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Navigating the unknown: How contact tracing app Rippl is using Intercom to guide New Zealand into the “new normal”

As lockdown restrictions continue to ease and businesses reopen, the world sits on tenterhooks awaiting a second wave of the pandemic that it hopes will never come.

In New Zealand, mobile-centered solutions company PaperKite put that thought into action when they developed the country’s lifeline to reopening the economy – contact tracing app Rippl. For a time when it launched, Rippl was New Zealand’s most downloaded app, surpassing Facebook and Instagram with over 72,000 downloads in its first week on the market.

Widely adopted by businesses and individuals, Rippl is proving to be a crucial component in the effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 and eradicate the virus in New Zealand – keeping the country connected with the help of its conversational relationship platform, Intercom.

Rippl homepage with Intercom Messenger

The PaperKite team, which is made up of approximately 30 UX researchers, UI designers, and developers, has partnered closely with the Ministry of Health and local government across New Zealand. Together with Wellington and Dunedin City Councils, they rolled out their contact tracing solution to support the country’s residents as lockdown restrictions were lifted and businesses began to reopen.

A race against time

As “Level 2” of lockdown approached, the penultimate level of the roadmap focused on reducing the spread of the virus where public venues and event facilities could reopen, the PaperKite team realized that local businesses were completely uncertain as to how they could trace contacts while they awaited the launch of the official government tracing app.

From conversations with both the government and local business owners, PaperKite discovered that tentative plans for contact tracing included having people write down their details as they entered the premises – which prompted major concerns around privacy and risks associated with multiple people using the same, contaminated pen. The team at PaperKite knew that they needed to build a safe and secure solution to the problem – and fast.

It took PaperKite a seemingly impossible two weeks to bring Rippl to market. It is a privacy-first solution that has since been awarded the highly coveted Privacy Trust Mark by New Zealand’s Privacy Commissioner, John Edwards. “Rippl is an excellent example of privacy by design, with simple and clear communication to users about how their information is handled,” said Edwards. “I am particularly impressed by Rippl’s approach to information collection, which embodies the principle of data minimisation.”

“The day before businesses reopened, all hell broke loose. Business owners had lots of questions about how they should reopen, what the government expected of them, and so much more – Intercom saved us”

New Zealand’s central hub for COVID-19 queries

On the day of its launch, Rippl was the only contact tracing solution on the market endorsed by local governments, so it quickly became a central hub in New Zealand for all COVID-related queries from businesses. Shortly after its launch, it was also promoted by the Ministry of Health.

From day one, the Intercom Business Messenger was live on the Rippl website, helping PaperKite – a team of researchers and designers with no real customer support experience – handle the incredibly large volumes of inbound conversations they were receiving on a daily basis, totalling a whopping 4,850 requests within the first few days. Rob Holmes, Technical Director at PaperKite, explains, “The day before businesses reopened, all hell broke loose. Business owners had lots of questions about how they should reopen, what the government expected of them, and so much more – Intercom saved us.”

“It was hectic, but without the Intercom Custom Bot, it would have imploded”

Prior to launch, the team had programmed Intercom’s Custom Bots with answers to anticipated Rippl-related questions. Throughout the first day, they were able to quickly update the bots in real-time to cover unexpected questions they were receiving. In Rob’s own words, “It was hectic, but without the Intercom Custom Bot, it would have imploded.” PaperKite’s ability to quickly adapt saw them automatically answer an astounding 71.4% of incoming conversations and drive successful sign-ups.Intercom custom bot on Rippl homepage

Given that the nature of PaperKite’s business is app development services, the company has never had a substantial need for an in-house support team. But on launch day of Rippl, they certainly did. In less than a day, almost half of the company was in the Intercom Inbox, where they were triaging and tagging conversations, collaborating with their teammates to provide up-to-date information – in all aspects, on the frontline of Rippl’s support operation.

“Intercom’s intuitive interface and ease of use meant that it took minimal time to get teammates with no support experience up-to-scratch on how to provide great customer support”

Creating a consistent support experience

With businesses unsure of legal requirements for reopening and on a very tight timeline, the team relied on Intercom to manage the highly charged conversations they were seeing. Rob explains, “Being able to be in constant contact with your team is integral when it comes to sensitive and dynamic issues.”

Using Intercom’s Saved Replies feature, the team could update answers as they received information and ensure that they were providing a consistent support experience across the board. Rob says that Intercom’s intuitive interface and ease of use meant that it took minimal time to get teammates with no support experience up-to-scratch on how to provide great customer support. Within no time, the team was in a rhythm and keeping on top of the conversations that showed no signs of slowing, resulting in a lot of happy customers.

“I’ve been looking for an excuse to use Intercom for a long time, because as a customer, it’s a product you get a great experience with”

Planning for the future

According to PaperKite, choosing a support solution for Rippl was easy – Intercom was the obvious choice from the get-go. Having previously interacted with Intercom as a customer, Rob explains, “We chose Intercom because it’s associated with some of the best websites in New Zealand. I’ve been looking for an excuse to use Intercom for a long time, because as a customer, it’s a product you get a great experience with.”

As we settle into the “new normal,” PaperKite will continue to invest in Rippl and ensure the safety of its community. Thanks to Intercom, the Rippl team can remain focused on building out their product offering and looking for opportunities to help other countries in their contact tracing efforts, safely assured that their support needs are covered.

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