Out of office solutions for Zendesk 

By  Nils Rebehn

Everyone deserves some time off. Some time away from work. Maybe somewhere nice. A place that is sunny and warm. Somewhere, where you haven’t been before… Ok, let’s come back to reality and talk about solutions for Zendesk when agents are out of office.

This post covers when members of the team are absent. If you are looking for tips on what to do during peak times, read How to prepare your customer service for the holiday season.

What we will cover

  • Scenarios – planned and unplanned absence
  • Solutions – built-in vs. apps
out of office beach holiday
Everyone needs some time off

What do we do if someone is out of office (ooo)?

Things to consider are the existing tickets and the new tickets. We need to make sure existing tickets are re-assigned to other agents. If the time away was planned it’s probably best to have a handover from the agent that is going on leave to someone that will look after those tickets. If it’s a lot of tickets simply divide them across your team.

Depending on your ticket routing you might want to simply assign them back to a group where tickets will sit on-hold or pending until the enduser replies; once the status changes back to open the team can now respond to the ticket.

Built-in Solution

This solution for Zendesk is based on Business Rules. The requirements are:

  • groups
  • views
  • triggers

How to set it up

This is based on the assumption that you have a catch-all group or view in place. For example any new tickets go to “Support Level 1” or “Support Spanish” and the according view.

Existing tickets (planned out of office)

If the time off is planned have that agent hand over existing tickets (open, pending, on-hold) to one or several team members. Best practice, for complicated tickets, would be for the agent to leave internal notes before re-assigning for better context.

For low complexity-questions is low and anyone can reply to that ticket, simply assign those tickets back to the queue or the catch-all group mentioned earlier (eg. “Support Level 1” or “Support Spanish”) with their status open, pending or on-hold.

Existing tickets (unplanned)

If the person is not coming into the office or can’t log in for any other reason have an admin (or other agents with similar rights) access the agent’s profile. From here all assigned tickets can be accessed and reassigned to other agents. Apply this to multiple tickets in one go.

New tickets

Make sure no new tickets will be assigned to the agent that is out of office. If you use the pull-model in your team it’s very easy to avoid. If you have any triggers or automations assigning tickets directly you might want to consider deactivating them. Anyway, I would not recommend direct assignments in the first place.

On top of that you need to avoid manual assignment. Depending on your team size you might not be able to tell everyone who is unavailable to work and things like that would get messy anyway. A better way is to automate a process and override any manual assignment.

The out of office-trigger

Have a trigger in place to catch any manual ticket assignments. If a ticket is created or updated and a specific agent is assigned (the agent, or multiple agents that are out of office), assign to group, add an internal note if you want.

Summary built-in solution with business rules

If someone goes on PTO (paid time off)

  1. Handover tickets if you can
  2. (Reassign tickets if this was unplanned)
  3. Make sure new tickets go to a group and not the agent that is out of office in Zendesk
  4. Add the agent to your out of office-trigger
  5. (Remove if that agent come back)

Add-on Solution (app)

Requirements: Admin rights to install an app

There is an app called “Out Of Office” that tries to address exactly that. There has been mixed feedback from the customers and users we spoke to. Also, it’s not officially supported by the Zendesk team. It seemed difficult to configure or unreliable especially if you have a larger team. So I won’t recommend it by default. However, it’s worth a shot as it works for some Zendesk teams. You can download the app on the Zendesk marketplace.

About the author 

Nils Rebehn

Founder of Guidoo Services and former Zendesk employee #100. Nils is a Customer Service Expert and a certified Zendesk Administrator.

Guidoo Services is "your guide to Customer Service” - the team offers a range of professional services and are specialised in Zendesk. Guidoo is a Zendesk Select Partner, assuring sophisticated solutions for your help desk.

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