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  • Writer's pictureNouran Smogluk

Best Practices for Implementing Zendesk Triggers That Work

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A typical day-in-the-life of a Zendesk admin: 

You create two new triggers to route tickets to your second tier team. They’re straightforward and only do one action each — no potential for failure there, right? Wrong. Within an hour, you get a dozen Slack messages about how those tickets keep getting sent back to your first-tier queue.

That isn’t a rare experience. Zendesk triggers often seem simple, but then they start behaving in unexpected ways.

Here’s everything you need to know to avoid that from becoming your reality. 

What are Zendesk triggers?

Zendesk triggers are automated actions that are triggered by specific conditions or events. They are a fundamental component of Zendesk's automation capabilities. They’re a significant part of streamlining your workflows, improving efficiency, and improving the customer experience – often by doing basic but essential tasks like emailing customers when their tickets are updated. 

Zendesk has two key features to automate actions: Automations and triggers

Automations are time-based, whereas triggers are event-based. That means triggers run when a ticket is created or updated, whereas automations run roughly every hour. Every time you submit a ticket a trigger has a chance to run, but automations are tied to the clock. 

That’s as simple in practice as it sounds in theory. Everyday use cases for triggers include things like: 

  • Assigning tickets to specific groups based on criteria like ticket type or product category. That could mean routing billing inquiries to a finance team and technical issues to a support team. 

  • Escalating high-priority or urgent tickets to higher support tiers or management.

  • Sending immediate responses to customers when they submit a ticket. 

  • Flagging tickets that are at risk of having a breached SLA by assigning them to someone. You could also combine this with an external tool like Slack, so they get escalated there.

  • Sending out-of-office responses if your team is unavailable due to a holiday or retreat. 

  • Automatically tagging tickets from specific users, organizations, or based on keywords to help with ticket routing. 

💡 Pro Tip: You can enhance your list of workflow optimization use cases for Zendesk triggers by integrating them with OpenAI ChatGPT. Use our Zendesk & ChatGPT integration to: auto-tag tickets with reasons to content, extract information from comments and save it in ticket fields, auto-close Thank you only messages, automatically translate comments and much more.

The two components of a Zendesk trigger

Zendesk triggers are a lot easier to work with when you understand precisely how they work. The process looks like this: 

  1. A ticket is created or updated.

  2. Zendesk will run it against all your currently active triggers in order. Zendesk refers to this as the trigger cycle. 

  3. If the ticket meets the conditions in any of those triggers, it will get updated accordingly. 

  4. Once a ticket gets updated in a cycle, the cycle starts over. That means that it’s possible for different triggers to update the same ticket based on actions in a previous trigger.

  5. The cycle is complete for that ticket once it runs through all triggers without updating a ticket. 

The cycle of running Zendesk triggers

It’s vital to keep the two aspects of Zendesk triggers clearly in your mind every time you create or update a trigger:

  • Conditions. These determine what characteristics a ticket has to have for the trigger to run. For example, a few trigger conditions might include: ticket is created, ticket has the word “refund” in the comment text, and ticket is missing the corresponding category in your custom fields. 

  • Actions. These are the set of actions that run when the trigger fires. Your actions might do things like update the ticket so it’s categorized as a “Refund” and change its “Priority” setting (you’d typically do these in two separate triggers though!). 

Choosing the right conditions for your Zendesk Triggers

Every new Zendesk admin out there — myself included — has probably had one or two memorable experiences where triggers behaved in a way that you just did not expect. That’s typically because the conditions you set were either too restrictive or not restrictive enough.

Conditions should:

  • Be specific. It’s much better to split actions across multiple triggers to ensure that your conditions can be specific enough that they don’t impact tickets you don’t want to update.

  • Avoid redundancy. For example, don’t filter by group, ticket status, priority, and a category if you assign to the group based on priority and assign priority based on category. You can stick with the group and ticket status filtering instead. This keeps triggers much simpler and easier to manage, while reducing the likelihood of running into conflicts.

  • Consider exceptions. Identify when a trigger should not run and implement that exception the first time you create the trigger. If you want to ensure that the same trigger doesn’t run on the same ticket again, make it add a tag in the actions and exclude that tag in your conditions. 

Selecting the appropriate actions for your Zendesk Triggers

Once the conditions are set, the second part of the trigger is the actions. 

Triggers can overwrite actions from other triggers – which is a great feature when you know it’s going to happen and expect the change in your workflow. It isn’t very fun if something gets overwritten that you wanted to keep.

  • Choose actions that are important for your workflows. For example, don’t create triggers that delete a bunch of tags from your tickets just because that looks and feels tidier–even though yes, Zendesk tags are a mess. Do that if you’re tracking those tags and want more reliable data to work with.

  • Personalize actions using placeholders. You can dynamically insert ticket-specific information, like the requester's name, ticket ID, or issue details, into email notifications or comments. That will make your customer-facing communication look much more professional. 

Best practices for Zendesk triggers

You’ll start seeing each of those potential points of failure the more you work with Zendesk. But when you’re just starting out, these tips can make a massive difference in how well your Zendesk instance is set up:

  • Understand your support workflow.

  • Organize triggers in the right order.

  • Keep triggers simple and focused.

  • Integrate triggers with other Zendesk features.

  • Test thoroughly before deployment.

  • Create webhooks to customize tickets even more.

Understand your support workflow

Triggers are a perfect example of a feature that you can only use effectively when you know exactly what you want to achieve. You need to understand exactly how tickets are opened, routed, and the steps they go through before resolution – and then identify the pain points throughout that process. 

That means taking the time to sketch out your ticket workflows before you start building them in Zendesk, and then being very intentional about which triggers you create first. You might consider questions like: 

  • When do you need to notify end users about updates to their tickets?

  • Should any agents or other people in your organization receive email notifications at all?

  • Which workflows have to be automated? For example, you don’t want to have agents manually choosing a priority for every ticket but you might want them to be able to overwrite an automatically chosen priority.

  • Which workflows can be automated? Try to automate as much of your categorization and ticket routing workflows as possible, not only because they’ll take way more time for agents to do but also because they’re really tedious and repetitive tasks.

  • Do you need any seasonal variations in your workflows? 

Organize Zendesk triggers in the right order

As noted earlier, the order of your triggers matters a lot in Zendesk. When you know your workflows, you can structure your triggers in categories and use these to track what gets triggered when.

There are a million tips and frameworks about deciding on these categories like this article from Salto or using the SANE model. They all come down to separating between triggers that run at each of these stages:

  • When the ticket is created. These typically cover categorization, set priorities, SLAs, and so on. 

  • Routing the ticket to the relevant person or team, by assigning those categories to a group.

  • Other ticket workflows that happen on an ongoing basis for ticket assignment or other types of updates. 

  • Sending notifications is often at the very end. 

Keep triggers simple and focused

Every trigger should have one clearly defined purpose and goal. 

What that means in practice is very simple. You want to avoid stacking actions on top of each other. Take the earlier example with the refund ticket. You have two options:

  1. If a ticket meets the conditions to be recognized as a refund, you can add the relevant category and change the priority of the ticket in one trigger.

  2. Or you can create two separate triggers. One adds the category, and the second trigger determines the priority. 

In most cases, option two will work better… but not always.

If you don’t have many categories and the types of questions people ask fit into a few buckets, breaking up every step into multiple triggers might not be helpful. 

But if you have pretty complex ticket workflows and a lot of your triggers change categorization, combining them might lead to issues further down the line. You need to look at your individual setup and make a decision based on that. 

Integrate triggers with other Zendesk features

Automations and macros are the two other important features that you can combine triggers with. Layering these on top of each other can add complexity to your setup but it also enables you to do much more sophisticated workflows.

An example might be aiming for a more white-glove experience for new users:

  • Implement a trigger that identifies tickets created by new users of your product, who’ve only signed up on the same day. Give these a higher priority. 

  • Create a few macro snippets your agents can add to their responses with tips and tricks that are especially valuable for new users. These macros can also add a tag when they’ve been sent.

  • That tag can be used in an automation that reaches out to those users and asks them for specific feedback about their first week using your product. You can also personalize it and ask about the tips you shared. 

You could also use triggers and automations to improve CSAT:

  • Implement a trigger that reopens closed tickets when they get a negative CSAT survey. Add a tag to these tickets to send them to an escalated view.

  • Ask some of your more experienced agents to identify and respond to what went wrong in those cases. You can also create a set of macros for these cases to give agents some guidance and support to turn the situation around.

  • Send those customers another CSAT survey with an automation.

These are just some of the ways you can stack different Zendesk features on top of each other to create a better experience for your customers. 

Test your Zendesk triggers thoroughly before deployment

The one tip that will save you a ton of time in the long run is to test every trigger when you create it. Testing allows you to validate trigger conditions, verify the accuracy of actions, and ensure that triggers work as expected without disrupting your team.

Since many triggers will also impact the tickets displayed in your Zendesk views, this is even more essential if you have a large team or are working with an external team. The amount of confusion and frustration that a few rogue triggers can cause is surprisingly high.

Create Zendesk webhooks to customize tickets even more

There are a few actions that Zendesk can’t automate with a trigger – at least not using the normal methods. 

They include:

  • Changing the subject line of a ticket.

  • Adding emails in CC. 

  • Updating the content of text, multi-line, numeric, and regex custom ticket fields.

That’s when you might start thinking about expanding your Zendesk repertoire into using a webhook to the Zendesk API. 

You can create a webhook and then create a trigger that uses that webhook to make changes to the ticket. Here’s a detailed tutorial about how to do that. 

Webhooks are also very useful for much more technically advanced features, like integrating Zendesk with external CRM systems, designing custom notifications, or capturing events in Zendesk and pushing these to an external analytics platform.

Creating triggers that improve your customer experience

Triggers are as simple or as complex as you design them to be. 

The great news is that the simplest triggers are often the most important ones. Designing them with intentionality and keeping them as simple as possible will set you up for success in future. The simpler your triggers are, the easier it will be for you to scale and for other Zendesk admins to work with them.

Making the most out of Zendesk doesn’t stop there. At Swifteq, we’ve designed a suite of Zendesk automation and agent assist apps for Support teams just like you, who’re looking to streamline their workflows and improve their efficiency. 

Request a demo today to take your Zendesk instance to the next level.


​​​Written by Nouran Smogluk

Nouran is a passionate people manager who believes that work should be a place where people grow, develop, and thrive. She writes for Supported Content and also blogs about a variety of topics, including remote work, leadership, and creating great customer experiences.


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