This article is intended for Zendesk administrators. For information on the tasks required for developers, see Enabling authenticated visitors.
This article includes the following topics:
- About end-user authentication for web and mobile messaging
- Creating and sharing the signing key
- Current limitations
About end-user authentication for web and mobile messaging
End-user authentication is, simply put, verifying the identity of an end user. The verified end user’s new messaging request can then be connected with their past conversations, allowing agents to better support them.
This section includes the following topics:
Understanding key elements
To understand how end-user authentication for messaging works, you should be familiar with the key elements involved in the authentication process:
- JSON Web Tokens (JWT) for authentication. Zendesk uses signed JSON Web Tokens (JWT) for authentication in messaging. These tokens verify the identity of the end users. See jwt.io for detailed information on JWTs.
- Signing key. A signing key is created by a Zendesk admin in Admin Center, and shared with your developer, who will then use it to sign the JWT as necessary. See Creating and sharing the signing key.
- Unique user identifiers, or externalIDs. These are alphanumeric strings (usernames or customer ID numbers, for instance) that are unique to each user. If you have multiple brands in your Zendesk account, a user must have a unique identifier in each brand.
- User name and email address (optional). Including the name or email may help agents communicate with end users. If this information is collected and included in the JWT, it will appear in the Agent Workspace. However, it is not required.
Overview of the setup process
To enable end-user authentication, your Zendesk Admin first needs to create the signing key in Admin Center and provide this key (which will contain a secret) to your developer. Your developer will then need to implement a service on your business' back-end that can create the signed JWT and return this to your website or mobile app when requested (steps 1 and 2 in the image below). Any time your user is logged in to your website or app, your developer will need to call an equivalent login API which will be provided in both the Zendesk Web Widget and the Mobile SDKs. At sign-in time, the JWT will be passed to Zendesk in order to verify the claimed identity of the user (step 3 in the image below).
How the end-user and agent experiences are impacted
Once authentication for messaging is implemented, end users and agents will see slight changes in their experiences:
- End users: Once they have been authenticated and their identity has been verified with Zendesk, the end user will not be prompted to provide their name or email address by the messaging bot as part of the default messaging response.
- Agents: Verified end users will be identified in the Agent Workspace by an authentication icon:
The agents will be able to view the external id as part of the end user's profile.
If the external id provided with the API matches the external id of an existing user, the messaging ticket will be referenced against the existing end user.
When an end user authenticates:
- A new end user will be created. The messaging ticket of the anonymous user will be associated with the newly-created user with the external id.
- If the authenticated end user has a non-closed messaging ticket, that ticket will be updated with the new messages.
- When an end user signs out, a new end user and new messaging ticket will be created for the subsequent conversation.
- End user A sends a message without signing in. User 1 and Ticket 1 is created.
- End user A signs in mid-conversation. User 2 is created with an external id (if no user with the external id exists).
- Conversation continues in Ticket 1 and the requester is updated to User 2.
For returning authenticated users, there’s a background ticket merge to ensure conversational continuity. For example:
- End user A has an open Ticket 1 as an authenticated user.
- End user A logs out.
- End user A sends a message without signing in.
- User 2 and Ticket 2 are created.
- End user A signs again mid-conversation.
- Authenticated User A is retrieved via the external id and the anonymous and authenticated conversations are merged.
- Conversation continues in Ticket 1 and Ticket 2 is closed.
Creating and sharing the signing key
As mentioned in the section above, a Zendesk administrator must create a signing key and share it with the developer for use in the JWT. You can store up to 10 keys.
To create and share a signing key
- In Admin Center, click Account in the sidebar, then select Security > End user authentication.
- Click the Messaging tab, then click the Create key button. If you are creating your first key, this button appears at the bottom of the page; if you have previously created a key, it appears in the top-right corner.
- In the Create new key dialog, enter an identifying name for the key, then click Next.
- In the Copy shared secret dialog, click Copy to save the secret to your clipboard, then click Hide key forever.
You’re returned to the Messaging tab, where the new key appears in the signing key list with the first six characters of the secret shown.
- Confidentially send the shared secret key to your developer, who can then use it to create the JWT. See Enabling authenticated visitors for more information.
If you generate a new key but have reached your 10-key limit, a notification appears, asking you to delete any unused keys.
To delete an unused key
The following limitations apply to the current version of end-user authentication in messaging:
- Restricted Guide articles. Guide articles that require authentication will not be available to users initially, even if they are authenticated. We will make additional improvements to the messaging product to enable users to view Guide articles that require user authentication. Articles that do not require user authentication are not impacted.
- Email addresses in Agent Workspace. The email address of the end user will not be visible in Agent Workspace initially. This is also a limitation that we are actively working to remove. We would encourage businesses who wish to view the user’s email address in Agent Workspace to include this data in the JWT payload in order to prevent future development once this limitation is removed, but it is not necessary. Alternatively, you can use external id to surface email address, if the email address is a unique identifier for your customers.