute. I usually suggest using Priority for grouping tickets and Next SLA Breach attribute to sort them. Look at this Unassigned tickets view and its settings examples. This way you have a well-prioritized tickets queue reflecting different importance of tickets (= customers) for your business.
22. Categorize tickets by topics
Tickets categorization has a lot of benefits for automating different areas in Zendesk based on topics via triggers: (a) route tickets to groups/agents, (b) assign Priority, (c) assign SLAs, (d) get reporting for customer experience analytics. Organize your topics in forms or multi-level dropdown fields depending on your Zendesk plan. Download the Excel file with my 'ultimate' list of categories for E-commerce brands (and instructions about how to create a field).
23. Use more Priority levels in tickets
Zendesk allows you to have 2 or 4 levels of ticket priority (you can change them on ticket field settings in Admin > Tickets Fields > Priority). Having more levels allows you to reflect all gradients of tickets importance considering multiple conditions (like category, channel, tags etc). Otherwise, you have too many just High priority tickets where some are really more urgent than others.
24. Enable On hold status in tickets
By default, this status is not enabled in Zendesk. But this status is very useful for many cases when a response is needed from a third party (not the requester or the assignee). You can set up special views to track those tickets and exclude them from other views (using condition Status IS NOT On Hold). Go to Admin > Tickets Fields > Status to enable the status.
25. Set up SLAs to track KPIs and manage the queue
Sometimes SLAs are not used even if this feature is available because they are considered as an enterprise-like story. In fact, you can use SLAs to have more internal control over tickets queues in terms of prioritization and reporting (remember Views setup in p. 1 above). I usually suggest adding at least 2 metrics – First Reply Time and Next Reply time in Calendar or Business hours. Look at this screenshot for a real setup example.
26. Make Request theme field visible and editable for customers
This point is one of the actions related to pp. 2 and 5 above. Since you have a clear and simple categorization system you can make it mandatory by ticket submission and get the correct categories in most cases upon ticket creation. It allows you to get all the benefits of tickets categorization from p. 2. Naturally, you benefit even more if your customers use this channel over others (like email or social media) where they don’t have to select a request category.
27. Use macros in tickets and/or shortcuts in chats (more and more again)
In my opinion, Macros is the main productivity tool in Zendesk. Macros allow agents to insert predefined responses into the comment box and apply multiple ticket fields values automatically. Sometimes companies avoid using macros to provide more personalized, non-templated customer support and service. For me this attitude is not completely correct: macros just help you to save time for manual typing and fields filling. What would be the final reply depends on your agents (who follow your guides and SOPs). Macros is just a tool; people decide to be humans or 'robots'. Check what the normal macros usage rate is below (in the 'KPIs & Reporting' section).
28. Activate CSAT Surveys if possible
If your Zendesk plan allows you (Professional and higher) to have CSAT Surveys, use them. They allow you to collect valuable customer feedback (ratings and comments) and track your agents' performance in terms of the support quality. And don't forget to activate collecting the bad scores reasons too. Look at this screenshot with typical settings. Below (in the 'KPIs & Reporting' section) you will find the details about building a report for CSAT Comments in Explore.
29. Activate ССs and Followers feature
ССs and Followers is a pretty new feature (introduced in 2019) and is not actively used yet in old accounts I encounter. Actually it is very beneficial to separate public and hidden recipients because Followers works like BCC in normal emails. In most cases, you use automatic migration which takes just a few minutes (see how here).
30. Activate Schedules to track KPIs within business hours
Starting from Professional plan you can set up schedules in your Zendesk. Multiple schedules allow you to track groups'/agents' performance reflecting the time zones where they are working (their group/individual schedules). This way you have a more detailed performance picture (within calendar and business hours).
31. Activate 'Auto-assign tickets upon solve' setting
This small setting allows you to automate ticket assignment in one click (you can build a more customized trigger for the same process). Go to Admin > Tickets > Assignment section and check the box (don't forget to save the changes).
32. Activate 'Include attachments in emails' setting
This setting is located on the same page and allows you to include actual attachments in outbound emails instead of links that might be just missed by customers. Go to Admin > Tickets > Attachments section and check the box (don't forget to save the changes).
33. Activate Automatic Redaction in tickets
As Zendesk states "Selecting this option enables automatic redaction of credit card numbers from all customer-submitted text in tickets to protect sensitive data.". Go to Admin > Security and check the box (don't forget to save the changes).
34. Autosolve Pending tickets to avoid backlogging
Very often pending tickets never get a reply from the customer. It makes sense to solve them automatically to avoid backlog growth. You can also include 'Email user' action into this trigger to kindly notify the customer about pending ticket awaiting the customer's reply. You might build a sophisticated process for this case following Zendesk's Bump Bump Solve tip.
35. Autoclose Solved tickets
Since this rule is not mandatory you can use it to keep your tickets queue clean from solved cases that probably will never be reopened again. You can send an educational notification about a closed ticket and ask to provide a new request via the preferred channel. In some cases, this is the main reason to use this rule.
36. Notify agents / managers about bad CSAT ratings
Being immediately notified about bad ratings is good not only for customer-obsessed brands. Might customers give you fair bad ratings or from misunderstandings, you have a possibility to follow up and try to solve the initial issue and ask the customer to change the rating to a Good one. Use this basic example to create a trigger for your needs.
37. Deactivate duplicate notifications
By default, Zendesk provides you many triggers that are doing the same thing - notifying you about new or updated tickets. Consider deactivating some of them to reduce clutter in your email box. If you have one or two agents you can deactivate triggers to notify groups and/or all agents. You can reactivate them anytime later once you need those triggers again. Go to Admin > Triggers and check what you have.
38. Automate Priority assignment to tickets
Based on instructions from p. 2 of Workflows section you can create triggers to assign priority to tickets. You can use many ticket or requester properties for this and create many tailored business rules. The screenshot below is a final part of the trigger but you got the idea: put different topics into ANY conditions. And add Ticket = Created into ALL conditions if you want to limit this trigger action to created tickets only and avoid priority changes with further updates.
39. Automate Categories assignment to tickets
Similar to the previous point you can create triggers to assign ticket forms or fields values automatically. Zendesk allows you to 'read' subject and comment text and detect different words or strings inside the text. Those can be used as conditions for triggers. Follow the Refunds example below to create triggers like that.
40. Add (more) articles to Promoted articles section
With Promoted articles feature you can put some of the articles from your Help Center on the Home page. It should naturally help your customers find them and self-service. Check regularly your Knowledge base views stats using default Reporting (or using Google Analytics with filtering only effective visits) and update this list of Promoted articles accordingly (check how to promote an article).
41. Make Search box bigger to stimulate self-service
This task requires some IT skills, but is very easy in general. Default search box parameters are pretty fine; nevertheless I always suggest making it even bigger. Recently I discovered an amazing example of the Help Center by GoSpotcheck with the search box taking the whole first screen.
42. Add quick links under Search box to stimulate self-service
The same Help Center example I provided above has this option added. In addition to the Promoted articles this makes the likelihood of self-service even higher. You should place up to Top 5 quick links there (better 3). Less is more here.
43. Put Customer team on the Main page
44. Provide multiple Contact options and expectations
Depending on your customer support strategy (more reactive or proactive) you can put contact options on the Home page. You can manage expectations adding Operating hours and expected reply time for each support channel (like KissMyKeto here).
45. Check your main Support KPIs against benchmark data
Zendesk collects and analyzes anonymized data about customer support performance of thousands of companies around the globe. And this benchmarking data is available for free. Visit this page when you ask the question "How do we perform compared to industry average?'.
46. Install and use Time Tracking app (Professional plan and above)
Speed is one of the most important dimensions of customer service performance (along with volumes and quality). Time Tracking app allows you to track time spent per each ticket update when the agent directly works with the ticket. Setup is very easy and there are detailed articles about building the reporting. Here is a real example of the report to track Update Time by Agents.
47. Check your Views to Tickets rate in Help Center
Self-service is an important part of any customer support strategy and system. With proper setup this might save your company a lot of resources for providing excellent personalized assisted support. Having HC Views and Tickets stats (tickets created via Help Center) you can calculate the Views:Tickets rate. It gives you a clear picture of how much self-service you have. Good rate is about 10:1, but it varies for companies depending on the audience habits and service strategy.
48. Check you Searches to Tickets rates in Help Center
It is the same story like in the point above, but here we look at Searches:Tickets rate. Since customers can rephrase search requests multiple times and you can have a well filled Knowledge Base this rate may reach 50:1 proportion (recently I have seen that one), but usually it is lower. In simple words it means that only 1 ticket is submitted when 50 searches are made.
49. Track articles linking activity by agents
Placing links to Help Center articles is a good option to promote your Knowledge Base and stimulate self-service. Zendesk allows you to track this activity in the default Explore dashboard (available on Guide Professional and above) and provides a great Knowledge Capture app to link articles. Look at leading rates and coach other agents to reach them.
50. Build CSAT Comments report in Explore to track feedback topics
With new Explore reporting the old Satisfaction report is removed but you will not find the report with CSAT comments there. This point may be obsolete in the near future, but you can use this report example to get this in your Explore.
51. Track macros/shortcuts usage by agents
This report is essential since macros are an important productivity tool in Zendesk. Zendesk suggests you build the report using tags. It supposes you need to tag all your tickets and build a tags-based report (in Explore). A good rate is about 80%, which means you use 8 macros in 10 tickets on average. And again it varies from company to company. To measure your rate and have ongoing Macros usage reporting you can use our Pythia app (disclosure: I am Pythia Co-Founder).
I hope you enjoyed the checklist and was able to set up your Zendesk fast and easy.
I wish you safe and happy support!