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Take It or Leave It: What Help Desk Data Should You Migrate?

Like moving, switching help desks can be a real pain. But it’s also a chance to improve your support team’s processes, get rid of clutter, and create new habits that make your life easier.

I recently spoke to Knowledge Bird’s Aprill Allen and data migration specialist Ashley Milne from Import2 about the challenges and opportunities of migrating help desk data. If you’re considering switching help desks, their tips will help you prepare and give you the best chance of a smooth data transition.

What help desk data should you migrate?

Your conversation history with your customers is incredibly valuable. It represents not only the topics and issues a customer has raised with you, but often the personal connections they have made with your team members.

Migrating your help desk history allows for:

  • Easy access to the history of your interactions with your customers
  • Continuity of care — seeing who they have talked to and when
  • One tool to work in (as opposed to keeping the old system for historical records)

Generally speaking, moving as much data as possible to your new help desk will give your team and your customers a smoother ride through the transition period.

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Making a clean break

Like moving to a new home, you don’t need to move everything (at one stage in my life I owned boxes of miscellaneous junk that I must have moved three times without ever opening them). Switching help desks is your chance to rid yourself of the digital equivalent of those boxes, such as:

  • Old notifications, alerts, and other non-customer conversations
  • Tags and labels that are duplicates, typos, or no longer needed
  • Workflows or processes that go unused
  • Out of date or inaccurate saved replies and macros

Allen sees a data migration as a great opportunity for cleaning up and revisiting forgotten information: “Often you’ll end up with stale content, or content that’s been written from the perspective of a technical person and not from a customer.”

By putting in the hard work up front to remove stale content, update processes, and create a consistent voice and tone, you create a more solid base to work from in your new help desk.

New help desk, new opportunities

Your new help desk may have capabilities that you didn’t have before. Milne sees a data migration as opening up new options:

“You don’t have to put your help desk data back in the same place!”

Before you begin planning your migration, consult with the support or sales team from your new help desk to learn what your options are. Particularly if you’ve had more than a year or two on your current help desk, revisiting your tagging strategy and workflows through the lens of your current needs will help you make significant performance improvements.

Factors impacting a help desk migration

What data is your current tool able to export?

Every system is different, so you need to know what you can move before you spend too much time on it.

Is there a well-developed API to use on both ends?

With solid, well-featured and documented API access (see Help Scout’s API docs for example), you have even more options for data migration.

Can you get help desk developer support?

Every migration is different, so being able to ask for assistance as part of your migration may be vital if things get complicated. (You might consider a specialist migration service who will likely have experience with your current and future help desk tools.)

When you know what is possible, you can focus on making a plan for what you will move, how you will move, and when. Data migration can be complex, so I asked both Milne and Allen for the most common data migration mistakes they had seen.

5 most common help desk migration mistakes

1. Failure to test

Allen and Milne both mentioned a lack of solid testing as the most common overarching cause of problems. Before committing to the full migration, run smaller migrations of smaller data sets, and have multiple people check the end result for accuracy.

Look for items like broken knowledge links, missing conversations, or conversations assigned to the wrong people and incorrect tags. It’s much better to identify problems before you’ve tried to move the entire history over.

2. Data not correctly mapped between tools

While your help desk tool will typically take care of data mapping for you (see our “Scout’s Guide to Switching Help Desks” for one example), there can be edge cases.

When two help desk systems have different ways of handling features, data can be mixed up in the transition. Ask for help and a sanity check from your help desk support team, or work with a data migration system to reduce the risk.

3. Agent accounts not created in the new tool

Trying to migrate an agent’s tickets into a new system in which that agent doesn’t yet exist will cause delays and confusion. Create the agents first, before starting the move.

4. Not leaving enough time for the move

If you’re working with a lot of data or an API that throttles your access, then migrations can take quite a while. Ask up front for advice from your new tool on how and when to schedule the migration tasks to minimize down time while you wait.

5. Forgetting sources of incoming support

While everyone remembers to direct their main support email into the new tool, it’s easy to forget the less frequently used sources of support — old email addresses used in forums, API integrations that create tickets, and the like. Conduct a ticket audit before a migration to identify all the sources you can find, and save your future self a whole lot of trouble!

Prepare, prepare, prepare

Support teams can find it tough to carve out blocks of time, but good preparation really is the key to smooth help desk data migration. While it is tempting to just start throwing everything haphazardly into boxes and sealing the whole thing up, putting in the work beforehand will help you get the most out of your new tool.

If you’re really tight on time, or you have a complicated data set to move, consider hiring a data migration service or a knowledge consultant and let them help you avoid the pitfalls.

Whether you do it yourself or you have a team helping, our help desk migration checklist should help keep you on track.

Free Help Desk Data Migration Checklist

Free Help Desk Data Migration Checklist

Download this checklist to set your team up for an easy transition to their new help desk.

Mathew Patterson

After running a support team for years, Mat Patterson joined the marketing team at Help Scout, the invisible help desk software. Learn how Help Scout takes the headache out of email support.

Take It or Leave It: What Help Desk Data Should You Migrate?

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