Zendesk Chat to Metabase

This page provides you with instructions on how to extract data from Zendesk Chat and analyze it in Metabase. (If the mechanics of extracting data from Zendesk Chat seem too complex or difficult to maintain, check out Stitch, which can do all the heavy lifting for you in just a few clicks.)

What is Zendesk Chat?

Zendesk Chat is a real-time online chat application that businesses can use to engage with customers. It was originally marketed as Zopim. Zendesk acquired the company that developed it in 2014, integrated it with Zendesk, and renamed it Zendesk Chat in 2016.

What is Metabase?

Metabase provides a visual query builder that lets users generate simple charts and dashboards, and supports SQL for gathering data for more complex business intelligence visualizations. It runs as a JAR file, and its developers make it available in a Docker container and on Heroku and AWS. Metabase is free of cost and open source, licensed under the AGPL.

Getting data out of Zendesk Chat

Zendesk Chat provides a REST API that lets you get information about accounts, agents, roles, and other elements, all of which have different syntax and return JSON objects with different attributes. If, for example, you wanted to retrieve a list of agents, you would call GET /api/v2/agents. This call has a couple of optional parameters that let you specify a range of agent IDs.

Sample Zendesk Chat data

The Zendesk Chat API returns data in JSON format. For example, the result of a call to retrieve agents might look like this:

[
  {
    "id" : 5,
    "first_name" : "John",
    "last_name" : "Doe",
    "display_name" : "Johnny",
    "create_date" : "2017-09-30T08:25:09Z",
    "email" : "johndoe@gmail.com",
    "roles" : {
      "owner": false,
      "administrator": false
    },
    "role_id": 3,
    "enabled" : 1,
    "departments" : []
  },
  {
    "id" : 8,
    "first_name" : "Kevin",
    "last_name" : "Doe",
    ...
  }
]

Preparing Zendesk Chat data

If you don't already have a data structure in which to store the data you retrieve, you'll have to create a schema for your data tables. Then, for each value in the response, you'll need to identify a predefined datatype (INTEGER, DATETIME, etc.) and build a table that can receive them. Zendesk Chat documentation should tell you what fields are provided by each endpoint, along with their corresponding datatypes.

Complicating things is the fact that the records retrieved from the source may not always be "flat" – some of the objects may actually be lists. This means you'll likely have to create additional tables to capture the unpredictable cardinality in each record.

Loading data into Metabase

Metabase works with data in databases; you can't use it as a front end for a SaaS application without replicating the data to a data warehouse first. Out of the box Metabase supports 15 database sources, and you can download 10 additional third-party database drivers, or write your own. Once you specify the source, you must specify a host name and port, database name, and username and password to get access to the data.

Using data in Metabase

Metabase supports three kinds of queries: simple, custom, and SQL. Users create simple queries entirely through a visual drag-and-drop interface. Custom queries use a notebook-style editor that lets users select, filter, summarize, and otherwise customize the presentation of the data. The SQL editor lets users type or paste in SQL queries.

Keeping Zendesk Chat data up to date

At this point you've coded up a script or written a program to get the data you want and successfully moved it into your data warehouse. But how will you load new or updated data? It's not a good idea to replicate all of your data each time you have updated records. That process would be painfully slow and resource-intensive.

Instead, identify key fields that your script can use to bookmark its progression through the data and use to pick up where it left off as it looks for updated data. Auto-incrementing fields such as updated_at or created_at work best for this. When you've built in this functionality, you can set up your script as a cron job or continuous loop to get new data as it appears in Zendesk Chat.

And remember, as with any code, once you write it, you have to maintain it. If Zendesk modifies its API, or the API sends a field with a datatype your code doesn't recognize, you may have to modify the script. If your users want slightly different information, you definitely will have to.

From Zendesk Chat to your data warehouse: An easier solution

As mentioned earlier, the best practice for analyzing Zendesk Chat data in Metabase is to store that data inside a data warehousing platform alongside data from your other databases and third-party sources. You can find instructions for doing these extractions for leading warehouses on our sister sites Zendesk Chat to Redshift, Zendesk Chat to BigQuery, Zendesk Chat to Azure Synapse Analytics, Zendesk Chat to PostgreSQL, Zendesk Chat to Panoply, and Zendesk Chat to Snowflake.

Easier yet, however, is using a solution that does all that work for you. Products like Stitch were built to move data automatically, making it easy to integrate Zendesk Chat with Metabase. With just a few clicks, Stitch starts extracting your Zendesk Chat data, structuring it in a way that's optimized for analysis, and inserting that data into a data warehouse that can be easily accessed and analyzed by Metabase.