Zendesk Chat to Snowflake

This page provides you with instructions on how to extract data from Zendesk Chat and load it into Snowflake. (If this manual process sounds onerous, check out Stitch, which can do all the heavy lifting for you in just a few clicks.)

About 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, but Zendesk acquired the company that developed it in 2014, integrated it with Zendesk, and renamed it Zendesk Chat in 2016.

About Snowflake

Snowflake is a data warehouse solution that is entirely cloud based. It's a managed service. If you don't want to deal with hardware, software, or upkeep for a data warehouse you're going to love Snowflake. It runs on the wicked fast Amazon Web Services architecture using EC2 and S3 instances. Snowflake is designed to be flexible and easy to work with where other relational databases are not. One example of this is the query execution. Snowflake creates virtual warehouses where query processing takes place. These virtual warehouses run on separate compute clusters, so querying one of these virtual warehouses doesn't slow down the others. If you have ever had to wait for a query to complete, you know the value of speed and efficiency for query processing.

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" : "2014-09-30T08:25:09Z",
    "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. The source API 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.

Preparing data for Snowflake

Depending on the structure that you data is in, you may need to prepare it for loading. Take a look at the supported data types for Snowflake and make sure that the data you've got will map neatly to them. If you have a lot of data, you should compress it. Gzip, bzip2, Brotli, Zstandard v0.8 and deflate/raw deflate compression types are all supported.

One important thing to note here is that you don't need to define a schema in advance when loading JSON data into Snowflake. Onward to loading!

Loading data into Snowflake

There is a good reference for this step in the Data Loading Overview section of the Snowflake documentation. If there isn’t much data that you’re trying to load, then you might be able to use the data loading wizard in the Snowflake web UI. Chances are, the limitations on that tool will make it a non-starter as a reliable ETL solution. There two main steps to getting data into Snowflake:

  • Use the PUT command to stage files
  • Use the COPY INTO table command to load prepared data into the awaiting table from the prior step.

For the COPY step, you’ll have the option of copying from your local drive, or from Amazon S3. One of Snowflakes’ slick features lets you to make a virtual warehouse that will power the insertion process.

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. Now you can set up a cron job or continuous loop to keep pulling new data as it appears. But as with any code, once you write it, you have to maintain it. If Zendesk modifies its API, or 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.

Easier and faster alternatives

If all this sounds a bit overwhelming, don’t be alarmed. If you have all the skills necessary to go through this process, chances are building and maintaining a script like this isn’t a very high-leverage use of your time.

Thankfully, products like Stitch were built to solve this problem automatically. With just a few clicks, Stitch starts extracting your Zendesk Chat data via the API, structuring it in a way that is optimized for analysis, and inserting that data into your Snowflake data warehouse.