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Scaling support at speed for NHS Digital

Zendesk provided tools to help improve the agility and scalability of their customer service to support the growth of the NHS App. Zendesk and Route 101 rolled out solutions that improved response times and enabled the customer support team to cope with a 20,000% increase in enquiries, all in just a four-week period and during a global pandemic.

NHS Digital
“We were able to go live in a matter of weeks. This new system will save countless hours of staff time, as well as provide a more frictionless experience.”

David Hodnett

Head of Operations, NHS App at NHS Digital

“We have greater insight into our customer journey now, helping us plan for future growth more effectively.”

David Hodnett

Head of Operations, NHS App at NHS Digital

NHS App sign ups


Increase in the number of app sign-ups



Leeds, UK




Tickets per month


Weeks from the initial requirement to build


Average handling time


Answerbot resolutions

NHS Digital

From 800,000 to 29 million users

It’s not every day that you wake up to find an astronomical increase in the number of people who are using an app you’ve built; from 800,000 to 29 million, but this is just what happened to NHS Digital in early 2021.

Founded in 2013, NHS Digital has been helping patients to get the best care, supporting clinicians, and using the nation's health data to drive research and transformation in the NHS.

The global COVID-19 pandemic changed the accessibility needs of practice managers and patients, as well as the demand for NHS Digital services. “People were learning for the first time that they could do more of their health transactions online - and we had to change how we interacted with the clinical community. We moved from being proactive with communications and support to reactive to avoid being overwhelmed. There was a huge hunger for information, so we used Zendesk’s tools to make answers quickly accessible” explains David Hodnett, Head of Operations, NHS App.

The demand for NHS Digital’s services soared when NHS Covid Pass was introduced for domestic and international travel. Though citizens initially only accessed the app for their Covid Pass, some went on to explore other empowering capabilities, such as amending their personal information, ordering repeat prescriptions, or registering an organ donation decision.

When old phrases hold true

2020 was not a year to dispute the adage that time and tide wait for no one. When citizens flocked to the NHS App to download their COVID vaccine records, support enquiries grew from around 1,000 to 70,000 contacts a month. Zendesk and Route 101 worked with NHS Digital to quickly transform its approach to ticketing and knowledge sharing for more efficient customer support.

In just four weeks from the first contact, Zendesk and Route 101 designed and rolled out a series of new solutions that enabled the customer support team to handle a 20,000% increase in enquiries.

With a large and active in-house development team, NHS Digital not only completed the implementation of Zendesk’s tools in a short time frame, but they were also able to connect the platform to their existing systems for seamless integration. “We were able to go live in a matter of weeks. This new system will save countless hours of staff time, as well as provide a more frictionless experience,” said David Hodnett, Head of Operations, NHS App.

With the adoption of such an easy-to-use tool and the introduction of automation into their workflows, agents found that they were able to raise customer satisfaction and reduce their own levels of stress. Removing logistical complications from interactions has allowed the primary focus to remain on the quality of interaction between agent and service user.

Scaling in unprecedented times

In the weeks following implementation, the number of app registrations climbed from 800K to 10 million. Using Zendesk’s off-the-shelf solutions for email and help centre improved the speed of query resolution and customer self-service ratios. The additional support of account managers that understood the importance of striving for simplicity amongst the complexities of clinical interactions ensured that the rollout was collaborative and focused on smooth adoption and future potential for improvement.

“Zendesk’s tools provided a quick solution to scale NHS Digital’s service in a clinically appropriate way and help users help themselves” — Andrew Lawson, Senior Vice President, EMEA at Zendesk

Moving forward in a digital world

The NHS has kept its finger on the pulse of the changing needs of the public; using its digital presence as a tool to move the organisation's customer focus from clinical to citizen-centric. The way that the public has contacted NHS Digital has changed from being B2B, contacting a national desk from a GP surgery, to speaking directly via app or website. NHS Digital is keen to use technology to continue to champion good customer experience; with Zendesk, the team has been able to embed more agile practices into their ticket handling.

Automation in email inboxes has helped with the triage process by spotting keywords and using Answer Bot to recommend relevant articles, and where appropriate, directing to self-serve outcomes from existing support content. The number of one-touch responses is currently 3.5 per cent. “With 600 knowledge articles, people have been able to help themselves”, Hodnett tells us. Zendesk Guide has empowered agents to share the latest relevant information quickly, drawing from a vast bank of frequently asked questions, answers, and NHS web pages.

From strength to strength

After a speedy implementation - just four weeks from requirement to build - the team at NHS Digital has succeeded in keeping the resolution time of each incoming request low. Even as the volume of enquiries increases, most are answered within 2 hours and resolved the same day (within 5 hours).

“The simpler it is for NHS support staff to use our platform, the more time they can spend on providing quality, clinically appropriate patient care for citizens using the NHS App. Whether you’re a health organisation, retailer, or financial services company, having the tools to provide this kind of empathetic support is something that customers have come to expect.” — Andrew Lawson, Senior Vice President, EMEA at Zendesk

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