Guide to Switching Help Desks

One does not simply wake up in the middle of the night and decide to switch help desks. It’s a process, and one that takes careful deliberation at that. Preparing to switch help desks happens well before the actual changeover happens, so if you’re just flirting with the idea of a switch, we recommend reviewing our best practice HelpU post for switching help desks: Switching Help Desks Doesn't Have to be a Nightmare

This guide will help you:
  1. Evaluate Help Scout with your team
  2. Make the switch as painlessly as possible

Step 1. Play in the Mailbox with your team

Help Scout is built to help support teams collaborate, so what better way to test than with your team. You can add as many team members as you’d like to help you evaluate, but we recommend at least two. Add team members at Manage > Users. Take a look at Create and Manage User Accounts for more details.
Stuck on what to play with? Here’s some stuff to try:

Step 2. Prepare for your data migration

Words like “data” and “migration” likely aren't words that inspire comfort or warm fuzzy feelings in your heart, but it doesn’t have to be painful either. Help Scout has ready-built imports for some of the most popular help desks — if you're coming to us from Zendesk or UserVoice, we've got you covered with our own import tools:

If you've been using Freshdesk, Kayako, Parature, Zoho, or a few other services, there's a third party migration tool that can bring your conversations into Help Scout: Help Desk Migration Service. Use coupon 10-for-HelpScout for 10% off migration services.

If you've been using a help desk or system that isn't supported by us or a third party tool, you can leverage our API to import conversations on your own. If you can get your conversations on a .CSV, you can use a Zapier Zap to Create Conversation for Customers by using a Google Sheet. And, if you're coming from Groove, a customer built an import for you!

How you prepare will rely mostly on where you’re coming from, but no matter where you are moving from it’s good to remember the following:
  • You'll likely use the same support email address as you do in in your help desk.
For example, messages sent to will no longer be forwarded to, but rather to your unique Help Scout mailbox address that looks something like this:
  • There will be some differences in how we organize conversations by status.
Different Help Scouts organize conversations in slightly different ways. The below chart shows how your conversations will correlate to Help Scout status.
Help Scout Zendesk Desk Freshdesk Groove
Active Open New, Open Open Open
Pending On-hold Pending Pending Pending
Closed Solved, Closed Resolved, Closed Resolved, Closed Closed
  • Help Scout does not have types or custom statuses like some help desks.
You can use Tags, Folders, or Custom Fields in the same way as custom statuses, but Help Scout does not support custom statuses and so those will not transfer.
  • All tags and labels will be imported as Tags in Help Scout.
You'll see the same Tags and labels on the same tickets. You can clean up or merge tags after the import if needed.
  • Rules, Macros, and Saved Replies will not be transferred.
Rules and Macros are similar to Automatic and Manual Workflows in Help Scout, and we support Saved Replies as well, but none of those features will be transferred in the import. You will need to move those over manually.

Step 3. Set up your Mailbox

If you haven’t already, make sure to delete the demo Mailbox and create your own from the Manage menu under Mailbox. The mailbox should match the details of your current support address 

To delete the demo Mailbox, head into the Mailbox and look toward the bottom of the screen. Just click delete this demo mailbox to poof it away!

Once you set up your Mailbox, you’ll also want to customize the Mailbox Settings to make sure everything is setup to your liking.

Switching over your forwarder

Eventually you’ll need to switch your forwarder from your current help desk to Help Scout, and when to flip that switch can be a tricky decision.
Logistically, the forwarder can be switched either before or after the import has finished, but how you work during the transition will be affected by what you choose.
If you can change it before starting the import tool: work out of Help Scout going forward. If you can have a couple team members work in your help desk during the transition period, that will make sure that you clean out any remaining replies and replies get looped back into Help Scout.
If you wait to switch your forwarding rule to Help Scout until after the import has finished: You'll want to continue working in your help desk, but be sure to re-run your import to catch anything that came in since you started the original import. Keep in mind that replies to conversations after the first import runs will not be imported, only new conversations.

Step 4. Start your migration

If you’ve been following this guide, you should have already covered these bases, but just in case here’s what needs to be done before your start your import:

Pre-import checklist

In Help Scout
  • Create a new mailbox using your catch-all support email address.
  • Set up your mailbox signature or change mailbox settings.
  • Create new User accounts for everyone your team

* If Active conversations in the import belong to Users that haven’t been added, it can cause things to jam

In your Help Desk
  • Disable ticket channels as you see fit. For example, turn off the Chat, Twitter, and Facebook integrations so that new requests are no longer funneled into your help desk.
  • Sort through your Macros and Trigger-based emails. Those bits of text will not be imported, so you might want to save them for later to create Workflow emails.
  • Make sure you're able to log in to your email provider's control panel. You should know where your mail forwarding options are located, and how to create or change forwarding rules. For provider specific instructions, check out Get Your Email Into Help Scout.
  • If you're using third-party integrations with your help desk, such as Olark or SnapEngage, be prepared to change external integration settings after you've made the move to Help Scout. You can always install Help Scout integrations at a later time.
  • Make coffee (optional).
The specifics of your migration will depend on where you’re moving from(see: step 2) but once you’ve got those taken care of, you’ll be ready to head to the Manage menu and find the Company Settings. Select Import Data in the left sidebar.

Once you’re here, go back to step 2 as a refresher on how to complete the import based on where you’re coming from. If you're importing a bunch of tickets, the import process could be lengthy. Once you've started the import, you can close the page and get back to Buzzfeed work. We'll email you when it's good to go.

Notable Don'ts:

  • Don't work in Zendesk or Desk during an import

Easier said than done, but you should not work in Zendesk or Desk while an import is running. It's best to start the import when you're not anticipating high volumes. If anything does trickle in after the fact, best practice is to assign a "clean up agent" to reply to newly updated conversations in Zendesk or Desk after the import is complete.

Once the forwarding rule points to Help Scout, replies made to the "clean up agent" are funneled in to Help Scout.

  • Don't delete anything during an import

Knowledge base articles, customers, Users - if you do any deleting in your help desk during the import, it can cause things to jam up. When you start your import, it really is best to set it and forget it.

If you get stuck anywhere along the way, our friendly help team will be there to get you un-stuck!

Step 5. Take care of loose ends

Once you hear from us your import is complete, you may still have a few stragglers or loose ends to clean up.
If you haven’t switched over your forwarder yet, do that now. If you don’t remember how you did that with your old help desk, we have guides on how to get your email into Help Scout for many different providers.
Run a second import if you need to. If new conversations landed in your old help desk, you can run a second import to pull in the new stragglers. Only new conversations will come in for the second import, not replies. For that reason we recommend having a team member work in your help desk to manage incoming replies after you set up your forwarder before your second import. Replies to those emails will get looped back to Help Scout.
And that’s it! You’re all migrated. Time to relax and congratulate yourself on a job well done.
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