With our latest release we’ve improved the flow of your Messaging (Live Chat and SMS/Texting) settings page, while also exposing new settings to our users. We think you’ll enjoy the ease of navigation and access to some settings and tools previously only available to the iCarol team.
These settings are still found in the same location, by first clicking on ‘Messaging’ in the main iCarol menu. Next, you’ll click on “Instant Messaging and SMS Settings’ in the upper right of that screen. Previously these were two separate links that would take you to two separate settings pages. Now this is a single link taking you to a single page where you can navigate through both Live Chat and SMS Settings.
Once you arrive on the settings page, you’ll find a tabbed layout to access various settings. Before changing any settings, you’ll first need to select the Portal to which your selections should apply. Your organization may only have a single Live Chat or SMS service with iCarol, but if you’ve added on additional services then you will find these portals listed in the drop down menu.
On the ‘General Settings’ tab, shown above, you can decide what terminology is used to reference your Chat Specialist within the chat conversation, and also decide what security levels can monitor chats, see all active conversations, and who can disable Messaging or a particular portal.
The final set of settings in the top section of the page allow you to:
- Decide whether or not visitors can chat anonymously
- Choose whether or not to enforce geographic restriction so that only visitors in certain locations can chat with you
- Prevent visitors from typing until the counselor joins
- Hide a visitor’s IP address
- Disable geographic fields
- Disable the ability for users to create logins for repeated use
The lower part of the ‘IM Settings’ tab includes a feature where you can upload custom Online or Offline images to replace the default images offered by iCarol. This means your organization can design your own Online/Offline images that fit with your branding or make use of your logo or other images easily identifiable with your agency. Lastly, decide which fields should be available and/or required at registration, and also set specific coverage areas to be allowed access to the chat, should you choose to enforce geographic restriction.
On the ‘SMS Settings’ tab you’ll find mostly familiar settings that were accessible under the previous layout. Here you can determine all the auto responses for the selected Portal, including the important responses that will describe the Opt-in and Opt-out procedures to your visitor. Here you’ll also enter any mobile numbers you plan to use to test your SMS service, and finally you’ll find new settings to enable geographic restriction and hide a visitor’s full mobile phone number. On this page you can also enter coverage areas should you choose to enforce geographic restriction.
Finally on the last tab, Standard Messages, you will set all the pre-written greetings that should be available for use by your Chat Specialists. These standard messages can be set by Portal, and for Live Chat, SMS, or both. Once entered these messages can also be edited or deleted as needed.
We hope you’ll find this new layout even more user friendly and easy to navigate than before. Additionally, access to new tools and settings offer even more control over how your Messaging service works and grants immediate access to make important changes that once had to be submitted to our Support Team. We believe this expanded access will further strengthen your service as you offer these new and important communication channels to your community.
Should you have questions or need assistance understanding or using these settings, don’t hesitate to contact our Support Team for assistance.
With each of our regular releases to iCarol we include enhancements, new tools, or new features. Our next release, tentatively scheduled to occur later today, includes many items, a few of which we’d like to highlight for you.
Search your Chatboard
The Chatboard is an included feature with any iCarol system and it’s a great way to improve communication at your helpline. Managers and staff can create and moderate forums for discussion, and volunteers and other members can add their thoughts and take part in the conversation. Decide upcoming training dates, debate hot topics, coordinate on-call coverage, and more. The chatboard promotes an ongoing, living dialogue as opposed to circulating printed memos that offer only one-sided information sharing. It also reduces email clutter, taking the place of mass emails and numerous reply all responses landing in your inbox. And all of this communication is enjoyed within the security and protections of iCarol, so sensitive or confidential conversations are limited to only those with access to your system.
Email did have a leg up on the Chatboard in that emails could be searched and filtered in a way our Chatboard didn’t support — until now. With this week’s release you can opt to turn on search functions within your Chatboard that will enable users to search and find posts more quickly — perfect for those of you who use your Chatboard regularly and may have logged dozens or hundreds or posts over time.
Admins can decide whether or not they wish to allow this search function. To turn it on you’ll simply navigate to Admin Tools on your left menu, click the Tools tab, and then take a look under the ‘Communication Features’ heading. There you turn on the Chatboard search function by checking the ‘Enable Chatboard Search’ box. Don’t forget to click the ‘Save all settings’ button found at the top of the page.
And with that, the feature is turned on. When you next navigate to your Chatboard you’ll see a search bar above your list of forums.
Clicking ‘Advanced search’ will pop open more options. Here you can select a time frame to search within, filter by certain forum or by a particular user.
Data Export Queue
Users with an Admin security level, or others granted special permissions, can export data from their iCarol system. This includes, among other things, Shift information, Volunteer and Staff user profiles, Call Report Form data, and Resource data. The export files are in .csv format and can be imported into a number of programs for viewing or analysis, Microsoft Access or Excel, for example. Columns of data can easily be sorted or filtered using the tools of these programs, and users with a more advanced grasp of these programs can further manipulate data via pivot tables or write queries to analyze the data that’s been logged.
Depending upon the amount of data being exported, some extracts are available on demand, while others have to compile in the background and the user will be notified when they’re ready for download. We’re very mindful of the importance of these exports, and balance that knowledge with the need to reduce the performance impact on our web servers and provide a top notch user experience for everyone. Our latest move to do just that is to adjust the queuing process for Resource exports. With this release, databases with 1,000 or more resource records will now be queued and processed systematically rather than being available for immediate download.
For a full list of the enhancements coming with our next release, or to review items included in past releases, check out the ‘Release history and plans’ section of your Admin Dashboard. When reading the information keep in mind that descriptions can sometimes be technical in nature, and some items may not be applicable to your particular iCarol system. If you have questions or concerns, please contact our Support Team.
It’s that time again! Our next Quarterly Enhancement Review Webinar will be happening soon: Thursday April 21st at 1pm EDT.
In this webinar we’ll review some of the features released to iCarol in recent months including:
- New ways to engage with your community
- Flexibility in resource record management
- Greater control over user capabilities
We’ll also discuss how each of these new features can be used in your day-to-day work, and how they can improve and expand your service offerings.
The webinar is typically most beneficial and interesting to current iCarol clients who are Program Managers or Directors and use iCarol at an Admin security level, or those who are considering subscribing to iCarol. That said, all are welcome to attend.
This is part of our commitment to providing excellent communication about iCarol capabilities, updates, and enhancements on a regular basis. We hope you’ll join us!
Click here to Register
Interested, but can’t make it on the 21st? No worries, we’ll have the recording available on our website shortly after the live broadcast.
Available space is filling up fast! If you haven’t already, please be sure to register for our Quarterly Enhancement Review scheduled for next Wednesday January 6th at 12pm EDT.
Because iCarol is a web-based program, our software is updated and new features deployed via regular releases. In this webinar we plan to review some of our best and most useful features from recent months, and give you a few exclusive sneak peeks at features being released very soon. Just some of the advantages of these new tools? You can:
- Improve your chat and text service delivery
- Increase productivity and efficiency when providing resource and referral services
- Enhance communication within your networks
- Meet your follow-up mandates with less impact on your staff
- Gather data from the public, your clients, potential volunteers and others via new channels
- And more!
We hope you can join us next week and hear in person about all the latest tools that help your daily workflow. Please click the link below to register. Can’t join us on the 6th? The webinar recording will be up on our site shortly after the webinar ends.
Click here to Register
You may have noticed some new tabs and tools recently added to your Repeat Caller Profiles. Here’s a look at what they can do.
The Referrals tab shows the most recent referrals from your resource database that were attached to Call Report forms filled out for this caller. They’re listed with the most recent referrals at the top, and older referrals further down the list. Clicking on the Date will take you directly to the finished Call Report where this referral was attached. Clicking on the name of the referral will take you directly to that resource record.
This is a quick way to see what referrals have recently been suggested to your caller, so you can ask them if those referrals have been helpful, or prompt discussions about progress in their situation or treatment plans.
The Follow-ups tab shows approximately 50 of the most recent Follow-up Activities scheduled on Call Reports filled out for the caller. The view here shows the Date on which the Follow-up is due, Status, and Subject line for a quick summary. Like the Referrals tab, each Date is a clickable link that will take you directly to the Call Report form where this Follow-up Activity was assigned.
This can be useful in a number of ways, because even repeat callers can benefit from follow-up calls. Some experts have suggested that receiving a call directly from the helpline during times of high stress or crisis can help repetitive users of the service better respect boundaries or comply with call limits. This list provides a quick way to see how many activities are set up for this caller, the frequency at which they’re being scheduled, and whether they’ve been completed or not.
Public Resource Directory Activity
Each caller profile has a field where an Email can be entered.
We can also enable the capability for visitors to your Public Resource Directory (PRD) to create accounts and save lists. (Contact our Support Team if you’d like to have this enabled for your PRD)
If this client were to create an account on your Public Resource Directory using the same email indicated in their profile, information about when their PRD account was created, when they last logged in to your PRD, and their saved Resource records is shared on the Website tab of the profile.
If you’d like to track this information for any PRD user, our Support Team can set up a process where each new PRD account created will automatically create a Caller Profile in your system. Just ask us to enable this capability for you.
We hope you’ll enjoy using these new features of the Caller Profile. If you encounter any questions, please reach out to the Support Team for help.
One key feature of iCarol is the ability to link and share service delivery with other helplines in a variety of ways. Historically a common partnership scenario involves call centers who pass some or all of their calls to other iCarol-using centers either as after-hours contracts, or on an as-needed basis for overflow. iCarol accommodates these partnerships with call report sharing capabilities. Much the same with resources, centers can share resource databases with others who may be taking their calls, or to better service the needs of help-seekers with a wider range of potential services to refer them to, or through setting up provincial and state-wide resource databases to be accessed by a network of helplines who can all take part in maintaining these resources, thus reducing burden to each individual center.
These same principles of sharing volume to benefit centers and clients alike also extends to iCarol Messaging, and in recent month’s we’ve made improvements in this arena.
As an example, one nationwide network using iCarol was using a sort of round-robin approach in how to route chats to the centers who were members of that network. Visitors would arrive to the website and click through to chat, and from there they’d be routed to one of the centers based on the schedule, and the coverage area of the center. Once they were properly routed, they’d arrive at that center’s registration page and after completing registration they’d appear in just that center’s messaging queue.
There are some challenges to this approach, namely:
- The routing system didn’t take counselor availability into account so chats may be routed but the destination center may be overwhelmed with other work and short on counselors to take chats
- The visitor was visible just in the iCarol system to which they were routed
- Registration pages may have a different look and feel, depending on the center to which the visitor was sent
- Lack of control over the data being collected by individual centers
- Statistics could not be run in real-time; they had to be aggregated first
Our developers have been working on a new approach for this network, and they’re currently using it to much success during the pilot period. So, how does the approach work now? The network is using a single shared “portal” made available to the participating centers in their iCarol systems, rather than routing the chats as it did before. This means:
- Standardized registration pages make for a more consistent look and feel, and better branding for the network
- Pre-written messages, reporting forms, and data collection are standardized
- The network system directly hosts and controls their own data, so they get better reporting capabilities
- Chats are visible to any center serving the visitor’s area, meaning better load balancing and shorter wait times for visitors, fewer abandoned chats
- Chats are clearly marked as being from the network, but appear in the same queue as the center’s other local chats for ease of use
We’re excited to say that this pilot period has gone very well and the network is enjoying the benefits of the shared portal technology.
We’d welcome the opportunity to talk to you about your network whether it’s provincial/statewide, or national, to see how this functionality could improve and streamline your messaging services and benefit all your participating centers and visitors alike. Current iCarol users, please open a case with us, or if you’re not using iCarol yet please contact us to learn more!
March has been another month of improvements and enhancements released in iCarol. Here’s a review of what’s new this month.
Follow-ups and Surveys: Now easier
We understand the challenges with conducting Follow-ups and Quality Surveys, and new options on the pages that house those to-dos are meant to help streamline that work.
There, you’ll see new sort options as well as a new text search tool. It’s similar to enhancements we had made recently to the Volunteer and Staff page. We’d love to hear what you think of these improvements.
Categories and Keywords: New name, same feature
You may have noticed that in iCarol we use the terms “keywords” and “categories” throughout the software — those are actually the same thing. We’ve started making that verbiage more consistent, so over time we’ll standardize on the term “category.” That is, any place that says “keyword” will eventually say “category.” There’s no change in function here, just making the wording more consistent. It’ll take us a little while to find all mentions in the software, so please bear with us as we make this move towards naming consistency.
Resources: Search multiple custom categories
Speaking of categories, if you have custom categories for your resources, we have a new, optional, search tool that will let you conduct category searches on up to three categories simultaneously.
Those of you using the taxonomy are already familiar with this feature; what’s new is that this is now an option for those not using the taxonomy.
If you’d like this tool turned on, please create a support case. There’s no added charge.
In Development: Public Resource Directory
We’ve been hard at work in our labs for a while now overhauling our tool that lets you add a resource search page to your website – the Public Resource Directory. Many clients currently use that feature to allow people in their communities to find resources and attract them to their website.
Work is progressing nicely, and I thank all those who have offered suggestions. We’ve heard you loud and clear, and the new capabilities are shaping up nicely. We’ll soon have some early screens to share with anyone who’s interested in providing feedback. If you’re not already on the list of those who’d like to participate, please drop me a line at .
Our engineers are also forging ahead with streamlining counselor workflow for instant messaging and text messaging. We’ll be sure and let you know well in advance before we make any changes. If anyone wants to be on the list of those who will test it out — and thereby get a sneak peak and provide input on screens and functionality — please . Thanks to those who have already signed up.
We understand how important the follow-up process is at your helpline. There are many different reasons to follow-up with a help seeker after your initial conversation has ended. Safety planning and ongoing contact with support systems are extremely important for people who are having thoughts of suicide. Or perhaps you’d like to see if the referrals a caller was given were able to help them. Many centers also use a follow-up call as an opportunity to conduct a satisfaction or quality assurance survey.
Whatever reason you are following up with a client, our follow-up activity within a call report form makes it easy to schedule these follow-ups. You can collect the important information you’ll need to conduct the follow-up call, not just the person’s name and phone number but important information to preserve confidentiality, like knowing whether or not it’s okay to leave a voicemail, or to say where you’re calling from if a third party answers the phone. Your volunteers can even sign up for an email notification to tell them a follow-up call has been scheduled and assigned to them. There’s also a handy “inbox” on the main calls page where they can quickly navigate to the list of follow-ups that are scheduled.
With our next release we’ll be launching improvements to the pages that list Follow-ups and Surveys due. Those pages, as always, are accessed from the Calls menu. Here are highlights of the changes, which you’ll see soon:
- New arrows on the top bar let you change the sort order of each column: call report form number, due date, client name, phone worker, assigned to, and subject.
- To make the date column sortable, that’s now in YYYY/MM/DD format.
- A new search box lets you more quickly find the call reports you need by typing in a search term.
- You can still reassign followups, but it looks a little different — the pulldown is gone. Instead, please just click on the “assigned to” name, and then you’ll see the list of names from which you can choose.
We hope this enhancement helps save time in your daily work; making it so you can quickly and efficiently find the information you need when conducting follow-up interactions.
2015 is already off to a great start. We've already launched one new feature, made some enhancements to the Volunteers and Staff page, and that’s just the start of what we have planned for this year.
Internal Chat – Newly Available
Have you had a chance to try out our new Internal Chat feature? It’ll let you exchange short, typed messages with colleagues right from within your secure iCarol screen.
We’re pretty excited about this one, and have gotten great feedback already. Some of us — not naming names — might have even blushed a little at the kind compliments you’ve sent our way. Folks have told us it’s sure helped them improve internal communications in their centers.
If you’re an administrator, you can turn this feature on whenever you’re ready. For quick instructions, please click on the Help button on the bottom left of your iCarol screen to find short videos. Help Articles are also coming soon – look under the Volunteers & Staff category.
Thank you to those of you who participated in focus groups and pre-release testing. We value your thoughtful feedback, which helps us build useful features.
This feature is available now in all iCarol systems, at no extra charge. It’s part of our ongoing effort to help you help others.
Volunteer – Staff Page Enhancements — Newly Available
Search & Sorting: Ever need to quickly see who would be able to cover a Tuesday afternoon shift? Who prefers text messaging shifts? Or who started in 2010? Maybe you want to quickly locate a particular person’s profile? Check out our new search facility on the main Volunteer and Staff page. It’s on the right-hand side, just above the list of personnel. Also you can now sort the columns on that page using the arrows next to the column names.
Tag Skills & Achievements for Multiple People at Once: Say you’ve done a CPR training, attended by 30 of your colleagues, and you’d like to document their participation in the Skills & Achievements area. Gone are the days when you’d have to go into each individual profile to do that. Instead, put a checkmark next to the names you’d like to tag, then scroll down to the bottom of the list and click on the new link that lets you tag all people at once.
Check out our blog from earlier this week that shows some screenshots of these enhancements.
Messaging with Visitors – Enhancements in the works
We’re busy in our labs these days building ways to streamline your messaging workflow. Those of you who use both Text Messaging and Instant Messaging know the screens are pretty much twins, so there will be improvements in both workflows.
The biggest change is that the messaging session will be conducted right in the report form – no longer will conversation occur in a separate pop-up. The whole process is more intuitive; we expect it ought to expedite training.
The improvements not only cut down on the number of “clicks” in your workflow – freeing up more time to spend with your visitors – but will also let you more quickly find resources using the full search filters you’ve come to know and love. And those of you using the taxonomy will be able to tag referrals in messaging the same way you do for referrals on calls.
Rest assured, we pledge to keep you up-to-date on expected availability dates and will provide a variety of materials to help with a transition to this improved workflow.
Please if you’re interested in testing out the improved workflow while it’s still in development. We’d love to get your feedback and hear your suggestions as we put the finishing touches on this over the next few weeks. I’d give you logins to our test system – the tests won’t impact your production system.
Public Resource Directory – Enhancements in the works
Our Public Resource Directory feature offers you a turn-key way to let visitors to your website search your carefully-curated resource database. Built-in, real-time reports let you keep on top of searches popular in your community. Now we’re actively working to make that feature even better: Easier searches, more precise results, more intuitive screens, and some great new capabilities.
Stay tuned for more news. If you’d like to be part of the focus groups and testing for these enhancements, please . Thanks to all who have volunteered already.
Our clients make some excellent suggestions for features that they’d like us to add to iCarol. We’re excited to announce that one popular request is making its way to iCarol very soon.
We’re just putting the finishing touches on a new feature which will let you exchange instant typed messages with your colleagues, right from within iCarol. We’re calling this “Internal Chat” and Admins will be able to control if/when to introduce this feature to your team. Admins will also be able to control who can use it, on a person-by-person basis. This new Internal Chat feature will be available to all subscribers at no extra charge.
This feature will use familiar logic and work similarly to other chat applications you’ve probably seen and used before, making it really intuitive and easy to start using right away. You’ll be able to create “Buddy Lists” and add and label different groups of buddies in your list to keep things nice and organized. You’ll be able to chat one-on-one, or in a group. These are just a few of the functions.
A select group of iCarol clients have been testing the feature for us. Here’s what they’re saying:
“The Internal Chat feature allows our Specialists to reach out to a supervisor or the resource staff for assistance without having to put a caller, who is in crisis, on hold. This is definitely a useful tool for those of us who are not all seated in the contact center. Thank you iCarol for always introducing new features to help with call handling, as well as reporting.” – Cheryl at Crisis Center Tampa Bay
“It’s definitely a much needed feature, as volunteers/staff in many agencies cannot communicate out loud during calls or chats, or are located far from each other, or even in different buildings/location. So it is a secure internal communication network.” – Elena at IMALIVE
“iCarol’s Internal Chat is a valuable tool that has allowed us to connect with staff at other sites with ease! The simplicity of this Chat platform has decreased barriers to communication that our staff experience while working in different offices.” – Maureen at NEED2
Please keep an eye on the Dashboard for notification that the feature is available. Of course when the feature is launched, we’ll be providing you with plenty of information and how-to’s in the form of Help Articles, Tutorial Videos, and a few Webinars, too.
We’re really excited to release this to all of our clients next week so you can start using it. It’s another example of how we’re committed to enhancing the product to help you meet the challenges of your demanding job.