Guide to Integrating Zendesk and Salesforce

Executive summary:

The Zendesk for Salesforce integration was designed to be flexible. Based on your needs, you can choose to implement only the functionality that makes the most sense for your business. The "Guide to Integrating Zendesk and Salesforce" describes common use cases and links to the detailed documentation you’ll need to complete the process.

You'll learn:

  • how data maps between Zendesk and Salesforce
  • what you can do with this integration
  • where customization is required
  • which use cases best meet your needs, with step-by-step instructions
  • more about data syncing
  • where to find additional resources

Guide to Integrating Zendesk and Salesforce

Zendesk and Salesforce are a powerful combination. Together, they're the best way to give your sales and support teams a comprehensive view of your customers. When sales and support are in sync, you can give your customers a great experience, improving satisfaction and increasing conversion.

Imagine how useful it might be for your sales team to know that a customer has open or unresolved issues when attempting to upsell or renew a contract. With this integration, sales reps can view existing tickets alongside the Lead or Contact record and, if needed, create a new ticket from Salesforce. But that’s just one use case.

In this guide, we cover the most common use cases available right out of the box, with links to click through to the detailed documentation you’ll need to complete the process. Begin by asking yourself: What tasks do you hope to realize by integrating a CRM with Zendesk? What business needs can this integration help you fulfill?

The answers to these questions will determine which features to implement and which you can skip. They might also help identify where and why you might want to go a custom route.

Before we begin: terminology

It’s important to understand from the get-go how data from Zendesk and Salesforce will map once integrated. (Zendesk and Salesforce “speak” are naturally a little different, but we think we’ve learned to play together rather nicely.)

Common terminology used in Zendesk and Salesforce relate in the following way:

Zendesk Salesforce mapping

You might want to consider whether your Salesforce data will benefit from some clean up or restructuring before integrating with Zendesk. For example, if there are multiple Accounts with the same name in Salesforce, these Accounts cannot map over to become multiple orgs with the same name in Zendesk. This is because Zendesk requires:

  • users (Salesforce Contacts or Leads) to be unique by email address, and
  • orgs (Salesforce Accounts) to be unique by organization name.

If you have the resources, restructuring how data is stored in Salesforce can improve Zendesk’s ability to create more direct mappings when you’re pulling data into Zendesk.

Benefits at a glance

The Zendesk for Salesforce integration makes it possible to:

  • view Salesforce data in Zendesk
  • view Zendesk tickets in Salesforce
  • create and edit Zendesk tickets in Salesforce
  • send Zendesk tickets into Salesforce
  • sync Salesforce Accounts to Zendesk orgs
  • sync Salesforce Contacts or Leads to Zendesk users

In the sections below we’ll explain why you might want to take these actions, where to find the steps that will show you how, and what you might want to think about along the way.

Spoiler alert: there are limitations

In the spirit of transparency, it’s important to note that not all integrations can do all things. Out of the box, the integration does not support:

  • syncing Cases from Salesforce to Zendesk
  • syncing users from Zendesk to Salesforce on an ongoing basis
  • Person Accounts in Salesforce (The sidebar application in Zendesk can pull in user information if the Person Account has an email associated with the record.)
  • the hierarchy of Parent/Child Accounts in Salesforce (All data transfers but does not retain its hierarchical structure once in Zendesk.)
  • displaying Salesforce user data inside Zendesk user profiles (Instead, user data is accessible from the ticket view.)
  • instant refresh of app data (Instead, data is refreshed at regular intervals to help reduce the number of API calls to Salesforce.)

That said, we have a few tricks up our sleeve. We want your integration to be a success. Talk to your account manager about customization and guided implementations.

Common use cases

As nearly all the functionality of the Zendesk for Salesforce integration can be implemented and used independently, you have the flexibility to choose which pieces of the integration benefit your particular business use case. The scenarios below represent the most common reasons customers are interested in, and benefit from, the Zendesk for Salesforce integration.

1. View the status of a Salesforce Account in Zendesk

Many Zendesk customers want to access additional information about their users inside a Zendesk ticket. This enables agents to see user information at a glance in the apps panel of a Zendesk ticket. User information might include subscription level, whether a particular account has an open opportunity, or additional customer notes.

What’s great about this? Your agents don’t need a Salesforce user license, and they’ll never have to navigate away from Zendesk. Plus, you can configure what Salesforce information is shared in Zendesk.

To view and configure Salesforce Account data inside a Zendesk ticket:

  1. Install the Zendesk for Salesforce app in Salesforce
  2. Install and configure the app in Zendesk

2. Set up business rules in Zendesk using data from Salesforce

You can take the above scenario a step further and set up business rules in Zendesk based on the Salesforce data you pull in. For example, you may want to automate a process that gives users flagged as VIPs higher priority in the ticket queue.

To integrate Salesforce data so that you can set up business rules in Zendesk:

  1. Install the Zendesk for Salesforce app in Salesforce
  2. Sync data from Salesforce to Zendesk

All syncing logic is handled within the Salesforce package, so no additional installation or configuration of the app in Zendesk is required.

Note: This is an advanced feature of the integration. It’s important to keep in mind that the way data is structured in Salesforce affects how data maps to your Zendesk. Just as an example, a free-form text field in Salesforce may appear in Zendesk as a tag. Therefore, it’s worth considering whether you want to invest time cleaning up data in Salesforce in order to avoid doing more manual adjustments after integration. New Salesforce installations, or smaller Salesforce organizations with clean data, can go ahead and give this feature a try. For more complex Salesforce organizations, contact your Zendesk account manager to learn more about a guided implementation.

3. Share Zendesk data with your sales team—inside Salesforce

Let’s face it—your sales reps live in Salesforce, but they want to know whether their Accounts have open tickets in Zendesk. That’s because, these days, the line between sales and support is thin. Accessing Zendesk data in Salesforce is a nice way to help sales reps take a customer’s temperature before making a call. Sales reps might need only a quick snapshot of customer activity in Zendesk, or they might benefit from the ability to create or edit Zendesk tickets from within Salesforce. Adding an extra level of support may just help close a deal.

Bringing Zendesk data into Salesforce can also allow you to accomplish other tasks, such as creating a new Contact or Account in Salesforce when a new ticket is created in Zendesk. The options are many.

And on that note, this integration actually provides a couple different options for accessing Zendesk data inside Salesforce, so you’ll only need to configure one of the two possibilities outlined below.

  1. Send Zendesk tickets into Salesforce
    This is the most powerful of the two options for viewing Zendesk data in Salesforce. This option uses tickets in your Zendesk to create new records in a Salesforce custom object called Zendesk Ticket. The ticket requester is automatically matched to a Contact, and the ticket’s organization is automatically matched to an Account. If Salesforce doesn’t find an existing Account for a user, a Contact and Account will be automatically created for that Zendesk ticket user. This enables you to easily see tickets from the Contact and Account pages.

    One advantage of this method is that Zendesk ticket data will live in Salesforce, so you can use Salesforce reports to relay data across Zendesk and Salesforce, which is especially powerful if you’re on the Enterprise edition of Salesforce. Custom workflows can also be created by using this data.

    If you are concerned about running up against data storage limits in Salesforce, however, this might not be the best option for you. Additionally, this option shows only new tickets; there is no way to import previously closed tickets.

    To view Zendesk tickets in Salesforce using this method:

    1. Install the Zendesk for Salesforce app in Salesforce
    2. Install and configure the app in Zendesk
    3. Set up sending Zendesk tickets into Salesforce

  1. View Zendesk tickets using Account, Contact, and Lead VisualForce pages
    This option queries Zendesk in real time from the Account, Contact, Lead, and Opportunity pages, and does not send any data into Salesforce. Instead of automatically matching Contacts with ticket requestors and Accounts with organizations, this option enables you to choose the matching scheme with which to display tickets.

    This might be a better option for Zendesk customers whose Accounts do not exactly match Zendesk organizations, for customers who do not use organizations at all in Zendesk, or for customers who do not want to create new Accounts or Contacts in Salesforce based on Zendesk data. It’s also a better option if you’re worried about running up against API limits, as this method doesn’t use any API calls.

    The downside is that you cannot create custom workflows or reports based on Zendesk data with this option.

    To view Zendesk tickets in Salesforce using this method:

    1. Install the Zendesk for Salesforce app in Salesforce
    2. Add ticket view to your Account, Contact, Lead, and Opportunity layouts

4. Allow sales reps to create or comment on Zendesk tickets from Salesforce

It’s easier for sales, and a better experience for your customers, if sales account managers can actively engage in tickets with their customers (or create a ticket on the customer’s behalf) as soon as they realize the customer needs support, and without ever navigating away from Salesforce. If you’ve configured either of the options above, your sales reps will also have the ability to create and edit Zendesk tickets from Salesforce—if each sales rep has an agent seat and credentials within Zendesk. Customers on the Zendesk Enterprise Plan have an unlimited number of additional people that can interact with tickets for free (as “Light Agents”).

To configure the ability for sales reps to create and edit Zendesk tickets in Salesforce:

  1. Follow the installation and configuration steps from one of the two options in use case #3 above.
  2. Pay close attention to the following sections of the documentation:

5. Automatically create a user record in Zendesk when a Contact is created in Salesforce

It can be helpful to already have a user record in Zendesk for customers that have not yet requested support. When they do submit a request, agents will already have insight into their status as a customer. And since many customers store valuable information in Salesforce about the people they do business with, you can enable this sync and employ user data to help drive workflow. For example, you can create a trigger to automatically increase the priority of tickets from users marked as VIP.

This is with a one-way sync from Salesforce to Zendesk that keeps users in sync with your Contacts and Leads, and there are some limitations. This integration matches Contacts and Leads to users one-for-one based on email address, and expects all Contacts and Leads to have a unique email address. However, not all Salesforce implementations adhere to these rules. If you have multiple Contacts that share the same email address (e.g., info@salesforce.com), this might not be the right feature for you. This integration also doesn’t support Person Accounts, as these are treated as organizations in Zendesk rather than users.

To automatically create new user records in Zendesk based on new Contacts in Salesforce:

  1. Install the Zendesk for Salesforce app in Salesforce
  2. Configure user and organization syncing in Salesforce (with special attention to the “Synchronizing Accounts with organizations and Contacts/Leads with users” topic)

You can filter the Contacts and Leads that are synced into Zendesk based on record type or using a Contact/Lead drop-down of your choosing.

Note: This is an advanced feature. New Salesforce installations, or smaller Salesforce organizations with clean data, can go ahead and give this feature a try. For more complex Salesforce organizations, contact your Zendesk account manager to learn more about a guided implementation.

6. Automatically create an organization in Zendesk when an Account is created in Salesforce

Many customers store valuable information in Salesforce about the companies they do business with such as subscriptions, support level entitlements, or even locations. By enabling this sync, you can add this information to your Zendesk organizations to help drive workflows. For example, you could set up a trigger to automatically reassign tickets from companies with “Gold” service entitlement to a different support group.

This is a one-way sync from Salesforce to Zendesk that keeps organizations in sync with your Accounts, and there are some limitations. The integration matches Accounts to organizations one-for-one, based on name, and expects all Accounts to have a unique name. However, not all Salesforce implementations adhere to these rules. If you have Accounts with duplicate names, this might not be the right feature for you. Also, the integration does not support Parent Accounts, so all Accounts will be treated as organizations in Zendesk.

To automatically create new orgs in Zendesk based on new Accounts in Salesforce:

  1. Install the Zendesk for Salesforce app in Salesforce
  2. Configure user and organization syncing in Salesforce (with special attention to the “Synchronizing Accounts with organizations and Contacts/Leads with users” topic)

You can filter the Accounts that are synced into Zendesk based on record type or an Account drop-down of your choosing.

Note: This is an advanced feature. New Salesforce installations or smaller Salesforce organizations with clean data can go ahead and give this feature a try. However, for more complex Salesforce organizations, we recommend contacting your Zendesk account manager to help determine whether this is the right feature for you to implement.

A few (more) words about syncing data

We know that keeping Zendesk and Salesforce in sync involves some work on the back end, and it’s important to know a little about your choices.

Bulk sync

Performing bulk syncs generally makes sense for smaller businesses, or customers with very clean data. In other words, if your data is manageable, a bulk sync will be efficient and smooth.

You can bulk sync Zendesk users to Contacts or Leads, or organizations to Accounts.

Ongoing sync

If you don’t need all Salesforce data in Zendesk at once, you might want to think about running ongoing syncs to keep  up to date only the data you’re most interested in. Running an ongoing sync makes sense in a lot of ways, but is not a requirement.

For example, you might want to set up an ongoing sync as soon as you’re ready for new or updated Contact, Lead, or Account records to update Zendesk. As new customers are added into Salesforce, Zendesk is made automatically aware of them, and your agents are set up to provide better support.

Syncing tags

Sometimes there’s confusion about how tags are synced. In general, only fields which need to be used in business rules, reporting, or customer lists or views should be synced as tags. Alternately, you can sync data as custom user or org fields, in addition to syncing them as tags.

By syncing fields as tags, you’ll pass the tags on with the associated ticket, allowing you to set up triggers based on them, or to create ticket views to easily see all tickets tagged a particular way. Tags don’t need to be synced if you’re only going to display data for informational purposes. Read more about how tagging users and orgs affects ticket workflow and moderation.

Additional resources

We know this integration is a big deal, and we’re not going to leave you hanging. You can always contact your Zendesk account manager with any questions you have about this integration. More information can also be found on the following pages:

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