Aid Organisations

Delivering 11 Flex contact centres in 12 months & Ukraine crisis support

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is an independent humanitarian organisation that helps people displaced by conflict in some of the most challenged parts of the world.

Over the past two years, we’ve been working with the NRC and to scale digital communications in humanitarian emergencies on four continents.

Following the mass displacement from the Ukraine crisis, NRC was able to utilise the tools that have been tested in more than 27 countries to immediately roll out a needs assessment and registration communication channel over WhatsApp developed by Zing, which handled 1.6 million incoming WhatsApp messages a day.

READ: Developer Q&A: Helping the NRC deploy information gathering chatbots in Ukrain

This service is now operating in all countries affected by the crisis and providing a life-line for communication to those in need.

Throughout our work together, creative problem solving - made possible by the versatility of Twilio - has been imperative. We are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to have played a part.

“Without Zing’s quick work, ingenuity and great partnership, this could have never happened. Thank you Zing!”

Christopher Hoffman
Global Project Manager, NRC

11 Flex contact centres in 12 months

NRC joined forces with Zing and to enable the digital transformation of its services across the globe and to accelerate the delivery of humanitarian aid through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

Together, we built the Digital Community Hub (DCH), an innovative omni-channel community engagement solution, and - using Flex - built 11 contact centres over the course of 12 months.

The results have exceeded the NRC’s initial expectations: in Libya for example, 400 calls a week to the contact centre had been anticipated. That number was quickly surpassed, receiving more than 20,000 calls in the first two weeks of operation.

Over 3 million monthly interactions are now handled through NRC Flex contact centers each month.

Sudan digital hub 2

Creative solution: ‘Toll free’ via callback

“We needed to provide toll free support numbers where toll free telephony wasn’t possible.”

Christopher Hoffman
Global Project Manager, NRC

The NRC needed to offer a toll-free way for those in need to access its services but in some countries network operators don’t offer toll free telephony.

Beginning in Libya, Zing and set-up a helpline whereby the beneficiary rings, hangs up and within seconds receives an automated callback. They’re then taken through an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) flow where they select options on their keypads.

This creates a record in Twilio Flex and gives the small contact centre team important contextualised information for when they return the call later on the same day.

"We switched it all on and were expecting a few hundred messages in the first week; we received thousands a day in that first week. We didn’t realise just how big the demand was. We received 21,000 calls in the first week."

Christopher Hoffman
Global Project Manager, NRC

The solution is now being rolled out in other countries where toll free telephony is not offered by network providers.

VIEW WEBINAR: Delivering global aid (via call back mechanism)

Creative solution: “What do you think about WhatsApp?”

When a large explosion happened at the Port of Beirut in the capital city of Lebanon, there was extensive damage to phone lines and infrastructure.

What do you think about WhatsApp?” asked the NRC.

Leaning on Flex for development and customisation enabled the rapid scaling of operations and central management of communications across WhatsApp and web chat channels, expanding the reach of humanitarian response beyond in-person contact.

Realising early that literacy could not be assumed, WhatsApp sound files were brought into play, enabling beneficiaries to leave short audio messages for contact staff to work with. Having this important information and context made a massive workload manageable for the handful of contact centre staff.

At the peak, 13,000 WhatsApp inquiries a month were being handled in Lebanon.


Creative Solution: First ever USSD / Twilio integration

A solution was needed for people that don’t have smartphones but who need to be able to access NRC support via text message (toll-free).

The answer was found in USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data), which is an old school communications protocol used for communicating via short text messages. It’s particularly effective as it bypasses data charges as the short transmissions don’t count as SMS.

Many are familiar with the protocol from days of checking pay as you go mobile phone credit.

As such USSD provided a great toll free solution. In the first ever USSD integration with Twilio, we enabled a two way flow between NRC and beneficiaries. Asking a series of questions, NRC beneficiaries select the answers by pressing the corresponding number buttons on their phones.

At the end of the flow, they’re given the opportunity to request a call back and all of the information is then presented as a case in Flex.

The future

"Working with Zing, we’ve just seen our use of Twilio expand and expand. We thought we were going to build a hut and we built a skyscraper. It’s been really, really spectacular and really cost effective."

Christopher Hoffman
Global Project Manager, NRC

We are extremely proud of our work together and look forward to many more opportunities to help the NRC carry out its extraordinary work. If you're able to do so, please consider clicking below and making a donation to a fantastic cause.

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