On Sunday, June 2nd, members of the iCarol team will conduct our annual User Group Summit, held just before the start of the Alliance of Information and Referral (AIRS) Training and Education Conference in Atlanta, GA.
The User Group Summit provides iCarol customers, and those not yet using iCarol but considering it for their organization, the chance to receive hands on training that will directly benefit service delivery and program administration. Following a number of training sessions held in the morning and early afternoon, the day concludes with a traditional user group session where guests can learn more about our strategy and product plans for the year, provide input on the types of solutions most important and impactful to their agencies, and help prioritize product development with their input on features in stages of consideration, development and implementation.
Our training topics were picked by our customers and will cover a number of in-demand topics including:
- Recording and Reporting on Met and Unmet Needs
- Resource Advanced Search and Bulk Editing Tools
- Statistics and Reporting
**Note** We welcome our guests to attend any part of the day they wish — it is perfectly acceptable to attend only the User Group session, which will get started at approximately 2:30pm.**
We do ask that regardless of what part of our day you plan to attend, you register for the event so that we can plan accordingly. Registration is open now! Click the button below to learn more and register you and your staff. We look forward to seeing you in Atlanta!
Providing excellent customer service is a top priority for the iCarol team, and recently we have been working to enhance the ways in which we serve our valued customers. Below are details about several new initiatives we have implemented:
*NEW* Live Chat with Support
Beginning Friday, March 1, our Support Team is available through Live Chat during normal support hours for all of our customers as a part of our Standard Support Package that is included with an iCarol system subscription.
Designated support contacts can initiate a Live Chat session with members of the support team during normal support hours by taking the following steps:
- Log in to your iCarol system
- Click ‘Help’ in the left hand menu
- Click ‘Cases – contact the iCarol Support Team’ at the top of the screen
- Click the ‘Live Help Online’ button in the middle of the screen, OR the ‘Chat Now’ button at the bottom of the screen
Premier Support Package
We now offer a Premier Support Package. This includes all of the features of the Standard Support Package, as well as:
- A member of the iCarol Support Team designated as the customer organization’s Technical Account Manager (TAM). This is an assigned member of the Support Team who oversees all requests for ongoing support assistance.
- One scheduled, 60 minute team screen share/call per month between the TAM and the Designated Support Contacts, scheduled by the TAM.
- If additional iCarol team members are brought in to best assist the customer, all interactions will be directed and managed by the TAM.
*NEW* Expanded Support Hours
We have added weekend availability to our normal support hours. In addition to our previous hours of 8am to 8pm Eastern Monday through Friday, members of our Support Team are available Saturdays and Sundays from 12pm to 5pm Eastern.
These are the hours during which our team is available to investigate and respond to support cases through the case management system, email, and live chat. In addition to these support hours, our technical and infrastructure teams will continue to monitor for system uptime and performance 24/7, and our Support Team has a process in place to routinely check the case queue for urgent issues at points beyond normal support hours, as has been our policy in the past.
If you are a customer and have any questions about the services outlined above, or if you would like to upgrade to Premier Support, please open a case with the Support Team. If you are a not an iCarol customer yet, please contact us. We would love to hear from you.
We want all of our customers to feel comfortable navigating through iCarol and be confident in their use of the various tools and features we offer. This assures that they are getting value out of their system, and that they’re using it to make biggest impact possible when serving their communities. We have an entire area of the iCarol system dedicated to providing our customers with assistance they need to accomplish this.
When you click ‘Help’ in your left side menu in iCarol, you are brought to the iCarol Help Library, which is made up of 4 main areas:
- Training Materials – short video tutorials, webinars, and PowerPoint training kits for various features areas of iCarol
- Help Articles – written documentation about the various feature areas of iCarol and how to use them to best meet your organizations needs
- iCarol Ideas Portal – area where iCarol users can go to submit and vote on ideas for possible future developments to help make iCarol even better
- Support Cases – area where your organizations cases with the iCarol Support Team are stored and where live chat with the iCarol Support Team can be accessed by organizations subscribed to the enhanced support feature. This area of iCarol is only available to Admin and Supervisor level users, so not all users will see this section in the Help Library.
The 4 areas above are found as links at the top of the pages throughout the iCarol Help Library. Until the latest release in iCarol, the landing page of the Help Library has been the ‘Training Materials’ area, but now the landing page has been updated to the ‘Help Articles’ area. This means when users click ‘Help’ in their left side menu, they are now brought to the ‘Help Articles’ area first, as shown below. This area of the Help Library will soon include all information found in the ‘Training Materials’ area of the Help Library, streamlining their navigation and giving users easy and quick access to the search bar so they can find any relative help materials they may need.
This doesn’t change anything about the functionality of the Help Library or the information found within. But, if your organization has training materials written that direct users to the ‘Help’ area in their left side menu, you may want to review those training materials and update them accordingly based on these changes.
As I reflect back on 2018, there’s no question that this has been a significant year for iCarol. As many of you know, iCarol was acquired by Harris Computer Systems on March 12 of 2018. Harris is part of Constellation Software, Inc., Canada’s largest software company.
The Harris acquisition allowed our co-founders, Neil and Jackie McKechnie, to step away from iCarol knowing that it would be in good hands as part of a company which intended to retain it, invest in it and to help it grow further. While it was bittersweet to lose Neil and Jackie, we realized this move enabled them to pursue new goals in their lives, including spending more time with family and friends. We stay closely in touch with them and wish them the very best in their new endeavors.
This new chapter in iCarol’s history has brought a number of benefits, as the iCarol team has been able to rely on guidance from Harris’ accomplished compliance and legal teams, and to utilize ongoing assistance from corporate Finance and IT departments. This freed up team members to focus on other needs of the organization, which we could not do as easily before we had the resources of Harris behind us.
In addition, as part of Harris there is an ongoing opportunity to learn and grow from a team of thousands of software professionals in a variety of roles, allowing us to network with sister business units in sectors such as healthcare, emergency management, law enforcement, government, public schools, and more. There’s a lot to learn as we bring back ideas to improve iCarol, in how we serve and support our customers, and how we design our software to provide more value to its users.
We look forward to continued growth and investment in iCarol in 2019, as we focus on five primary initiatives throughout the year:
- Increased Scalability
- Improved Data Privacy and Security
- More Powerful Resource Management
- Greater Flexibility in Reporting
- Collaborative Data Sharing
In the interests of keeping this blog brief, we’ll expand on improvements made to iCarol in 2018, and each of these initiatives in the early part of 2019, through blog articles and webinars. Stay tuned for more details on these!
While it’s been a momentous year for iCarol, change has also affected our customers, as we’ve seen trends in nonprofit funding and donations shift, and in some cases decline precipitously. A number of our customers provide some type of assistance during and after disasters, and there have been many heartbreaking examples this year. Throughout it all our customers have stood strong and assisted as many as they possibly could, which continues to inspire us here at iCarol. As a matter of fact, the Harris team has commented on the tremendous commitment displayed by the iCarol team, which comes directly from working with our customers, and witnessing their determination in the face of such difficult odds.
On the positive side, in 2018 we have seen some strides forward in government recognition of the importance of suicide prevention, which heartens us all. It gives us hope that 2019 will see improvements in the funding and support all our customers rely on to perform their mission.
In this holiday season we salute you, our customers, and the tremendous work that you do. We wish everyone a safe, secure and happy holiday season. We remain honored to serve you and look forward to another year of service and giving in 2019 and beyond.
Warm wishes to you all,
Vice President, Operations
Our customers take part in a variety of collaborative relationships with fellow not-for-profit agencies, governmental institutions, private companies, and others. This often requires sharing of information that they input and store in iCarol, and commonly includes (but isn’t limited to!) resource/referral information, or client interaction data collected in a Contact Record (aka Call Report Form). We heartily support such collaborations because they are the key not only to an agency thriving, but these partnerships also foster a continuum of care model that help create healthier, more connected communities. So we are always looking for ways we can encourage these partnerships and make them possible and easier to engage in using iCarol.
There are a number of ways our customers can share Contact Record data. Protecting confidential information is paramount and one should always be sure they are following their organization’s policies, protocols, and any pertinent regulations when sharing this data. Some examples of ways that our customers share Contact Record information include exporting data tables from iCarol to hand them over to a partner, printing records for faxing or hard copy delivery and storage, or using our Contact Record Outbound API to transmit data to their partner’s web service. The latest way we have enabled Contact Record sharing is be creating a feature that allows authorized personnel to send an encrypted email with a password protected PDF file of the Contact Record, right within the iCarol system.
In what scenarios might you want to encrypt and email a Contact Record?
- When sending a warm referral to another agency
- When sending Contact Records to a funder who requires a copy of the contact
- While referring a Mobile Crisis Intake to a crisis specialist on duty
- For sending the details of a high risk interaction to the counselor or supervisor on duty so they can follow up
Here are a few other highlights and things to know about this feature:
You control who can use it
Access is granted in a user’s Advanced Security Settings, giving you granular control over who can and cannot email Contact Records.
How to access
The ability to send a Contact Record by email will appear whenever you create a PDF of a Contact Record, whether it is a single PDF or a batch of PDFs compiled within the Advanced Search on the main Calls page. First you must request that the PDF be made.
Once you click the “Make PDF” button, the options to print the PDF or send it in an encrypted email appear.
PDFs sent using this feature can be password protected so that the recipient must enter the correct password before viewing the PDF file, further securing sensitive information. The stronger and more complex the password, the better protection for your PDF to ensure only authorized recipients can view it.
Create a template
If the emailed Contact Records will regularly go to the same recipient(s), use the same subject line, body text, etc., you can create a template. This can save data entry time when preparing the email, and keep a consistent message if you are emailing records as a part of a specific contract or program at your organization. A single template can be created by taking the following steps:
Once the template is created, this information will be available automatically each time you create a PDF.
- From the left main menu of iCarol, click on ‘Admin Tools’
- Click the ‘Calls’ tab
- Click the link titled ‘Edit the template used for sending contact records by email’ and follow the instructions on the next page to create the template
There are no additional costs to turn on and use this feature, it is included and available to all of our subscribers who use Contact Records. For more information, please see the Help Articles in the Help section of your iCarol system. If you have additional questions or need assistance, please open a case with the Support Team.
As the end of 2018 approaches, we want to take the opportunity to provide some housekeeping tasks for you to review. We know how busy you are every day of the year, and even if you already have processes in place for these tasks, getting them done might fall to the bottom of your to-do list sometimes. Now is a good time to review these housekeeping tasks to help you get the most out of your iCarol system, while you’re getting ready for another exciting year!
Review Draft Contact Forms
It’s a good idea to designate a user with appropriate permissions to review all Contact Forms in DRAFT and ensure they’re either submitted or deleted by the end of the year. This is important because any Contact Forms in draft mode aren’t included in Statistics or Data Exports reports, so you could be missing import reporting data if forms documenting completed calls are left in draft mode. And erroneous drafts can clutter up your draft list, making it harder for your staff to see the drafts that actually need to be reviewed and completed. To learn more about draft Contact Records, read this related help article.
Set Obsolete Contact Record Custom Fields To “Inactive” Status
The information you need to collect on your Contact Forms may periodically change. For example, perhaps a project your helpline participates in ends, and you no longer need to collect that piece of data. It helps keep your forms tidy, and reduces time spent by your volunteers, if these unnecessary fields are hidden from the form entirely. This cleanup can be done at any time, but the end of the year is a perfect time to review the relevancy of your form’s fields. To learn more, read this related help article.
Disable Inactive Custom Fields in Contact Forms from Appearing in Statistics Call Content Filters
If you’ve made changes to your Contact Forms, and set any custom fields to ‘inactive’ because they were no longer being used, now is a good time to review those inactive custom fields, and determine if the setting to ‘Use as a filter in Statistics’ should be disabled. If you no longer need to run reports on this information, it may help to have that filter removed from the list entirely. This way, your reporting staff will only see applicable filters when applying them to reports, saving them time as they browse through the list of filters. To learn more, read this related help article.
Disable Vols-Staff from Accessing iCarol
It’s likely you had users leave your organization throughout the past year for any number of reasons. Even if you have a process in place already for what to do when users leave your organization, now is a good time to review your Vols-Staff profiles to ensure you’ve disabled users from accessing iCarol, when appropriate. This not only keeps them from accessing data they are no longer authorized to have, but also ensures they won’t be called or emailed by your active volunteers for help covering a shift. To learn more, read this related help article.
Review Organization Contacts
During the year your designated Billing or Support Contacts may have left your organization, but you forgot to update your iCarol system accordingly with this information. To avoid unpaid invoices or delays in sending Support requests, it’s good to occasionally make sure the proper contacts are assigned to these roles. Read this help article to learn more about your organization’s designated contacts, and how and why to keep them up to date.
It’s best practice to periodically create a backup file of your Resources, in case you need to access them offline for any reason. These files can then be especially helpful if your organization experiences problems with internet connection, but you are still able to handle interactions (i.e. take phone calls, or handle walk-in requests) and provide referrals. You can create this backup file using our standard Resources Data Export tool, or even better, use the Specialized Exports of Resources to Word/Excel feature if your organization is subscribed to it, which provides even more flexibility in how these exports are presented and organized. Use the links above to read the related help articles to learn more about each tool to create a backup of your Resources.
Backup Contact Records
It’s also a good idea to create an offline, back-up copy of your Contact Records for your users to access in case your organization ever experiences problems with internet connection. Depending on the complexity of your forms, you may wish to simply save a printable version of your Contact Forms for your users to print out, or for more complex Contact Forms you may wish to transpose your Contact Forms into an editable document so your users can fill out the form on the computer. Some of our users even create paper copies for use in the event of a full power outage. Then, once internet connection is re-established, you should have a process in place to enter the data into iCarol so the interactions are included in statistical reporting.
It’s likely your organization already has processes in place to complete most of these tasks throughout the year. But if you don’t, now might be a good time to consider if you want to develop any processes for the new year to help you stay on track with completing these tasks on a regular basis so you’re optimizing your iCarol system.
At iCarol, we’re always looking to the most cutting edge and progressive ways of strengthening system security, protecting data, and preventing unauthorized system access. This always has been and will continue to be a top priority for us.
In addition to the security measures we take to protect data during its transmission and storage, ensuring good password strength is one simple way that each iCarol user can protect their system and the personal information stored within. That’s why, to help our users do this, we are proactively implementing advanced security protocols for passwords used to access the iCarol system. Once these new protocols are enacted, our users will be prompted to update their passwords to ensure they meet our new strength requirements.
We appreciate our users’ compliance with these new protocols. We want you to rest easy knowing we are doing our part to keep your iCarol system secure, while also helping ensure that each individual’s use of iCarol also upholds this security through tight password guidelines.
There’s a lot to like about iCarol’s Flexible Public Web Forms (also known as Online Forms). You can do so much with this versatile tool that is, at its core, a public facing version of the same Contact Forms that iCarol users access within their systems to log interactions with the people they serve.
In case you’re asking “What’s an iCarol Public Web Form?” These forms are Contact Forms hosted in your iCarol system that can be enabled for the public to use. You’ll link to them when you wish to offer services on your website such as:
- Intake forms
- Volunteer applications
- Satisfaction surveys
- Self-assessments or screenings
- Contact requests
Submitted forms are delivered to your iCarol system where you can then follow up yourself, securely send them to another agency if necessary, and of course since they are Contact Records you can export the data collected or run reports on the data within iCarol. Want to know more? Skip to the bottom of this blog post for even more information about Public Web Forms.
Enabling Time Restrictions.
If you have a service that is only available during certain days of the week, or certain hours of the day, then you may not want your Public Web Form open and available to be filled out on your website outside of those service hours. For example, a Mobile Crisis Intake Form — For better communication and clarity, and to reduce confusion or frustration, you would likely want to keep this form from appearing as an option on your website if the service was currently closed and the web visitor won’t receive a timely response.
Public Web Form time restriction is an option that allows you to make a form available only during the times you choose. The form is turned on or off based on whether or not you have an Online Form shift that is actively staffed at that time.
If there is no shift at that time, or if the shift is open and unstaffed, the form won’t be active and available on the website. If a service is going to become unavailable soon, a warning message and countdown timer can appear for any visitors who may be in the middle of filling a form. There is also the option for custom messaging to appear when the service is unavailable, which could include information such as alternative options for the visitor to pursue in absence of the target service (e.g. a number to call) or more information on the service’s normal hours of operation, and the next time web visitors can expect to see the form on and available.
By only having these Public Web Forms open when the target service is available, and guiding web visitors to other alternative services instead, people in need are directed to the right service at the time.
Why is it important to offer intakes and other forms on your website? Well for one, the people in your community are craving more communication options between themselves and the services they need to access. Whether out of convenience, personal preference, or greater ease of access for those with disabilities, diversifying available communication channels reduces barriers and opens doors for more people to receive the services they are entitled to, and get the help they need.
Using the forms doesn’t just help the people who use your services, but it helps you and your staff as well. You’ll be able to increase staff productivity since these forms can now be filled out directly by the user online, where they may previously have required manual staff time and assistance to the client. You’ll also be able to capitalize on potential volunteer interest — convert volunteer prospects into applicants easily, no more waiting to receive their application through email or snail mail. You’ll also shorten the recruitment and training life cycle, getting volunteers online faster. And because you can now direct so many clients to fill out their satisfaction surveys online, you can increase your outcome data, meet your goals, and get the funding you need.
Public Web Forms can be tailored to meet your needs in a variety of ways, including:
- Customize the look and feel of the form to fit with your website and branding, using Cascading Style Sheets to give your form a highly stylized look. You may include your logo, choose your fonts, colors, and more for a cohesive fit within your website.
- Edit the fillable fields and text on the form with our Contact Form Editing tools.
- Pre-screen clients with questions before the user can proceed to the rest of the form.
- Ensure data integrity with an integrated Captcha, protecting you from false or spam/bot submissions.
- Enforce form timeouts and warn users of an impending timeout to make sure a form isn’t kept open for too long before submission, protecting the integrity of the data as well as your user’s privacy.
- Notify key staff members by email when a form is submitted.
- Analyze, track, export, and report on the information collected in the forms. Once the Public Web Form is submitted by the user, it becomes the equivalent to a finished Contact Record in your iCarol system.
To get started using these forms in your iCarol system, contact our Support Team. If you’re not yet an iCarol user, we’d be happy to speak to you about this and other solutions we offer. Please contact us.
The Pre-Chat Survey Queue Indicator gives your organization the ability to include questions in your pre-chat survey that, depending on the answer selected, triggers a corresponding indicator with the conversation when it’s under ‘Waiting in Queue’ and ‘Your conversations’ (found on the main Messaging page). This can be used to aid your volunteers and staff to quickly triage/identify which conversation they should join next based on how the help seeker has answered specific questions set up by your organization.
Your organization may wish to use this feature to indicate any of the following for your conversations:
- Needs: Add one or more questions for the help seeker to identify their need or concern (e.g. mental health, finances, relationships, etc.)
- Contract Type: Add one or more questions for the help seeker to identify what contract/service they are inquiring about (e.g. mobile crisis intake, tax assistance, health insurance navigators, coordinated access, etc.)
- Risk Level: Add one or more questions for the help seeker to answer that can be used to gauge their risk. (e.g. suicide, self-harm, or runaway/homelessness risk)
For example, you may wish to include a question like the one you see highlighted below:
Depending on how the help seeker answers that question, when the conversation appears on your main Messaging page, you’ll see the indicator associated with the answer that your organization setup:
Notice in the screenshot above the text box with some additional information about the help seekers’ concern; this appears when your vols-staff hover their mouse over the indicator and can help them further prioritize which conversation they should join next.
In the example we’ve been looking at, we chose to include just one question that is used to determine which indicator appears for the conversation. But, you have the option to include multiple questions to determine which indicator appears for the conversation. Let’s look at one possible way you could set up multiple questions to use for this feature. For example, you may wish to ask the three questions highlighted below to assess a help seeker’s risk for suicide and create corresponding indicators for High, Medium and Low Risk. Values you assign to each answer will determine the ultimate risk level that appears on the main Messaging page:
The Pre-Chat Survey Queue Indicator feature is included with all Live Chat Messaging subscriptions. If your organization is interested in finding out more about this feature or wants to get started with the setup, sign in to your iCarol system and click here to read the related help article to learn more.
In the past we’ve talked about APIs and how they help you do more with your data, especially in existing or potential partnerships. To briefly review, API stands for Application Program Interface, and it allows electronic systems to interact with each other without the need for the direct human intervention. That is, with an API no person needs to direct data traffic between two systems — the systems just talk directly to each other behind the scenes.
Much of iCarol’s discussion regarding APIs so far has been in reference to our Resource API, which allows you to take your resource data and use it to create custom searchable websites, build mobile apps, or contribute resource data to other projects. For instance, we have customers who have partnered with local libraries, hospitals and prisons to host their community’s service inventory on the partner’s website. Rather than the partner having to build and curate their own resource database, they pay their local Information and Referral service who uses iCarol to provide the information.
One thing is for certain: APIs are a leading way for our clients to harness their data and open up new avenues for partnerships and revenue streams. Now, this exciting technology is available for another area within the iCarol suite: Contact Records (a.k.a. Call Reports).
The Contact Record Outbound API provides a way for you to take the data from a submitted Contact Record and push it to an awaiting “restful API web service” or “webhook,” which would typically be owned or provided by the entity you are working with. The Contact Record data is pushed or transmitted one way.
How could you use this new data sharing capability at your organization? A few ideas:
- Send all the contact record data you collect to a funder or partner’s system as part of your contracted service.
- Send just the contact record data you collect in specific forms, such as intake forms, when contracted to provide a service for an entity such as a hospital, insurer, mobile crisis team, or other service provider.
- Send contact record data to collaborative reporting systems or dashboards for trend analysis, and data-driven community planning to influence public policy.
At iCarol, it’s one of our deeply held beliefs that your data belongs to you. We see it as part of our mission and stewardship of that data to help you harness it to do more good in your community, provide continuity of care to people in need, and enhance your relevance and marketability as a community partner and vital provider of services. The Contact Record Outbound API gives you one more way to participate in collaborative partnerships, leverage your talents to help more people, and increase your funding.
If you are an iCarol customer who would like to learn more, please open a case with our Support Team. Not a customer yet? Contact us here.