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Article 3 min read

Tip of the Week: Automations vs. Triggers – When To Use What

Last updated May 18, 2010

Recently, we shared two tips on some automated functions within Zendesk. We described how to use automations to send notifications to your support team when a ticket needs a reply; and last week, we wrote about how you can use Zendesk triggers to send out auto-responses to some of your more frequent questions. In both of those cases, automatic actions are taken when certain conditions are met—e.g., a ticket needs a reply or you just received a frequently asked question—but you want to have a clear understanding of when you should use an automation and when you should use a trigger.

The differences between automations and triggers highlight two different aspects of your support workflow: time and action.


Automations within Zendesk are specifically time-based. You use them when you want an action to automatically happen according to a timeframe you’ve set up in your workflow. As the example from our previous tip shows, your support workflow should have some time requirements—whether they are specific goals of when you’ll respond to a request or more general expectations about the time a ticket needs to remain solved before you can officially close it.

One way to think about when and how to set up an automation is to write out your support workflow and indicate if you have any time requirements associated with any of the steps. Say you want to send out a reminder email to your customer if you’ve been waiting for information from them for over three days. Perfect time for an automation. Rather than having to remember to send that reminder out—or manually go through your tickets—the automation can automatically keep you on schedule.

Zendesk comes set up with a few automations when you create an account—go to the Automations page under the Manage tab—but we encourage you to think through your support workflow as a time-based sequence and add more.


Triggers within Zendesk fire when other specific actions have taken place. Triggers are run through every time a ticket state is changed, and literally triggered if the changes match the conditions defined in the trigger. You use them when you want certain actions to take place only when some other actions have taken place. As our previous tip mentions, you want to send out a particular answer to a question when that question comes in. If another type of question comes in, you want another set of actions to take place. So every time a ticket is touched, changes attributes or have a comment added, the system checks if any of the trigger conditions match the change and fires them off.

To set up your triggers, take that same support workflow that you created for automations and map out how those steps connect. At all those connection points think about whether you can automate the process. You might not be able to automate the research it takes to troubleshoot a ticket for instance, but you can automate the ticket’s escalation. When the agent assigns the ticket to another Group, for instance, you can create a trigger that fires off an email to the members of that group or even sends out an SMS message to them.

Zendesk also comes set up with a few trigger—go to the Triggers and Mail Notifications page under the Manage tab—but again we encourage you to customize them to fit your workflow.

Viewing your support workflow as a time-based sequence as well as a sequence of actions dependent on one another can help you streamline your process; using Zendesk Automations and Triggers can then help keep you on top of that process and optimize your workflow.

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