How to connect related data in Zendesk

Written by
Craig Stoss
Director of CX Services at PartnerHero
March 28, 2023
min read

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Data is one of the most valuable resources your company has. 

Every day—probably every second of every day—you are gathering data. This data covers a lot of ground: it includes information about your customers, their actions, orders, errors, sentiment, survey responses, support contacts, and a multitude of other related details. 

The gap in most companies is not in data collection. 

It’s in connecting related data and using it to improve service. Any company can add incredible value by using data to streamline its processes, inform customer interactions, shape product development, and mitigate issues altogether.

In the context of a customer support team, this means giving your support agents data that helps them solve tickets fast in a way that your customers love. For example, within the agents' helpdesk software, highlight information such as recent order or shipping numbers, product usage data, account details, or other things that will prepare your team for a fast and more informed conversation. The data to accomplish this is often vast and spread out across so many different tools. It’s typically either time-consuming or altogether impossible for a support agent to find relevant data when they need it. 

So how do you get this data to your support team? 

When you’re using Zendesk, it's easier than you might think to connect related data so it’s available when needed. Let's explore ways you can connect the data that agents need to explore the Zendesk instance where they do most of their work.

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Use native tool integrations

Native tool integrations connect important data that exists in another product to Zendesk. Most integrations enable you to query and display select data from the integrated product directly within the Zendesk UI. 

The Zendesk Marketplace is the best place to start with integrations. With thousands of integrations, themes, and third-party Zendesk consultants, odds are any popular tool your business is using already has a native integration. 

If you’re using tools that store customers' details, this is often the easiest first step towards improving data access. 

For example, apps such as Salesforce Connector will bring contract information, customer location, and other account-based details from Salesforce into your Zendesk Agent Workspace. Easily accessible in the User Profile section of Zendesk, an agent can view useful metadata about the customer to help improve the conversation.

Likewise, the Shopify for Zendesk app will improve your agents' ability to serve your customers without needing to leave Zendesk. In the screenshot below, the Shopify widget displays recent order information, summaries of this user's behavior, as well as direct links to their Shopify profile, recent tracking updates, and orders. Having this available directly beside the ticket saves time and reduces searching for content.

In each case, the added context provided by the integrations enables agents to personalize their customer interactions and serve customers more efficiently. More informed agents equals more personalized customer interactions. 

These tools are handy for most use cases. Using official integrations—which are created and maintained directly by the source company (e.g. Shopify)—saves time and effort at your company. They are often included in the cost of your existing tool, are easy to install and configure, and require very little maintenance. 

However, because they are written by a third party, they may not cover the use case(s) you hoped for or may not release updates as frequently as you'd like. These challenges can lead to awkward workflows or frustrating workarounds which may end up removing the benefit and requiring another way to connect your related data to Zendesk.

With so many available options, you can choose the most impactful tools to connect related data in Zendesk quickly.

Enable Agent Assist tools

The Zendesk Marketplace also contains a wide variety of third-party apps which can integrate wider data or insights seamlessly. These tools are commonly known as Agent Assist tools since they use related data to assist agents in solving tickets faster. Their feature sets vary greatly, and the tool(s) you need will depend on your use cases. Agent Assist tools can be more powerful than a single tool integration because they aggregate many data sources together to create an even richer experience for your support team and your customer.  Many of these tools also offer robust features to act on the data itself, such as suggesting relevant knowledge articles, automatically updating key fields, or categorizing support tickets.

Using historic Zendesk data

The most generic tools in the Agent Assist category are AI tools that analyze incoming tickets and, based on your previous responses, can write a customer-facing answer for you. 

Tools such as Cohere.io, will read your incoming ticket and suggest to the agent one or more previous tickets that match the intent. Once the agent agrees that this is the same ticket and would have the same response, the tool will auto-generate a response using the new ticket's context (name, language, situation details) and combine it with the resolution of the historic ticket to create a unique answer automatically. These act like a macro: they are auto-generated, but they avoid the macro pitfalls of sounding robotic or requiring the agent to manually fill in some blanks.

Connected workflows

Many support workflows require agents to look up or edit data in multiple tools in your tech stack. A slightly more advanced agent assist use case is to utilize a solution that can combine data from several of your tools at once to automate those workflows.

For example, Kodif.io is a workflow and response generator that can take context from your ticket and combine it with data in your tech stack to give your agents a contextual workflow. Tools like this allow you to create workflows of common issues that use API connections to both gather and update external tools. 

For example, if a user sends an email asking for a refund, you may need to look up that user's order in one system and then their payment methodology in another. An automated workflow tool will use NLP to recognize this as a refund request, provide the agent with the recent orders this user placed, and then walk the agent through a guided workflow on any questions to ask or skip directly to allow the agent to process the refund with one click. That click is able to send signals to many tools. In this case, it could mark the order refunded in one tool, and process the refund in another—all without the agent needing to leave Zendesk. Finally, the tool can use generative AI technology to write a unique, humanlike response to the customer to let them know what was done.

This allows any multi-step workflows to be completed with fewer clicks. Connecting related data to Zendesk can reduce your handle time significantly, which is great for your team, better for the customer, and creates a more engaging, cost-efficient support organization.

Holistic support operations

For more advanced use cases, support operations tools such as TheLoops can embed signals from across your tech stack into Zendesk. These tools then give you suggested responses, knowledge-base articles to share, and suggest related tickets. 

This context improves the ticket handling process but also uses artificial intelligence to comb through the connected data and offer you more holistic insights about ways to improve your product and service offerings. These tools can aggregate product usage with sentiment analysis and customer segmentation, so you know which features are causing the most frustration with the different types of customers. This knowledge can lead to product enhancements and service changes to meet those specific needs. For example, if you learn that newer customers struggle with a specific feature, you can improve onboarding services to better train them on that feature—and make sure they won’t get a bad first impression of your product.

Like single product integrations, these tools are maintained by their respective companies and many are low or no-code administration which means you don’t need to be technical to implement them. However, unlike those native integrations, these tools often require added license costs, and because of their feature diversity, should include a very clear request for proposal (RFP) process and research stage to fully understand if the tool will meet your business objectives.

Build in-house applications

If the applications your agents use to provide support are custom-built, don't have a Marketplace app, or don't meet your business needs, another option is to create a custom integration. In-house integrations can be complex, from a design and implementation standpoint and in terms of the ongoing maintenance required as the connected products evolve. When choosing this route, it’s critical to factor in these costs and to ensure that ownership and priority of the tooling is understood across all stakeholders.

Zendesk provides a robust and supported application programming interface (API) that can access and manipulate its own objects, such as tickets, users, and organizations. In particular, the custom data API, part of the Zendesk Sunshine product, is very useful for integrating data from any system into Zendesk directly. 

Zendesk Sunshine is a platform that can connect customer data into Zendesk from wherever it lives. It includes two main functions: profile information and event history.


Customer profile information is often scattered around many tools—your CRM, your account management database, your marketing platform, and so on.

To fully understand a customer’s context, Zendesk Sunshine Profiles API can be used to build out contextual profiles of your users who submit tickets. Here’s how it works:

  • Using an identifier, such as an email address, the API will let you update the profile of the user with attributes coming from relevant data you store in other systems. 
  • These attributes provide context to your support agents or can be used in reporting in Zendesk. 

While similar to the tool integrations mentioned above, one added value of this approach is that the information is copied and maintained in Zendesk. This feature allows you to report directly in Zendesk Explore on customer attributes and segments, making it much easier to get a clear view of your customer experience. 

Event history

Similarly, the Zendesk Events API can help you map key interactions the user has with your website or application. 

This API will help support agents understand the route customers took to open the ticket. It enables your support team to see information like:

  • Which articles the customer read in your knowledge base
  • Which widgets they used
  • If they received an error in your tool

These are all questions that support agents might need to ask, so why not prepare them with the answer in advance? 

Doing so can reduce triage and research time, and make your customers feel like you know them better. It’s a fantastic way to create a more personalized customer journey. 

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Connecting data is no longer optional

Customers want a personalized experience, and the tools to provide personalization are available and easier than ever to create. Leveraging data effectively is no longer optional. Companies that want to flourish in 2023 need to find ways to connect related data in Zendesk, resulting in a better CX, reduced handle times, a more scalable support team, and insights that allow preventative support actions.  

Written by
Craig Stoss

Craig has spent time in more than 30 countries working with support, development, and professional services teams. He’s administered Zendesk himself, and he’s currently building out a team of Zendesk consultants in his role as Director of CX Services at PartnerHero. In his spare time, Craig leads a local Support Thought Leadership group and writes for Supported Content.

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