Automatic Workflows

Automatic workflows allow you to automate tasks — from internal tracking and organization to sending automatic replies or notifications — so your team has more time to focus on taking care of your customers. If you're just getting started with workflows, check out Get Started with Workflows for a general primer. This article will teach you more about automatic workflows specifically. 

In this article


Workflows have two types of conditions: AND and OR. Any single workflow can have up to 30 conditions which are not case-sensitive. An automatic workflow will only take action the first time a conversation matches the conditions to avoid the workflow running based on its own actions, which could cause a loop. 

Note: The Copy to Folder action is the exception to the rule on automatic workflows running once per conversation! Take a look at Create Folders Using Workflows to Organize Conversations for the full details on that action. 

AND Conditions

Adding an AND condition means that your first condition must be true AND the second condition must also be true. Click the blue + AND text to add an AND condition. Example: You want to tag all conversations that come from a specific customer AND mention the word "refund" automatically. Your conditions would be: 

OR Conditions

Adding an OR condition means only one of your OR conditions needs to be true. Click on the blue + OR text to add an OR condition. Example: You want to add a tag to any conversations that come from either one customer OR another as vip. You would set these as your conditions: 

Heads up: Using OR along with the Does not contain condition is a logical double negative and will end up matching everything you'd like to exclude! Use AND with the Does not contain condition instead to get the results you're after.

Combining AND/OR Conditions

Here we have a workflow that’s looking for an active conversation AND a payments OR refunds tag. This will match any active conversation tagged with payments, or any active conversation tagged with refunds. 

Apply to Previous

Creating or editing an automatic workflow gives you the option to set it to Apply to Previous. The actions in your workflow will retroactively apply to any conversations that were created before then that match the conditions if you choose to toggle this on. 

Example: You create a new workflow that tags any conversations with the subject of Order Confirmation and select Apply to Previous. This workflow will then tag any new conversations that come in after activation with the subject of Order Confirmation, as well as any conversations that existed previously. 

Note: If you've selected Apply to Previous, it might take a couple of minutes for the workflow to update all matching conversations. This is especially true if you're updating thousands of conversations. 

Pending Workflows

If you activate or update a workflow that's using the Send Notification or Forward actions with Apply to Previous toggled on, we will set that workflow to a pending status if it would generate more than 200 emails. We do this to make sure there wasn't a mistake made and to verify that the emails aren't spam. Our support team receives a notification of your pending workflow and will review and follow up with you. 

To reduce the number of emails sent by your workflow, consider narrowing how many conversations the workflow matches by adding conditions such as Status or Date Created. See Workflow Conditions and Actions for more on the options. If you need help with a pending workflow, please give us a shout!

Order of Operation

Automatic workflows run in the order they appear in your list of workflows at Manage > Inbox(es) > Your Inbox > Workflows. A new workflow will be at the bottom of that list by default. You can change the order of workflows with a simple click, hold, and drag on the workflow. 

Examples and Inspiration

Automatic workflows are one of the most complex and powerful features in Help Scout, and they can take some finesse to master. Here are some examples that you can copy, modify, or just use to find your inspiration.

  • Sort conversations by inbound email address

    Are you forwarding multiple email addresses (aliases) into a single Help Scout inbox? Using the TO: condition in a workflow allows you to act on conversations based on which address the email was originally sent to. As an example, if you forward to your inbox, you might want to auto-assign sales conversations to a specific teammate.
  • Keep tabs on conversations when you receive a satisfaction rating

    This setup makes it easy to follow up on good (and bad) satisfaction ratings. In our example, we're flagging conversations that received a bad rating with comments, so we can send a follow-up email sooner rather than later.
  • Filter conversations by text included in the body of an email

    There are many use cases for this one, but let's focus on one of the more common scenarios. If you're sending contact form submissions to Help Scout, field selections are likely included in the body of the email you receive. With the BODY condition, you can look for those specific options and sort conversations as you see fit. You can filter either by customer messages, or notes left by other Help Scout Users. Our example Workflow is looking specifically for the "Confirmation order email" text contained in the body of the email above. We're going to add a tag, copy it over to the Confirmation Emails folder, and assign it to a teammate to follow up on. 
  • Stay organized by filtering conversations without a specific tag

    Using the tag(s) is not operator allows you to act on conversations that do not have a specific tag. This is useful for isolating conversations that should have a specific set of tags, but might be missing one. You can also get creative with your reminders and notifications based on conversations that don't have a specific tag.
  • Keep track of priority conversations with tags and folders

    In our example below, if a conversation has the tag high-priority, it's automatically copied to a folder named High Priority and an email notification is sent to a specific Help Scout User. You can get creative with tag and folder combinations based on your priority or escalation needs.
  • Send a follow-up email to the customer after a specific time period

    Ideal for a quick reminder that you're waiting on a reply from a customer.
  • Copy tagged conversations to folders

    Allows you to quickly sort conversations by issue or topic into folders. You can combine tags to keep track of multiple issues in one folder if needed.
  • Escalate conversations based on goal response times

    Helpful for keeping tabs on conversations that fall outside of your ideal response times/SLAs. In our example below, the workflow is acting on conversations that haven't received a reply from the customer or the User in 6 hours. You can also find more in-depth examples in Keep Track of Aging Conversations.
  • Filter specific notifications

    If you receive notifications from something like PayPal or eBay, you might want to keep those in your Help Scout account, but they probably don't need to clog up your Unassigned queue.

  • Auto-assign conversations from customers to a specific team member

    Certain team members might work with certain customers. Use a workflow to auto-assign conversations from a specific email address or domain to a specific person.
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