It’s been a busy year here at CharityLogic, as we’ve added lots of new and enhanced features to iCarol. Below are a few of our favorites. If you’d like more information on how to use any of these, please check the Help section of your iCarol system to access videos and articles, or contact our support team via the case management links, also found in that Help section.
You can send followups via text message. This does not require a subscription to our text messaging add-on (just a fee based on text usage), but if you do have a texting subscription, you could use your iCarol system to respond via text to replies you receive from visitors.
You can now send text messages to colleagues from within iCarol, and users can designate if they’d prefer to receive automated reminders – such as upcoming shift reminders — via text message instead of or in addition to via email. Here too, this does not require a subscription to text messaging, and will only incur a text usage fee.
Greater resource search success:
If you use iCarol’s Public Resource Directory to let visitors search your resource database, you could improve their search results with a new tool that lets you associate colloquial terms (“I’m hungry”) to terms in your database (“food pantries”). Clients using this — this method is called Folksonomy — tell us they’ve seen stellar results. Find controls for this Folksonomy tool in the Resources> Manage Resources screen, in the Taxonomy column. There’s no additional charge to adjust the folksonomy controls for your Public Resource Directory.
- Instant Messaging: The counselor screen has a new streamlined design.
- Instant Messaging: Would you like to have us customize your Visitor Chat screens and Chat Now button, so the colors and graphics better match your website? Please contact support (there is a one-time charge for this).
- Instant Messaging and Text Messaging: We’ve improved the ability to let partners handle messaging sessions for each other, which also streamlines how partners in a collaborative messaging environment can share duties responding to visitors. If you’ve wanted to add a messaging service to your center, but are concerned about having adequate staffing levels, you could consider using this feature to partner with another iCarol-using center — or multiple centers — who could help field your messaging visitor requests.
- Text Messaging: If you’d like a texting number that connotes a wider geographic range than a number with a typical area code might imply, we now offer texting numbers with toll-free prefixes. Despite the name, these toll-free numbers don’t cost less to use than “regular” texting phone numbers, but to some folks, they connote a more universal service area. As a bonus, we have acquired a nice stock of such texting numbers attractive to help centers, crisis centers, and 2-1-1s. We’ll be happy to let you select from that stock to use with your iCarol texting service on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Automated Resource Verification:
Enhancements include the ability to see the results of verification emails sent, a useful new screen that lets you sort and filter responses, and the ability to save settings for future use.
We’ve extended the functionality of the tool that lets your developers, with your permission, tap into your iCarol-hosted data to create whatever you’d like them to build.
Do your call-takers and/or visitors sometimes prefer to work in a language other than English? Please ask us how we can set your system to function nicely in more than one language, letting you toggle between languages on the fly. You can even store resources in multiple languages, too.
Many of iCarol’s screens now look even better on mobile devices. This comes in handy, for example, when volunteers and staff would like to sign up for shifts directly from a smartphone.
Assign taxonomy terms to multiple resources concurrently. We’re always looking for ways to reduce the number of mouse clicks needed to complete a task, and this new feature sure speeds up the resource editing process.
Enhanced resource management features:
When you create a printable document (.pdf) of an agency record, that document now includes the Agency’s child Program and Site records. Handy for “manual” verification and more!
Custom text fields are now searchable, helping you locate resources more quickly and accurately.
Calculate your resource database’s “complexity” and view a report estimating annual person-hours required to maintain your database. This may come in handy as you plan out your staffing needs in the new year.
We’ve added a handful of text messaging usage reports, and the aforementioned Resource Complexity Report.
We’ve added Admin dashboard access to release notes, which detail enhancements to iCarol on an ongoing basis. This list, in addition to the dashboard, is a great place to look to keep current on the ever-expanding list of enhancements.
There are a whole lot more video tutorials, to help you get the most out of your iCarol subscription.
Admins now have editing control of nearly all aspects of call report forms. Make changes instantly and easily.
More recently we’ve been busy in our labs finishing an Internal Chat tool, which we expect to release in the next few weeks. This tool lets anyone with access to your system exchange short, typed messages with each other, and Admins have total control over who can use this.
if you’d like to test this out in your system now and have an advance peek. Otherwise, we’ll keep you posted on the system-wide launch date via the Dashboard, which is where we’ll continue to post all enhancements as they become available.
It’s sure been a productive year, and we’ve got lots in store for 2015. We welcome your input, and expect to conduct phone-based focus groups with clients throughout the year on topics such as the Public Resource Directory, Messaging, Statistics, and more. Please
if you’d like to participate in those, or any other topic. We truly do want to hear your ideas on how we can improve the software to help you help others.
Recently Vinh and I attended the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems annual conference in Atlanta, GA. As always it was a great crowd and we had fun seeing so many friendly faces, catching up with our friends, clients, and colleagues, and hearing about what everyone’s been up to. Here we are at our booth, waiting to tell everyone in the exhibitor’s hall all about iCarol Helpline Software.
A true highlight was the reception on Monday night, held at the Georgia Aquarium, an amazing and beautiful place. If you visit the Atlanta area it’s a great attraction to check out.
On Tuesday night we had a great time with some folks at the Atlanta Braves game, though unfortunately the home team lost against the Mariners 5-7.
And of course, there were lots of great presentations and exhibits to check out at the conference. We enjoyed 211 Ontario’s presentation on Service Delivery from the Community up. With 7 call centers, 36 data providers, and 500,000 calls per year, it’s quite an impressive group that we’re proud to be associated with.
There’s a lot of discussion about “Open Data” with various initiatives underway, and iCarol is involved in all the discussions and brainstorming on that topic. We’ll have more to share about this topic and our involvement in the coming weeks.
California 211 presented information on the Kinship Navigator project which utilizes the iCarol API. In short, people search the Kinship Navigator system on the iFoster server, which is totally separate from and unrelated to iCarol. When a user searches the iFoster server on that website, it realizes there’s information in the participating iCarol systems that may fit that person’s search, and so with the details and nuances existing via the iCarol API, iFoster servers reach out via iCarol API to the four different participating iCarol systems and collects appropriate and authorized resources, then sends them back to the iFoster system for the person searching that website. This all happens seamlessly and in a matter of seconds. To hear a little more about this you can check out our recent webinar on iCarol’s Resource Tools (skip to the 36:10 minute mark if you want to hear specifically about this project). The technical ins and outs of understanding how an API works can be daunting, and so there were lots of questions. One audience member posed the analogy, “So is an API sort of like when a cashier at the front desk hollers back to the store room to bring them a can of beans, and the stock boy brings it to the cashier who then sells it to the customer?” And yes, that’s a great analogy!
The Orange County 211 presentation on their public website revisions was fantastic. With just a few small tweaks in how they use iCarol’s Public Resource Directory, including the addition of Folksonomy, they increased their website traffic by 108% in two months, with no changes in their marketing at all.
And finally a workshop on Resource Database Assembly: The Next Generation, presented a very interesting notion on Resource Complexity. It was so inspiring that it’s going to result in a new feature to iCarol, more details on that soon!
AIRS put on a really great conference this year, and in case you’re interested they’re making a collection of photos from the conference publicly available here. Thanks to everyone who stopped by our booth to say hi, and of course to the new friends we made if you want to learn more about iCarol we’d love to hear from you. Give us a call,
or join an upcoming webinar to learn more about us and our features.
When people in the public are searching your public website for a resource that can help them, it can sometimes lead to frustration that they are getting no results. When you look closer at how they are searching, it becomes clear that they aren’t familiar with the way that resources are named or categorized. In other words, they are expressing a need, like “I am hungry” but the resources in your database are represented as services, like “Food pantries”.
In fact in commonly used categorization schemes, such as the AIRS Taxonomy or a custom categorization scheme built directly by your helpline, you won’t find the word “hungry” in any of the categories, terms or definitions. Multiply this by all the possible needs people have, and you can quickly see how a great deal of the population won’t get connected to valuable services. Other example searches are “I need a ride to work”, “My family needs a place to stay” and “I lost my job yesterday”.
So how can these help seekers, who are expressing a need, be connected with the services that can assist them? Clearly, we need to build a bridge between the two approaches.
The solution we’re employing in iCarol’s Public Resource Directory is called the Folksonomy (an intentional mashup of the word Folk, as in “colloquial”, and Taxonomy).
In a nutshell, it helps find results if the search did not match an Agency or Program name, a taxonomy term or the officially defined synonyms for taxonomy terms (called “use references”). It does this by picking up colloquial words or phrases in a search and corresponds them to taxonomy terms, and then performs the search for resources assigned to those taxonomy terms.
A perfect example would be if someone typed “I am really hungry” into the search box. The Folksonomy fills the gap that normally would be mediated by a helpline’s phone worker on a call by connecting the expressed need to one or more taxonomy terms, like Food Pantries and Ongoing Emergency Food Assistance.
We have been testing this approach with clients and it is yielding exceedingly good results. Those clients also have an administrative interface to find recent searches yielding no results, and then to make Folksonomy entries so that future such searches will instead yield the right results.
Here is a scenario where the word “ride” is a Folksonomy entry corresponding to several taxonomy terms. If you had performed this search before we implemented the Folksonomy you would have gotten zero results. Instead you now get a number of transportation-related resources:
By building that bridge between the layman’s terms used by your web visitors and the detailed categorization of the 211 Taxonomy, iCarol’s Folksonomy will greatly improve the ability for your Public Resource Directory searchers to find what they are looking for and ultimately get the services they need.
We’ll have more information to share about implementing iCarol’s Folksonomy in the coming weeks. Want to learn more about managing your Resources with iCarol? Join us for our Resource Management Webinar on May 20th at 2pm EST.