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Scheduling multiple follow-ups to a client

We recently enhanced the “Follow-up Activity” section of call report forms to allow for scheduling several follow-ups at the time that the original form is being filled out. Previously you could add just one initial follow-up activity when first filling out a new call form. Scheduling additional follow-ups was possible, but it required that you first submit and then view or edit the report form before adding additional activities. These additional steps are now unnecessary.

Here’s how this capability works:

    1. If you’re only scheduling one follow-up for the client, do what you have always done, which is to fill out your reporting form, fill out the Follow-up Activity information on the ‘Finish’ tab of the form, and then Submit the form.

    first follow up

    Important Note: If you only want to add one follow-up activity, follow the steps above as written. You DO NOT need to click the “Add New Follow Up” button. If you do, then enter the follow-up details again, two follow-up activities will be created. The Add New Follow Up button is only to be used if you want to add more than one follow-up activity at a time.

    2. If you know at the time the initial report form is being created that this client should receive not one, but several follow-ups, you can schedule several follow-ups at this time, before submitting the form. After scheduling the first follow-up, click the Add New Follow Up button to save this follow-up and create an additional follow-up.

    Add 1st addtl follow up

    3. Once the first follow-up has been scheduled, you’ll see it listed under the Scheduled Follow-ups area. Then, your follow-up activity will be clear once again and you can now schedule an additional follow-up. Once the information is complete, click the Add New Follow Up button as you did before to add this second follow up.

    fill out 1st addtl follow up

    4. You can follow steps 2 and 3 as many times as needed to scheduled a series of follow-ups for this client, before clicking the Submit button once finished. If at any point you make a mistake when filling out follow-up details, the Clear Follow Up button can be used to clear all details entered.

You’ll still be able to add additional follow-up activities in both View or Edit mode of report forms just as you always could, but these new capabilities allow for a more efficient process if you’d like to schedule several follow-ups right from that first, newly created form.

There are many scenarios in which you may know during the first interaction that a help-seeker will want or need several follow-ups. One example is shown in our screenshots above, where a caller presenting with thoughts of suicide may need several follow-ups to stay in touch and help them maintain a safety plan. In fact, many authorities on suicide prevention best practices suggest that ongoing follow-ups from crisis contact centers are an important part of successfully seeing someone safely through a period of intense suicide ideation.

Other examples of multiple follow-up planning during the initial interaction could be planning out a series of surveys with a caller, or a series of follow-ups to follow their progression through an application process or other ongoing activity.

By being able to set out and schedule these follow-ups all at once when completing the initial form documentation, your staff and volunteers will save some additional steps and clicks, which saves time and more quickly gets them back and available for the next call, chat, or text.

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Automated Verification Requests initiated from your Public Resource Directory

Peanut butter and jelly. Chocolate and caramel. Peas and carrots. Some things just go well together!

We love it when we can make features in iCarol work well together, too. Take Automated Resource Verification and the Public Resource Directory as an example. By themselves they each have a specific and valuable role to play with your referral management. And these two features are now working together in new and exciting ways!

As you’re already aware, help seekers like having self-service options, like searching online for resources. Having a Public Resource Directory (PRD) means you can embed a live search of your iCarol resource database right on your website for easy access by the public. And of course there’s lots of flexibility and control over what is seen by the public and what isn’t.

But help seekers aren’t the only ones using your PRD. Staff at your local community organizations are likely going online to check out your resource directory to see what you have listed. If they see something that’s incorrect or needs an update, they could call or email you. If you use Automated Verification, you could then send them a verification request that lets them quickly and easily see what you have on record, make suggested updates, and send that back to you so you can review and update records with the click of a button.

But let’s see if we can simplify that process even further: Now, when you have both the Automated Verification and the Public Resource Directory features enabled in your iCarol system, you have access to an advanced feature that allows Resource record verifiers to initiate a new verification request directly from their Resource records in the PRD.

On your PRD, for resource records that include an email address in one of the available email fields of the record, the public will see a disclaimer on the details page of the Resource record that asks:

PRD captcha

The public user has to fill out the security captcha, then click the button below, and this tells iCarol to send the verification request using the template and settings you’ve specified (See below for more on that). The request will be sent to the email specified on the resource, requesting a review. And if a record does not have an email then the disclaimer, captcha, and email button will not appear at all for that record, so verification Requests cannot be initiated.

When someone in the public initiates that verification request on your PRD, your staff with the “Resource verification requests from service providers” setting enabled on the Notification tab of their profile will receive an email.

Notification email

And the resource verifier, depending on the email on record and the saved Automated Verification settings, will receive an email with their unique verification link.

Verification email

So, how do you get this to work for you? Well first, you must subscribe to both Automated Verification and the Public Resource Directory. If you want to start subscribing or just want to learn more about these features, please contact our support team. Not using iCarol yet? Please contact us for a demo and free trial!

If you already subscribe to both of these features, setting up this advanced tool is a snap. Just take the following steps:

    1. On the PRD settings page, make sure that the highlighted setting below is checked, and click the Save button.
    PRD setting enable verification requests

    2. In your Automated Verification settings, create a new email template that will be used for these PRD initiated requests, and check the box for “Use this template to email users on the Public Resource Directory when one of their saved records is updated” before saving the template.
    PRD AVR email template

    3. Choose the Automated Verification settings you’d like to apply to all the PRD initiated requests by either finding an existing Automated Verification Request where suitable settings were chosen, or create a new request and set it up how you’d like all PRD initiated requests to be set.

    4. Use the ‘Saved Settings’ tool to save these settings for PRD initiated requests. Make sure you check the highlighted setting before clicking the ‘Save’ button.
    AV saved settings

Once you’ve taken these steps, you are all set up! Now if someone visits your PRD and notices that their resource record is due for an update or needs a correction, they can easily initiate the request and receive the link to update their records. Not using the PRD or Automated Verification yet? Or maybe you’re using one, but not the other? Contact us today to get both of these features working together to boost your referral service!

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SAMHSA-HRSA Presents: Improving Health through Trauma-Informed Care

Webinars - textOn July 28th at 2:00pm EDT, the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will present a Webinar on trauma-informed care.

Courtesty of SAMHSA/HRSA, here is the description of the webinar content:

“People who experience physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening events can have lasting adverse mental and physical health effects. Trauma-informed care can improve patient engagement with their providers and support health outcomes. In addition, a clinic environment that realizes the widespread impact of trauma can actively resist re-traumatization of the people you serve.

How can you embed trauma-informed approaches into the practice of your integrated primary care clinic?

Join this webinar to walk through what a trauma-informed clinic looks like and simple steps you can take to ensure your services and clinic environment are trauma-informed. “

Click here to learn more and register for the webinar

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Setting up your Opt-out SMS messages

As we’ve discussed in our recent webinar and white paper, an important aspect of staying compliant when texting is to ask permission of the help seeker, and to put in a STOP message to enable texters to opt-out of text conversations. As a result, all U.S.-based organizations should have their first, outbound text message configured similar to the one below:

“[Name and location of organization] Welcome! Do you give your consent to text you? Reply yes to continue, STOP to cancel. Message & data rates may apply.”

We’ve made it easy for you to set it up in iCarol. Here’s how:

1. Select ‘Messaging’ on the Left Hand Menu Messaging left menu

2. Click on the SMS/Texting link on the upper right hand side of the screen SMS Settings

3. Look for “Settings for SMS”. There will be a new pull-down menu for your portals. It will automatically be set for “default”. Select the portal for which you wish to configure the message. If you only have one, there should only be one named choice in the pull-down list. Settings for SMS

4. Your first, automated message to the texter can be configured in a new field, labeled “SMS Initial Message.” Initial Message

5. Once you’ve configured the message, click the Save Settings button at the bottom of the screen.

Don’t forget that SMS messages have a maximum of 140 characters in the U.S.! Many organizations use abbreviations for some of the wording. You may have to play with your initial message configuration to get it under the character limit.

Note that future updates to the iCarol system will include making the Initial message field a required one for U.S.-based organizations. This will help ensure you don’t forget to configure the message.

For any questions on the configuration options, please contact Support via the Help Page within iCarol.

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Using iCarol’s Built-in Suicide Risk Assessment Tools

When your volunteers are working with a help-seeker either on the phone, in-person, or online, there may come a time where assessing that person’s risk for suicide becomes necessary. Several years ago the Lifeline developed suicide risk assessment standards based on industry research. We then took these standards into consideration and developed a tool for use in iCarol that guides your volunteers and staff through that assessment process. Like other forms in iCarol, this guide can be customized to your needs.

The assessment begins with three basic and direct questions that gauge whether the person is thinking of suicide today, if they’ve thought about suicide very recently, and whether they have ever attempted to kill themselves.

three questions

Instructions guide the worker to proceed if any of the questions receive a ‘Yes’ answer. A fourth question asking about suicide in progress can help determine imminent risk, and our ‘Help tip’ reveals important questions to help quickly clarify this risk and begin rescue if that is part of your helpline’s policies.

Suicide In Progress Help

Four areas influencing risk are explored: Desire, Capability, Intent, and Buffers and Connectedness. Each section contains a number of topics, each with a ‘Help tip’ providing suggestions on the types of questions or statements that could be worked into the conversation. This can help your staff build rapport with the client and allows the interaction to continue naturally, rather than feeling like a questionnaire.

Exploring risk

As they talk with the client, they can select any of three options for each area which best captures where the client is for that particular topic. As these options are selected, our tool weights these answers and provides a measurement that helps gauge the overall level of risk.

Weighted risk gauge

Next, your worker can discuss and record the client’s reasons for living and reasons for dying. This can be a compelling tool for discussion and an important piece of the conversation. When someone is at risk for suicide, finding and focusing on reasons for living as compared to their reasons for dying can be a powerful exercise.

Reasons for living and dying

Finally, your worker can record the level of risk as determined through their discussion with the client or from the measurement tool. A series of instructions can help guide them towards resolution, referral, and other outcomes.

Again, because our forms are customizable to your own practices, this guide can be used exactly as delivered or you can make your own adjustments and edits if needed.

Providing a safe place for open, honest discussion about suicide, free of judgment, is the cornerstone of any crisis service. This powerful risk assessment tool will help your volunteers and staff feel supported, equipped, and confident when working with callers at risk for suicide, all while helping your center conform with industry standards.

Want to know more about our Suicide Risk Assessment tools, or want to enable them in your system? Please , or existing users can open a support case.

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15 iCarol Messaging Tools That Improve Your Crisis Intervention Service

When it’s time to pick a Live Chat or Texting platform for your helpline, you’ve got a lot to consider. Your crisis intervention service needs tools that will help you meet grant requirements, comply with accreditations and certifications, and report on the data collected during client interactions. But most important of all, you need to be a source of online emotional support for your visitors and provide excellent service to them.

You provide a vital service to your community, and a generic, out-of-the-box solution just won’t cut it. Here are 15 functions of iCarol Messaging that will actually help improve your suicide prevention or crisis intervention service.

ShiftsTotal control of availability – With iCarol messaging you have complete control over when your text or chat service is online and available, using the integrated Shift Scheduling tool right within iCarol. If using Live Chat, visitors to your website will only see you as Online if you have an active shift set up with workers assigned. Similar with texting, if a shift is not set up or no one is assigned to that shift, a visitor who texts in will get a friendly message letting them know your service is currently offline, and it can advise them of when you’re next available.

Bonus – Experiencing a surge of phone calls due to a local event, crisis, or other emergent situation, and need your workers to turn their attention to those calls? Or perhaps your queue of online help-seekers is full and your specialists need time to catch up before inviting more visitors in. You can take your service offline temporarily with the click of a button so your workers can address those messages. You can quickly turn your messaging services back on when you’re ready to open up the queue again.

Collect info up front – Registration and Pre-chat surveys let you collect the necessary data at the start of the chat, and straight from the visitor themselves. You can keep it simple, like asking for basic demographic information, or ask questions like, “What’s your main concern today?” or “How upset are you?” with a list of available options. These questions are highly customizable, so you can collect whatever information you need. This data will be presented to your counselors, helping prepare them for the conversation and giving them valuable insight on how to best serve the help seeker.

Furthermore, the answers to these pre-chat survey questions can have values applied to them, unbeknownst to the visitor, that can flag a visitor as being potentially high risk, based on how they answer certain questions or as a calculation of the entirety of their answers. This risk level will be displayed as the visitor enters your queue, helping your volunteers and staff do necessary triage, assign higher risk chats to more experienced counselors, or provide with quality assurance.

Bonus – Need to limit your interactions to visitors in a certain geographic area? We’ve got you covered. If you ask visitors their zip code or postal code during Registration and a Pre-chat survey, iCarol will automatically screen for geographic area, allowing only those in your defined area to participate. Visitors from outside the area will get a friendly list of alternate sources of help.

Vols-StaffSupport for Volunteers and Staff – Your Chat Specialists could face some challenging chats. iCarol offers tools that ensure your workers can rely on peers and supervisors for support when needed. Right from within the conversation window a counselor can ask for help from their direct supervisor. Workers can also send an email or text message to any colleague or supervisor, without ever leaving iCarol. Finally, our Internal Chat tool is a way for people signed in to iCarol to type quick messages to one another. Chat Specialists could ask a colleague for advice on appropriate referrals or tips on how to help a visitor. As a Helpline Director you and other supervisors could be available for consultation while you’re in the call center, or you could sign in from your home computer to check in with workers on shifts occurring after you’ve already left the office for the day.

Resource and Referral – It’s common during conversations, whether they’re over the phone or through live chat or text, that a help seeker may need services beyond what your helpline offers. Food pantries, shelter, financial assistance, or professional counseling are just a few examples. Every iCarol system includes a resource database that you can populate with all the information about your own local community resources. You can search this database of services while chatting with a visitor and deliver those referrals right within their messaging window, so they can get any further help they may need. Of course, the system retains the statistics about these referrals for reporting later on.

SearchSilent Monitoring – Supervisors can also navigate to the chat queue and review the active messages going on between their counselors and the visitors. Further, they can look in on those individual conversations to provide help or quality assurance.

Assess Risk – With access to suicide risk assessment tools (developed by the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) your specialists have tools to help guide them through any necessary suicide risk assessment. This includes suggestions for talking points or questions to pose to the visitor or work into the conversation, with possible answers for your chat specialist to mark. As those areas are answered, a measurement is provided that helps guide the counselor as to the level of risk. Nothing replaces the experience and gut instinct of your trained specialists, but this tool provides a quantitative measurement to help guide them.

Exclamation Mark copyTools for rescue – One of the biggest points of apprehension that we hear about concerning Online Emotional Support concerns the ability to send emergency personnel to help-seekers in imminent danger. The anonymity that has so many flocking to this mode of support brings with it some challenges when it comes to imminent danger situations. Statistically speaking, rescue is probably a rare occurrence at most centers when you think about just how many calls about suicide your center answers. We all know that what your callers tend to need most when they’re considering suicide is empathetic, non-judgmental listening. Most people just need to express their feelings to someone who won’t become uncomfortable or shut down the conversation. Having a safe place to talk about their feelings is hugely helpful.

But there are those instances where someone may be in danger and in need of intervention. If you’ve determined a visitor is in need of emergency assistance, best practices suggest that it’s best to engage the help-seeker and try to get them to participate in their own rescue by providing that critical location information. But if they will not, iCarol will make available to your worker the Internet Service Provider (ISP) and IP Address which can be turned over to law enforcement. This information can typically be used by the authorities who will work with that ISP to determine where the user of that IP Address is physically located. With clients who are texting you, at your option you can access their full phone number for use in an emergency.

As your center plans to add Online Emotional Support to your services, it’s a good idea to contact local law enforcement and start to explore how they might help your center if these situations arise. And if your center does not have a need for this information or if having access to an ISP or IP Address or full phone number of a visitor stands in contention with your policies about confidentiality and privacy, we’ll be happy to remove these tools from your messaging system.

Data ManagementData Input – Once an interaction ends, counselors fill out a call report form to capture important data. Many things on this form are already filled out automatically: Start and end time of interaction, any information entered by the visitor before and after the interaction, the full, time-stamped transcript, and the referrals you’ve made. There’s ample opportunity for further data collection as well, such as issues discussed, risk assessment information, and more. In short, the call report form contains all information you have about the interaction in one convenient place. All of this can be reported on in the Statistics area of iCarol and/or via Call Report Exports to be analyzed in an external program like Microsoft Access or Excel.

Visitor Feedback – Remember the pre-chat survey? You can add on a post-chat counterpart, and use it to collect your visitor’s feedback and feelings about the service you provided, self-assessment following the chat, or anything else you’d like them to share with you.

Feedback and Quality Assurance – One aspect of your chat reporting form will be the chat transcript. That’s right, whether the interaction was via text message or live chat, the full time-stamped transcript of that interaction will become a part of your report form. This comes in extra handy when it comes time for supervisors to review interactions and give feedback. You can give very specific guidance to your workers using these transcripts, pointing out specific moments in the conversation where they really connected with what the visitor was saying, or perhaps where an opportunity was missed. Further, these transcripts can make for excellent training tools for new volunteers who are learning how to provide Online Emotional Support.

helpline flowFollow-up – There are many reasons you may be re-engaging with a client once the initial interaction has ended. Safety planning and ongoing contact with support systems are extremely important for people who are having thoughts of suicide. You may also want to see if the referrals a caller was given were able to help them, or use a follow-up call or text as an opportunity to conduct a satisfaction or quality assurance survey. If a person reaches your service via Text message, they may want to receive their “call back” this way as well. With our Follow-up activity you can follow-up via phone call or text message. Our handy character counter will even help you keep that message under the limit so that your content can be sent in one single text message.

Pie chart pointing to dollar signReports for your CEO or funders – We offer a robust set of statistical tools offering many charts and graphs at your disposal, along with more advanced exporting if you’d like to import your data into external programs for further analysis. Reports on the number of interactions your center is handling, pie charts showing the location, demographic, or issues/needs data, are just a few examples of the types of reports you could run. And practically anything you collect on the call reporting form can also be turned into a Call Content Filter. So run that chart showing the number of messaging interactions that were logged in your system last month, and using the filters you can determine how many of those came from Males between the ages of 40 and 60 who messaged you about an Addiction, if you collect that data. What you can report on is limited only in what you choose to collect on your highly customizable call reporting form.

Collaborating w partnersLoad balancing and collaboration – Say you want to provide your chat service 24 hours a day, but only have the staff to provide this service for some of that time. Or, maybe your center is part of a network of centers within a state or region that would like to come together to offer Online Emotional Support, and want to share responsibility for offering that service. There are several options where, using iCarol, you can partner, contract, and have chats routed according to the partnerships you’ve formed. If you haven’t found a partner, we can help connect you with centers who you may be able to build that relationship with.

Data SecurityWhat’s Private Stays Private – Text and Instant Message conversations often deal with sensitive subjects. Data stored in iCarol, including messaging data, is encrypted at a level used by financial institutions, so rest assured your data is secure. Our exclusive focus working with non-profit help centers, crisis centers, and information centers assures our understanding of your needs in this area. Be aware, however, that text messages travel over telephony provider networks, and that part of the interaction is out of any text service provider’s control, including iCarol.

Grow and Expand your service – Perhaps you want to set up a new text or chat service aimed specifically at teens. Using “Portals” iCarol can separate these new programs from the rest of your messaging platform. This program might have its own hours of operation, and you need to collect different data for that program than you would for your base chat/text service, all of which is possible now that you’ve separated this service out via Portals.

At iCarol we pride ourselves on being a choice solution for non-profit helplines, due in part to our vast experience and intimate knowledge of the helpline industry, and our Messaging capabilities follow those same principles. To learn more about using iCarol to provide Online Emotional Support, current iCarol users can check out the tutorial videos found in the “Help” section of your iCarol system, and open a case to ask questions or start a trial. Everyone is welcome to join us for a webinar on Messaging to learn more, too!

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Search on up to three categories simultaneously

We’ve got a new optional tool for searching for resources using custom categories. This tool lets you conduct category searches on up to three categories (sometimes also referred to as “keywords”) simultaneously.

Those using the taxonomy are familiar with this already; what’s new is the ability for everyone with custom categories to use this.

multiple category searching

So how can this be helpful to your searches?

You could use this new tool to search for resources tagged with both “rent help” and “utility help” (if you had those categories set up, for example). That could be helpful if your caller had transportation issues, and needed a single place to go for both. The search results would only include resources tagged with both of those custom categories.

As another example, you could also use the tool to search for “rent help” OR “utility help.” That could be helpful if the caller had general financial issues, and you wanted to find any resource that might be able to help. In that case, the search results would return resources tagged with at least one of the categories you indicated. You’d get more search results with this method than you would for the first example.

If you’d like this tool enabled in your system, there’s no added charge. Please submit a support case, and our team will take care of that for you.

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New Tools for Finding Follow-ups and Surveys Due

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.

helpline flowWhatever 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.

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A Verified Timesaver

With February nearly over, are you finding you and your team are still working on items from your January to-do list? So much to do, so little time.

Perhaps it’s time to consider shifting to new timesaving workflows. One of the best ones: Automated Resource Verification (ARV). It’s particularly helpful if you have more than a couple hundred resources, and/or your certifications require regular updates.

Benefits copyThis handy tool – a well-integrated add-on to your iCarol system – makes short work of keeping your resource information up to date. Say goodbye to the headaches and time-eaters of the old way of verifying resource information: Endless games of telephone tag, bloated email inboxes, and hours cross-checking resource records to see if they include the latest information.

Check out the time-saving workflow you’d use with this tool:

  • In just a few clicks, create a list of resources that need to be verified, right from your iCarol resource search page. Verification-specific filters, such as “date last verified” can be combined with standard resource search filters to find just the resources you need.

  • Use radio buttons and pull-downs to select options, such as the email address the request will originate from, how to handle parent/child records, which email address to try first in the record, etc. The “visibility settings” area of iCarol lets you designate exactly which resource fields verifiers will and will not see.

  • With one click, have iCarol send verification requests for all resource records in your list. Each email will automatically include your custom message, plus iCarol will drop in a custom link that leads the recipient to information about just their resources.

  • Recipients click that link to view online the resource information you have in your database. They suggest changes to individual fields.

  • In your iCarol system – not in your email inbox, hooray! – you’ll get a prompt when responses have arrived, and you can review them. The fields with suggested changes are highlighted, making it fast and easy to focus on the changes. Feel free to make edits to the suggested information as needed, then click “Save.”

  • Your resource has now been updated and the changes are live in your database.

Clients who use ARV tell us the manpower savings, improved response rate, and greater precision over the process more than makes up for the add-on subscription cost.

If you’d like to find out more about this tool, add it to your subscription, or would like a free trial, please open a support case if you’re a current iCarol client, or if you’re not yet using iCarol. And if you’ve looked at Automated Resource Verification in the past, I invite you to take another look – we’ve added lots of enhancements in the past year.

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When Wintry Weather Wreaks Havoc on your Helpline

blizzard

With a blizzard moving up the north east coast today and tomorrow, many helplines in its path are brainstorming ways to keep their services up and running. Snowy and icy conditions can spell trouble for seamless shift coverage. How do you keep your hotline operating in spite of dangerous travel conditions for your volunteers and staff?

Depending on the severity of the storm, you may have no special plan at all except to tell workers they are expected to be there for their shift or find a substitute to cover for them. In many snow storms, travel is possible so long as precautions are taken, such as driving at slower speeds and being extra vigilant. Call centers in urban settings may also benefit from having volunteers living within walking distance or taking public transportation.

But sometimes travel conditions can become extremely hazardous or even impossible. What then? Here are some methods we’ve commonly seen:

  • The show must go on – Shifts go on as scheduled no matter what. Workers who realize they can’t make it in must give ample notice and find substitutes who are able to travel. If all else fails, the task falls to an essential staff of supervisors or managers to keep things running.

  • Transfer your calls – In some instances there may be a partner agency, satellite office of your program, or a back-up center in an area unaffected or less affected by the weather, and they can take the calls for a period of time. Our Call Report form sharing functionality makes it easy for you to pass your calls on to other centers, while they use your preferred call report form to log the calls they’re taking on your behalf.

  • Work from home – Technology has made it easier than ever to turn any setting into a call center, even your worker’s home. Calls could get forwarded to that worker’s personal phone or a phone loaned to them from the office. Using iCarol, chats or texts can be taken from virtually anywhere as well. Special tip for iCarol users who might employ this method: You must either turn off ‘Restriction’ (the feature that makes it so your workers can’t see call reports from a personal computer outside the office) or give your worker permissions to install the iCarol Certification Tool on their computer. You can read more about this here.

  • Camping out – Marshmallows optional. When the forecast calls for dangerous weather and snow accumulations that might make travel impossible, make a decision ahead of time to suspend the usual schedule, and instead have a crew arrive prior to hazardous road conditions developing. This crew will stay for a period of time until travel is safe again and shifts can resume. You’ll need sufficient kitchen and bathroom facilities, and workers should bring food. If this goes on for longer than the typical shift length, your crew can set up their own internal shifts of who works and who gets a break. By following the weather and traffic reports, the Director can decide when it’s time for normal shifts to resume.

Do you handle scheduling in wintry weather some other way? We’d love to hear about it! Leave us a comment!

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