In response to the increased use of alternate communication channels for help seekers, many iCarol clients are adding Messaging to their iCarol systems. Using Messaging, you can communicate with your help seekers via chat or text. As with other areas of iCarol, sometimes issues can arise that require making a report to the iCarol Support Team. The preferred method to communicate with the iCarol Support Team is to submit a case via the Online Case Management Tool. Please click here for more information on how to submit a case. When the issue is in regards to iCarol Messaging however, there is another tool that we encourage you to use to report issues with this area of iCarol.
This tool is called the Report Incident Tool and is found at the bottom of the counselor’s screen when addressing a Messaging conversation.
Any user can us this tool to report an issue. When one clicks Report Incident, a small form will appear in a pop-up window. Please enter a concise Subject that describes the issue, and then use the Description text box to further describe the issue in as much detail as possible.
Once the security code is entered, and the “Report Incident” button clicked, a case will be created and sent to the iCarol Support Team. This case will also appear in the Online Case Management tool. All cases created in this manner are named “Messaging Incident #xxxx: Subject”. For example, the name of the incident shown in the screenshot above might be “Messaging Incident #2650: Strange symbols appearing in chat conversation”. The case will be appropriately attributed to your agency. The first available member of the iCarol Support team will respond to the case and begin the investigation of the issue.
The benefit of submitting Messaging cases in this manner is that this tool conveys additional details about the specific Messaging conversation the user was addressing that helps the iCarol Support and Technical teams immensely when investigating issues. Some of the details conveyed include browsers being used, platforms being used, and whether the visitor was using a mobile device. The details can be extremely helpful in investigating and ultimately resolving an issue.
This quick and easy to use tool can be a benefit to you by conveying details “in the moment” so they are not forgotten. It can cut down or eliminate conversations or emails between the user who experienced the issue and an Admin user who wants to report the issue to iCarol Support. It can also mean that issues are reported faster, which could lead to faster investigation and resolution of the issue.
As always, if you have any questions about the Report Incident tool, or anything else, please do not hesitate to contact the iCarol Support team!
We’re getting ever so close to releasing the powerful enhancements to your Call Report Forms and Live Chat and Texting features in iCarol. Take a few minutes to watch our new video!
More than a decade ago when iCarol was first created by two helpline volunteers, Neil and Jackie McKechnie, helpline work was very much based in serving people via the phone. And the phone remains a method of communication to this day for helplines all over the world.
Over the years though, as new technologies grew in popularity and availability, people increasingly turn to channels like chatting, texting, or connecting with services through websites. And helplines need to embrace these new channels to stay relevant and reach more people. The flexibility in iCarol enables helplines to capture important information regardless of the type of contact — our Call Report Forms are used to collect data on interactions, whether they happen over the phone, online, via text, or even at in-person visits from mobile crisis teams or walk-in clinics. But some of the verbiage inside iCarol still centers around calls as a primary service, like the main Calls page, Call reports, and Caller Profiles.
We know that many helplines have expanded services beyond the phone, and that iCarol plays an important role in your documentation of all channels. For that reason, we are considering a name change for the “Calls” section of iCarol to better describe what you do and how you use these features. Please take 2 minutes to give your input about this by taking a brief survey.
One of the great things about Messaging with iCarol is the inclusion of notifications to tell you when a help seeker is waiting to have a chat or texting session with you. Historically these notifications arrive on your computer screen where you’re signed in to iCarol, and you can then promptly assume that new conversation. This ensures that visitors are promptly attended to, helpling them feel heard and cared for.
The drawback to this is, your volunteers and staff can’t always be at their workstation for the entire duration of their shift. They may have work that takes them to places other than the call center, whether that’s down the hallway or across town. Perhaps, like many agencies, your overnight shifts are sleep shifts with staff permitted to sleep or at least doze, either in the office or at their homes, with the understanding that they need to be awake and alert at a moment’s notice. In these and other scenarios, receiving those notifications only at your workstation computer presents a challenge.
But now there’s an additional option available: your chat specialists can receive text message alerts to their mobile phone when a new conversation arrives.
In a system update scheduled to occur today, our Messaging users will be able to set up these notifications to be sent to their volunteers and staff via text message. And to add an additional layer of protection, supervisors or on-call staff can receive escalations if the incoming conversations aren’t assumed promptly. This feature will be available to all Messaging users who host and control their Messaging service, at no additional subscription cost, though it’s important to note that each sent alert will count towards the bundle of texts purchased for that month.
Admin users will need to turn on these mobile alerts and set it up to your specifications. At first this functionality will only be available to our North American clients, but rest assured we are working diligently to bring these same tools to our clients elsewhere in the world as soon as possible. We can also offer this enhancement just to users who host and control their Messaging services, i.e. at this time messaging services which are part of bigger collaboratives that you participate in or share coverage of, where you do not control the messaging settings, are not eligible for the mobile alerts feature. We know how useful and helpful these alerts are, and so we’re working hard to expand the coverage of this tool for an even wider range of iCarol users.
Click the +/- to Expand/Collapse set up instructions and screenshots + -
Our hope is that this additional option for notifying your volunteers of newly arriving conversations will help you provide a high quality, prompt response to your community. We realize that when adding new channels to your service, you’re often asking volunteers to multi-task and provide both your traditional and alternative services simultaneously. Rest assured that in spite of this multi-tasking and wherever their shift duties may take them, these alerts will assist in consistent, complete service delivery.
We also hope these new notifications will help with staffing and service hour decisions. Overnight staff can be better notified of these conversations even if they are not at their workstation, in the event your agency allows sleeping shifts overnight. Additionally, if you are unsure of the best hours in which to provide your new chat or text service, and you want to keep your service open 24/7 for a time to gauge peak service times, these alerts will better help you maintain that ’round the clock coverage, especially if staff are to go about their normal business or even be at their homes for part or all of that period. These mobile alerts will allow new services to keep the service open for extended hours, without needing a person to be tethered to their workstation for that entire period.
If you have any additional questions about this feature, we invite you to reach out to our Support Team.
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.
Another texting success story, this time featuring our friends at Samaritans, was covered in a prominent US news publication.
In April, The Boston Globe highlighted the success of Samaritans’ texting program, which you can read here. According to the report, the organization received more than 300 text messages in February, which was nearly triple the number received in January. They expect to receive upwards of 1,000 text messages per month by this summer as word of the program spreads.
Samartians opted to text-enable their helpline number for the purposes of this program, which is part of its success. Another clear contributor to the volume they’re experiencing is their latest advertising partnership with MBTA in Boston which began in January. The T, as it’s known in Boston, began showing messages on LED notification boards with information such as, “Lonely? Desperate? We can help 24/7″ featuring Samaritans’ number. This and other messages appear periodically between 7am and 9pm on weekdays, and 9am until 9pm on weekends.
While Samaritans and MBTA had an advertising partnership prior to this one, it was MBTA that approached Samaritans last year about expanding the messaging to reach an even larger audience. You can read more about this advertising program in The Boston Globe article.
From all of us at iCarol, we’d like to congratulate Samaritans on the success they’ve had so far, and we wish them all the best with this life-saving program moving forward.
To learn more about texting with iCarol, join one of our Service Alternatives: Live Chat and Texting webinars. If you’d like to learn more about text-enabling your helpline number check out our blog article, and reach out to our support team to get started.
Apple’s QuickTime program enjoyed a long run as one of the most popular plugins used for audio playback. It was recently announced, and confirmed by Apple, that they will no longer support the program for Windows users, due to security vulnerabilities.
Our Messaging users may recognize QuickTime as it relates to the sound effects associated with new incoming chats and arriving messages. Earlier this month, iCarol replaced audio playback with HTML5 Audio Elements. Now, no plugin, including QuickTime, is required to hear the sounds associated with iCarol Messaging *, making our Messaging services even easier to use and implement.
We understand that many reputable sources are strongly urging consumers to uninstall QuickTime due to the security vulnerabilities. We suggest consulting with your IT professionals at your center for guidance and assistance with that process should you choose to take action. We’re committed to providing the safest, most secure systems for our users, so you can rest assured that when you uninstall QuickTime you’ll experience no loss of usability or other negative impact to your iCarol Messaging program.
If you have any questions about this, please don’t hesitate to contact our support team.
Speaking of sounds, we are also considering updating the sounds that iCarol plays when new conversations and messages are received. We would love your feedback and ideas so watch our blog for that discussion coming soon!
* Internet Explorer 9 and above requires a Windows Media Pack to play the files we are using for chimes as native HTML5 Audio.
These past six months, the Ontario Online and Text Crisis Services program has been in a soft launch phase, and on Monday in their monthly newsletter they released some initial data for that period.
Some key findings:
- Total chats and texts through January 31: 4,700
- 73% of visitors are under 25 years old
- Interpersonal and mental health issues were the most common topics of discussion
- Visitors are reporting a decrease in distress following their chat
- 55% of visitors said they wouldn’t contact someone else if they couldn’t reach ONTX
For a full look at the released findings click here, and for future updates be sure to sign up for Distress and Crisis Ontario’s newsletter by emailing your request to .
We thank them for sharing these findings — we are often asked by others looking to add online emotional support to their service what they can expect. Data like this is very helpful as other prepare to make the critical shift of bringing their services online.
We’ve talked before about how sometimes the need for silence will influence people to use texting instead of a voice call. Sometimes silence isn’t preferred, but necessary, such as in this recent instance of a deaf woman who texted 9-1-1 after she noticed some children left unattended at a shopping mall. Luckily texting to 9-1-1 was enabled in her area.
Texting to 9-1-1 is continuing its expansion throughout the United States and Canada. The Canadian Wireless Telecommunication Association has set up an extensive and detailed website giving overview of the Text-to-911 process in Canada.
In the United States, it seems like each month more and more jurisdictions are adding on texting capabilities. A quick scan of recent news articles about texting 9-1-1 in the US produces alerts about the greater Kansas City area, Minnesota, areas in Texas, and northern California. Note that each of those articles was published this week. It all points to rapid expansion of that technology.
Just another sign of the times as we continue to see just how convenient, efficient, and often necessary texting can be when reaching out for help. We hope helplines will take note as this capability expands and explore texting for the helpline service to follow suit. If you want to learn how Texting works in iCarol, please join me for a Messaging webinar sometime!
The Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline is joining the growing list of helplines bringing their service online, as reported by their local media. Read more…
They’re taking on the task of providing online emotional support to the people of Idaho, particularly youth who tend to prefer texting as a way to reach out for help on sensitive topics, and we hope you’ll join us in wishing them much success with this endeavor. Many helplines are facing the realization that these electronic means of communication are not just the norm these days, but increasingly necessary to reach help seekers, and ultimately a channel that’s assisting hotlines in saving more lives.
ISPH is just the latest of so many helplines that are taking this step. Thinking about taking your services online? To find out why this is so important, and the ways in which iCarol can help you meet this challenge head on and be successful, join one of our regular webinars about offering Online Emotional Support using iCarol.