How Testing For All handles complex COVID test queries via Zendesk

Madeline Bennett Profile picture for user Madeline Bennett September 15, 2021 Audio mode
How one not-for-profit org scaled from one to 30 agents in a week and is now processing 3,000 COVID tests per day with the help of Zendesk.

COVID test

When Testing For All launched in April 2020, it was with a mission to provide affordable, accessible and high-quality COVID tests for anyone who needed them. The firm’s two founders, James Monico and Kelly Klifa, hadn’t actually met in real life before deciding to set up a COVID testing company as a not-for-profit venture.

Monico - an engineer who founded tech company Cloudreach - and Klifa - an entrepreneur who had previously advised medical organizations - met via a LinkedIn post expressing a desire to do something useful in response to the pandemic.

After starting trials in April, Testing For All began selling kits last August. The initial launch product was a home antibody test to tell if the user has had COVID or not. This was followed in January 2021 with an immunity tracker, which not only detects COVID antibodies but also whether your vaccination has been successful.

The organization also targets the travel market, offering all the various tests required for entry to different countries, and provides lateral flow tests for an onsite client in London. Dan Allen, Customer Support Lead at Testing For All, added:

We’re using some of the top-quality tests available, and from some of the best labs across the country. When we look at some of our competitors, and if we look at travel testing, there are providers on the government lists that sell, in essence, exactly the same test as us but it's a bit more of a fancy box. For something that we would charge £89 for, they would charge £574 for.

With that not-for-profit status, we're able to sell our tests, especially back when we were first established, far, far cheaper than any of our competitors but not sacrificing quality and overpriced.

Customer needs

Testing For All launched with a team of just five people, and this grew last October when Allen and a customer service agent joined the team. However, when travel testing launched, the organization boomed and so did the customer service team, growing from one to 30 agents. Allen explained:

We were so small that our customer service agent up until that point was dealing with our email contact from customers and our phone contact was being handled by an outsourced team. Then overnight we developed our own omni-channel, completely custom-scaled customer service team and went live in house. So we went from Friday, still being with our outsourcing partner to Monday being live with a fully fledged customer service team, dealing with inbound calls and emails as well as inbound video calls with customers on Zoom.

The organization had been using Zendesk from the start to manage its customer service, chosen for its low cost, quality of service and stability, according to Allen. With the rapid growth of the team, it decided to expand from just email to running its phone system via Zendesk too. The process of increasing the licenses to cover phones, getting the team onto the system and going live took just a week:

For any large call center with that setup you'd be looking at around two months - we did that in seven days.

The organization is currently processing around 3,000 tests per day, with between 1,200 to 1,500 contacts per day into the call center. This is a mix of customers who have already ordered, those who haven't understood the information on and are wanting advice, and those with queries ahead of placing an order.

The Zendesk platform has led to a reduction in handling times from five to six minutes to three to four minutes. The team are also now able to handle a greater volume of customer enquiries at one time, meaning response times decreased to below 15 hours, from as high as 24 hours for a resolution.

Another benefit is that previously customer service agents needed to manually tag every ticket, but the custom ticket fields built into Zendesk mean agents can automatically tag tickets off the back off that. This avoids mismatches where tags have been typed slightly differently and offers more granular reporting about contact reasons and key trends.

The Zendesk Talk wallboard is also proving really useful for managing agents, showing the immediate availability of team members, a link into the ticket they're currently on and offering live listening on their calls.


The platform hasn’t been connected into what Allen refers to as Testing For All’s “jewel in the crown” - its custom-built app, which customers activate their kits on, manage their accounts through and receive their results on. However, it has set up a number of automations in Zendesk to support the app.

An example automation deals with inactivated testing kits. If Testing For All sent out a kit and the customer took their test, sent it back to the lab and throughout that whole process didn't activate the kit, the lab would still recognize the sample ID number and bar code, they would still test it and there would still be a result certificate applied to that sample ID on the app, irrespective of the fact that it hadn't yet been activated.

As the app is integrated into Zendesk, not as a Zendesk Marketplace app but via an API, it then creates a ticket and prompts the agent to contact the owner of that sample ID number to say a result has been received and to activate your kit, please follow these instructions. As soon as the customer has followed those instructions and goes into their account, the result will be there immediately because the system has already tied it to their number, even though the customer didn't activate it first.

It’s all working well, although the scaling up of the Testing for All team has exposed one area of functionality that Allen feels his organization is lacking as a not-for-profit with budget constraints:

We've got quite a large email queue, which we clear every single day, there's never a backlog. But it’s really hard to performance-manage people when they're working emails in real time, because Zendesk doesn't say this agent has worked a hundred tickets or has sent a hundred public replies so far today, unless you pay for the Enterprise package. It’s not available on the Professional.

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