Get started with Workflows

Workflows in Help Scout are similar to Gmail filters or rules in other email clients. Quite simply, workflows are composed of conditions (what you’re looking for) and actions (what you want to happen). This article is all about Workflows.

In this article

Anatomy of a Workflow

Workflows contain conditions, operators, and actions. Together, you'll create "if" and "then" statements to perform actions on conversations. For example, if the subject line contains "Bug Report", then add a tag, send an email to the customer and put the email in a folder. Workflows can be either manual or automatic:

Automatic workflows are always on. They run in the background and watch everything - kind of like the NSA. They check new and existing conversations for matching conditions, then carry out one or more specified actions automatically. You might use an automatic workflow to:

  • Route new conversations (based on subject text or other conditions) to a specific team member.
  • Copy conversations to a folder based on which tag is applied to the conversation.
  • Send a follow-up email to the customer after a period of inactivity.
  • Keep tabs on replies made by new hires by isolating those conversations in a folder.
  • Send an email notification to certain team members when a message is received from a VIP customer.

A manual workflow doesn’t do anything until you tell it to. When you apply a manual workflow, Help Scout performs all actions in one fell swoop. Look for the lightning bolt icon to run a manual workflow. You might use a manual workflow to:

  • Tag conversations and move them in bulk to another mailbox.
  • Add a tag, change the status, and send a predefined email all at the same time.
  • Add a note, assign it to a team member, then copy the conversation to a folder.
  • Remove tags and send an email to the customer, closing the conversation.

Creating New Workflows

By default, only Administrators can create and manage workflows. If you want your Users to manage workflows as well, you can change that permission from the Company settings page. To then create a workflow, open a mailbox and head to SettingsWorkflows.

  1. Give your workflow a cool name and select Manual or Automatic. If you're creating a manual workflow, you won't need to specify conditions since it only triggers when you click on it.
  2. If you're creating an automatic workflow, add conditions to the workflow. Select the appropriate operator (Is equal to, contains, etc.)
  3. On the Actions page, decide what you want your workflow to do when matching conversations are found.
  4. Review your workflow on the summary page, and activate it when you’re ready.

Note: If things aren’t matching just yet, you’ll see a small yellow note that reads: These conditions don’t match any existing conversations. You may want to double-check to make sure they are correct. If you do have matching conversations, you'll see a checkbox to apply actions to existing conversations.

Using Multiple Conditions

Workflows have two types of conditions: AND and OR.

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.

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.

You can add multiple conditions to a single workflow. In the example below, note that the subject text must contain refund, AND the conversation must have a tag of payments. Easy, right? If a conversation does not contain both conditions, the workflow's actions will not fire.

Adding an OR condition means only one of your other conditions needs to be true for your actions to fire. The workflow seen below simply says that if the conversation subject contains refund, OR the conversation has a payments tag, perform the desired actions. One condition OR the other will suffice.

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 does not contain conditions instead to get the results you're after.

Combining AND/OR Conditions

Here we have a workflow that’s looking for an active conversion AND a payments OR refund tag. Both tags are not required. 

Apply to Previous

When creating an automatic workflow, you can apply the workflow to both new and existing conversations that match the conditions by toggling Apply to Previous. When Apply to Previous is enabled, the workflow will run on existing conversations created before the Choose Type step was completed during workflow set up.

Pending Workflows

Whenever a workflow triggers 200 or more emails to be sent, it's set to pending for manual review by our support team. We do this to make sure there wasn't a mistake made and to verify that the emails aren't spam. A member of our support team will review your workflow and be in touch with any additional questions. 

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. If you need help with a pending workflow, please reach out!

Copying Workflows

Workflows can be copied for use in the same mailbox, or copied and moved to another mailbox. Just head over to SettingsWorkflows and open the workflow you want to copy. Look for the silver Copy button in the right-hand corner of the page.

Common questions

When I update an existing workflow, can I apply the actions to older conversations?
You can indeed! Apply to Previous can be toggled on or off at any time after the workflow has been activated. If you enable Apply to Previous after a workflow is activated though, any matching, previous conversations will need to be updated first (with a reply, note, status change, etc.) before the workflow will fire.

How many conditions can I add to a workflow?
There is a limit of 30 conditions per workflow.

It seems to be taking awhile for the workflow to update conversations. What gives?
If the workflow was just activated, it might take a couple of minutes before all of the matching conversations are updated. This is especially true if you're updating thousands of conversations.

Can an automatic workflow run on the same conversation more than once?
Negative. Automatic workflows will only run one time on a single conversation. Workflows only run once on a conversation to prevent email loops. 

When a workflow sends an email to the customer, who is it from?
Messages sent to the customer via the Send Notification > Email the Customer action are sent from your mailbox address. 

Why is the same conversation in the Unassigned queue and in a custom folder?
Conversations that are unassigned will always show in the Unassigned queue unless they're assigned to a User. The Copy to folder action does not remove the conversation from its parent folder.

I need help with my regex.
There are some great resources out there for this!  Regex Pal or Regex101 are great online tools.

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