Zendesk’s Tech for Good partners create crucial COVID-19 resources
Last updated January 8, 2021
On March 17, Zendesk’s Tech for Good program expanded its reach to offer free access to Zendesk products to any nonprofit working anywhere in the world to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on a vulnerable population. To date the program has received over 200 applicants and has set up 52 new instances. These organizations are using Zendesk tools to connect people with the information, care, and services they need.
Covid Community Response (County Cork, Ireland)
Covid Community Response is a national support helpline for individuals and organizations in Ireland who need assistance from their local community during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Founder Danny O’Donovan runs a tech support company called Quick Minutes in County Cork. When the coronavirus hit the country, O’Donovan was working from home and feeling powerless. He thought that he could help out by setting up a website that could aggregate information from the local community groups and government organizations working to share critical information with citizens across the country. His vision was a “one-stop shop” for people looking for everything from employment rights information because they had lost their job, to folks wondering where to go to get tested for the virus. Rather than being the source of information, he wanted the site and its volunteers to serve as “traffic controllers,” pointing the way to the most helpful content.
O’Donovan reached out to his network, sharing his idea with like-minded people who had tech expertise as well as a passion for helping out their community.
Immersed in the tech world, they knew the various tools and platforms available. Zendesk had a clear track record of working with community groups and, with an office in Dublin, was easily accessible. O’Donovan and his team connected with Jamie O’Dwyer, a Zendesk sales manager based in Dublin. O’Dwyer worked with O’Donovan’s team to understand what it wanted to achieve, and it was able to quickly confirm that Zendesk tools could help.
Time was critical—within days O’Dwyer had volunteers working on building out a trial. Joey Barrett was the first Zendesk professional services person to join the volunteer team. He worked with the team to integrate all the channels they needed, which included adding Talk and Guide so people could self-serve if they wanted.
“I feel grateful to be honest, that the skills I’ve picked up from working at Zendesk can be used to help people in their hour of need,” said Barrett, a product solutions manager based in Dublin. “It’s just amazing that something we take for granted—‘Oh, I can admin a Zendesk instance’—can make a real difference to peoples’ lives.”
Today, Covid Community Response has three channels feeding into the one system. Someone seeking assistance can contact the helpline by phone, text, or email. A volunteer will triage the request and pass it on to the local community group. Volunteers are on hand from 9 AM until 9 PM Monday through Friday, helping point people in the right direction for answers. To date the site has solved more than 680 tickets and has supported over 570 users and has published 24 help center articles to keep its audience updated and informed.
“Given the strong community response, we hope that an appetite will continue to help those disadvantaged and vulnerable in our communities even beyond the current crisis,” O’Dwyer said.
Masuno (Bogota, Columbia)
As the grim reality of the COVID-19 crisis came into focus for the team at Fluyt—a small Bogota, Colombia–based communication consultancy—it was compelled to see if it could help. Knowing that its specialty (clear, effective communication) would be critical, Fluyt dreamed up a “marketplace” of sorts for all COVID-19 related information, from how to safely shelter at home to where to buy groceries and medicine.
After trying a few different platforms and approaches to sharing information, the team reached out to Zendesk’s Tech for Good program and soon launched the masuno.app, a content hub built with Guide.
Since its debut, more than 40 volunteers have helped design, draft, and publish over 200 articles about everything from mental health to spotlights on nonprofits actively addressing the crisis. The Masuno team is also using Zendesk to collect reports of price speculation and surface requests for help that it shares with local government officials. Next, it plans to launch a virtual call-center so volunteers can share accurate information about the pandemic’s impact and connect callers with groups that are offering food, shelter, and medicine.
“Masuno.app has been a very interesting project and I have loved working with them since the beginning,” said Giovanna Chethuan, Tech for Good volunteer and Zendesk customer success consultant in Mexico City. “They started thinking about releasing an app but then after seeing all Guide and Support capabilities they determined that the Help Center and website were enough to start providing help to different audiences in Colombia. I was born in Colombia so my heart is connected with this project.”
Maynooth Home Support (Dublin, Ireland)
The town of Maynooth—an hour outside of Dublin in north County Kildare—is a close-knit university town where students make up half of all residents. It’s home to Dublin-based Zendesk Success Consultant Naoise Ó Cearúil.
Once the government in Ireland directed all residents over 70 and folks with underlying health issues to shelter in place, Ó Cearúil realized that those vulnerable people would need help getting access to medication and groceries.
After meeting with local representatives and following conversations with a senior citizens organization and other groups, Ó Cearúil could see this community would need to pull together and help one another. So he came up with a plan for a voluntary home support system, and became one of the first projects to be granted a sponsored account through the social impact team’s COVID-19 Sponsored Account program.
“The idea behind Maynooth Home Support was to allow the community to come closer together by staying apart, making it easier for the elderly or people in self-isolation to get necessary supplies like food and medicine,” said Ó Cearúil.
The process is simple: someone who is unable to shop for him or herself phones the supermarket or pharmacy, places an order, and pays over the phone. The shop or pharmacy then contacts volunteers who arrange a delivery.
At first, before implementing Zendesk Support, triaging these requests was arduous and inefficient. Initially an email was sent to all volunteers and then the first person to respond was allocated the task. But with over a hundred responses, the process was messy. Once the organization started texting volunteers, another layer of complexity was created, because some would not be looking at their phone enough, resulting in time-sensitive requests going unanswered.
Once the group implemented Zendesk, it set up an internal help center for volunteers where tasks are uploaded by a group of voluntary triagers. A volunteer can log on to the portal, accept a job, and then see all the necessary details. This has streamlined the entire process and ensured that requests are responded to in a timely manner, while protecting the privacy of those seeking support.
To date, Maynooth Home Support has 164 volunteers, with the local authorities and police feeding into the program as well. All of the town’s pharmacies and supermarkets are now participating. Volunteers field an average of 10–20 requests and deliveries per day, serving around 40 elderly or individuals and families who need to be in isolation. And the program has been recognized for its success, including coverage in the Irish Independent. Notes Ó Cearúil, ”In our county, the local authority sends any requests they recieve to us and [our program] is seen as the most efficient scheme.”
Kingfisher Treasure Seekers (United Kingdom)
The U.K.’s Kingfisher Treasure Seekers works to support the mental health and well-being of up to 2,000 vulnerable people a week, some of them at risk of suicide. The organization’s face-to-face mental health drop-in service reaches an average of 40–50 people a night, 365 days a year. When the COVID-19 crisis started to escalate, the team began researching options to transition to an online platform which would allow it to keep in touch with clients. Security requirements meant that the field of options for online solutions was limited.
“When the virus hit, it was stressful to think about these people being isolated [since] the whole approach is based on meeting and seeing people,” said Katie Tucker, founding director.
When Kingfisher Treasure Seekers came across Zendesk, and saw it was GDPR compliant and had the relevant ISOs and encryptions in place, it quickly applied to Zendesk’s Tech for Good sponsored accounts program.
With its application approved, the organization mobilized quickly to put remote services in place. Today, Kingfisher Treasure Seekers uses Chat as a platform to talk to those with mental health struggles. The group installed the widget on the site, and staff is available to chat each evening with users. Staff is also on standby during the day to answer any messages that are posted.
“Zendesk has enabled us to quickly and seamlessly change a delivery model which, until a few weeks ago, was based around community connections,” Tucker said. “Change is never easy but with support from Zendesk we have been able to minimize the impact and have alternative provision in place from the moment we had to stop meeting face to face.”