How to organize Zendesk macros so your agents love them

Written by
Jude Kriwald
Zendesk consultant
March 12, 2023
min read

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Zendesk macros are one of the simplest and most powerful features any new Zendesk administrator will utilise to quickly make agents’ lives easier, boost productivity and have more control over improving customer satisfaction.

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Despite being widely used, they are often not put to their full potential, with many administrators and customer service managers unaware of just how slick a feature they can be. In this article, I will detail two tricks every Zendesk admin should be using to help their agents make the right decisions, and to do so more quickly.

Organizing Zendesk Macros - The Wrong Way

Each client that I have worked with has had a different approach to how they have organized their macros. Some have had no organization at all (the slowest option for agents), with a long list of inconsistent macro titles for agents to scroll through, with no attempt to categorize or make the agents’ lives easier. 

Whilst this approach is fine when there are fewer than ten macros, it quickly stops being fit for purpose after that!

Some clients make the best attempt they can to organize their Zendesk macros, unaware of the optimum method  that I’ll share below. Theirs will look something like the below.

Look familiar? Here, the customer service manager has simply used the title of the macro to introduce a visual element of organization. Whilst this works fine when you have fewer than a dozen or so macros, it quickly stops being fit for service when more macros are added.

It’s easy to assume that this is the best option. After all, if you have a look at the Macros page within the Admin Centre, you’ll find no options to add or edit categories. This is in stark contrast to, say, adding a Guide article, where the option to categorize is a very clear part of the UI.

Organizing Zendesk Macros - The Right Way

The knack, then, is not in the Zendesk UI but instead within the syntax we use to name the macros. Looking at the macros in the last image, a simple tweak to the syntax is all that’s required to create proper nested categories within our macros menu.

The key is to remove any spaces and characters between the category and the desired title in the macro name, and replace them with two colons “::”, as above and below. For clarity, “Finance - Payment Question” becomes “Finance::Payment Question”.

We can do the same for all our other desired categories too.

If we apply this formatting to all of our macros, we are rewarded with a totally different-looking macros menu (you’ll need to refresh the agent interface to see the changes).

Now we can see a simple, categorized menu of macros. Clicking on Support, for example, shows all macros whose name begins with “Support::”

To be precise about what is happening here: Zendesk creates a new category for each unique phrase found before a set of “::” double colons. So to create a new category, such as Marketing, you only need to create one macro whose title starts “Marketing::” and it’ll appear as a top-level category. 

You can then add as many subsequent macros with the same prefix and they will all be nested within the same parent category.

Do note that if you misspell the parent category on one of the macros, it will create a unique category for the misspelt category! You can fix this by simply correcting the spelling of the macro title, and the macro will drop into the correct category.

Adding Child Categories

Now that we’ve learned about adding parent categories, the thought may occur about adding even more layers of organization. This is particularly useful for organizations with 50+ macros and complex customer operations. Imagine we created the category called “Support”, but then filled that category with 30 macros. That list of 30 macros is now not much better than the original, untidy list we started with.

The solution here is to add child categories to the parent Support category.

Now, when you click on “Support”, rather than seeing all the Support macros in one list, the agent can see a new subsequent level of categorization. 

To achieve this, we use the same approach as before. Thus the highlighted macro above would be titled, in the macros settings page, as “Support::Returns::Return Shipping Question”.

As mentioned earlier, each set of double colons creates a new category beneath any existing category. Whilst I encourage you to play around with this, bear in mind that there’s little to be achieved by creating endless categories and subcategories to the point that each subcategory only has one or two macros in it. In my opinion, between five and ten macros per final-level category goes down best with agents.

It’s also worth noting that each macro doesn’t have to have the same number of categories as each other. For example, the Support parent category could have three child categories within which all macros are contained, whilst the Sales parent category could have no child categories and simply display all macros at the second level.

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Using this nested approach to macro categorization will not only help agents easily navigate to the relevant macro more quickly, it will also help you, the Zendesk administrator, to stay on top of and manage a large list of constantly evolving macros.

The double colon trick is a game-changer in tidying up macros in a way that the Zendesk UI doesn’t make immediately clear, but is well worth learning as the results are a neat, functional interface that your stakeholders will love to use.

Written by
Jude Kriwald

Jude Kriwald first learned to administer Zendesk in 2015 and has been helping businesses improve their customer operations as a freelance consultant since 2018. Offline, he can be found making maps, paragliding or exploring remote places.

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