Zendesk + ACPC: Digitizing support for agriculture in the Philippines
The Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Credit Policy Council (DA-ACPC) was looking to ensure that stakeholders’ queries and requests on frontline services were addressed within the required period as prescribed by the Anti-Red Tape Authorirty (ARTA). The agency’s adoption of an online helpdesk platform like Zendesk has ensured its compliance with legislative timelines and improved customer service. This led to a significant improvement in response times and a stellar 91 percent customer satisfaction score since it was launched last October 2022.
We were able to comply with tight legislative requirements while maintaining excellence in customer service.
Director Norman William Kraft
Chair of the Committee On Anti-Red Tape at DA-ACPC
The ACPC Online Helpdesk which serves as the ACPC's public assistance desk aims to streamline and make responses to inquiries more efficient and effective.
Mr. Justine Trey R. Cubos
Project Head of the Online Helpdesk at DA-ACPC
Department of Agriculture - Agricultural Credit Policy Council (DA-ACPC)
Average response time
Number of agents
Monthly queries per agent
The DA-ACPC is mandated to promote farmers and fisherfolk’s access to sustained financial services. It was created in 1986 to rehabilitate the ailing formal credit system of the country in order to help farmers and fisherfolk rise from poverty. From reviewing the economic viability of agricultural credit programs to adopting risk cover mechanisms for its financing initiatives, it has helped bolster the Department of Agriculture’s priority programs. “DA-ACPC’s mission is to develop and advocate policies and orchestrate programs that will enable farmers and fisherfolk to access sustainable financial services,” explains Jocelyn Alma R. Badiola, executive director of the DA-ACPC. “To do that, we partner with government and private financial institutions. Our goal is to not only provide one-time financial support but to make credit sustainable in the long run.”
Navigating the limitations
However, much like the agricultural sector, DA-ACPC also faced its share of challenges. While ensuring the seamless delivery of its programs to the intended beneficiaries was paramount, legal compliance was just as important. “In the Philippines, all government agencies under the executive branch have long been required to establish their own respective helpdesks and digitize our services,” Mr. Cubos explained. The legislation called for timely responses to inquiries—three days to respond if the concern is simple, up to seven days if it’s complex, and up to 20 days for highly technical concerns. This prompted DA-ACPC to significantly strengthen its approach in engaging with stakeholders.
Moreover, the limitation of face-to-face interactions during the COVID-19 pandemic meant that the helpdesks needed to be ready soon for uninterrupted communication. DA-ACPC hence searched for a solution they could rely on to deploy a seamless customer experience. “It’s one thing to come up with a program, but another challenge to make it work,” adds Dir. Kraft, chair of the committee on anti-red tape at DA-ACPC.
Digitizing the countryside
The DA-ACPC knew that having an online helpdesk would be more effective in serving customers than a physical one. Although DA-ACPC initially planned to build an online helpdesk from scratch, it soon became apparent that a ready-to-use, integrated solution was more feasible to meet a tight deadline.
“Once Zendesk was selected to be our helpdesk partner, we wasted no time,” recalls Kraft. To ensure a smooth transition, the DA-ACPC team conducted numerous meetings, familiarizing themselves with Zendesk and the functionalities of Guide, Support, and Chat. The result was the establishment of the ACPC Online Helpdesk, built using the Zendesk bot called AVA which stands for DA-ACPC Virtual Assistant. “Through this online platform, clients may submit queries about DA-ACPC’s frontline services, inquire about credit programs, access answers to frequently asked questions, talk to agents, and chat with AVA to assist them with their requests,” Mr. Cubos said. “We set up the platform to cater to all our core functions—policy formulation, program implementation, credit assistance, capacity building, communication, information systems, and data sharing, among others. As there are different functions in each unit, we made sure that all units had an agent involved. This helped us ensure that our helpdesk would be engaging and seamless,” added Mr. Cubos.
Reaping the digital harvest
With the helpdesk, DA-ACPC was able to deploy a solution quickly while maintaining excellent customer service. “Our agents have all the information at their fingertips, making it easier to communicate program details,” Kraft observes. “By leveraging AVA’s capabilities, we are able to provide customers quick yet accurate responses to their questions, allowing our agents to focus on more value-added tasks. This approach helps us streamline our operations and improve our overall efficiency. The creation of our online helpdesk has strengthened our agency’s compliance with the Anti-Red Tape Act or ARTA law and the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018,” Mr. Cubos added. A centralized, integrated platform has also made it possible for ACPC to monitor tickets, performance, and customer trends, adding a new level of transparency and visibility.
As a result of a more effective support system, customers have gained greater access to information. Following the transformation, people can readily access information or get updates on their loan applications faster, leading to more efficient transactions. Kraft remarks, “We have received positive feedback from farmers and fisherfolk regarding how fast the response time is and how efficient the agents are in answering their concerns. They can now get the information they need quickly and proceed with coordinating with the DA-ACPC’s partner lending conduits.”
Seeing higher customer satisfaction
With 19 agents using Zendesk Support and an average of 90 to 100 queries addressed each month, ACPC’s response time now averages 22 hours. With faster resolution times, there are much less reports of non-compliance of the response timelines set by the government. This has resulted in a customer satisfaction (CSAT) score of 91 percent, an impressive high for a government organization. “Ever since our agency started maintaining an ISO certification for our quality management system, we took to heart our duties and commitment as a customer experience (CX) team. This has resulted in improvement in fulfilling the needs and expectations of our stakeholders,” Kraft added.
For ACPC, promoting sustainable and effective delivery of financial services starts with effective communication and support, and the institution is off to a great start.