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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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New SMS Options: Text Notifications and Send Text Messages to Other Users in your iCarol System

Our clients spoke and we listened! Many clients expressed a wish for iCarol to be able to leverage text messaging in new and different ways. Therefore, we added three new ways to use text messaging in iCarol. This article will outline how to send text notifications and text messages to other users in your iCarol system, and a future article will outline how to conduct follow-ups via text message. These new options carry no set-up fee, but you will be charged a monthly fee for the text messages sent, at a rate of $40/1000 messages/month.

The new SMS options will first need to be turned on by an Admin in your iCarol system. They can be found by clicking Admin Tools in the left hand menu, and then the “Messaging” tab. Doing so will take you to the page pictured below, where you will want to click the box next to the first two options to place a check mark there, then click the “Save all settings” button at the top of the screen.

1 Admin Tools

Those individuals who would like to be able to receive SMS messages from other users or would like to receive notifications via SMS will need to edit their user profiles to include a mobile phone number, and to give permission for SMS messages to be sent to them. To do so, the user, or an Admin on their behalf, will click Vols-Staff in the left hand menu, then click on the name of the person whose profile they would like to edit. Next, click the Contacts tab, the click the Edit button at the top of the screen. Next, enter a phone number into the Mobile Phone field, and click the box next to “I permit SMS’s to be sent to this mobile phone” to place a check mark there. Finally, click the Save button at the top of the screen.

2 Profile

Please note the text in red. SMS messages from iCarol may be sent at any time. It is suggested that if you would not like to receive SMS messages during certain time frames, you explore your mobile phone options to determine if there is a setting you can use to delay delivery of SMS messages to certain time frames. Most mobile phones have this option so that, for example, it can be set so that SMS messages are not delivered between the hours of 11pm and 9am. Any message that might have been sent during that time frame is not delivered until after 9am. Alternately, most mobile phones also allow users to set their phone to silent, so that the notification sound that usually plays when a phone call or text message is received is not heard. Once the option to send SMS notifications is turned on, additional options are displayed on the Notifications tab of user profiles as below.

3 Notifications

Each individual, or an Admin on their behalf, can edit these options to indicate which notifications they would like sent via SMS.

To send a SMS message to another user, follow the steps below.

1. Click Vols-Staff in the left hand menu
2. Click on the name of the person you would like to send a message to
3. Click the Contact Info tab of the user profile
4. Click the mobile phone number
5. A new tab or window will open where you can type your message and send it

4 Send SMS

Non-Admin users can only send SMS messages to one user at a time. Admin users can send a SMS message to multiple users at once. They would do so by following these steps:

1. Click Vols-Staff in the left hand menu
2. Click the boxes next to the names of the people you would like to send a SMS message to, so there are check marks placed there
3. Scroll to the bottom of the screen and click on the Send SMS link

5 Select coworkers

4. The form to type your message and send it will appear

6 Send SMS

A new report has been added to the Statistics page of iCarol to help you track how many SMS messages are being sent from your system. Admins can access this report by clicking Statistics in the left hand menu, then the Messaging menu. This report contains several filters so you can determine from what area of iCarol the SMS messages are being sent. “Between Staff and Volunteers” is the option to choose if you would like to see how many notification messages and messages between users are being sent.

7 Statistics

If you have any questions or need any clarification on this functionality, please do not hesitate to send a case to iCarol Support!

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Key Differences and Similarities between Instant Messaging and Texting with iCarol

Are you thinking about letting visitors contact you via messaging, but are not sure of the differences between Instant Messaging and Text Messaging? iCarol offers both – here’s a quick review of how each differs in access, convenience, variable cost, and privacy.

Access

Laptop in useInstant Messaging lets visitors click on an iCarol-provided “chat now” button on your website to initiate a session with one of your specialists. Both the visitor and the specialist converse from computer screens, typing messages back and forth to each other.

With Text Messaging, counselors also converse from iCarol computer screens – actually the very same screens they’d use for Instant Messaging – yet visitors participate from their own cell phones, not from a computer screen.

Convenience

We all know that the easier it is to get information or help, the more likely it is a person will ask.

Many of our Instant Messaging clients love having a “Chat Now” button on their website. Not only does it encourage visitors to return repeatedly to their website – who doesn’t want a popular website? – it also offers visitors a handy way of communicating when and where a visitor really needs it.

For example, you could paste the button right next to the screen where visitors search your resource database (another iCarol feature). If the visitor is having trouble finding what they need, help is just a click away.

So Instant Messaging is great for organizations that either have a popular website, or don’t, and appreciate a boost in web traffic while at the same time better serving your community.

Smart Phone  with two thumbs

Text Messaging, on the other hand, offers a convenient way to ask for help when a visitor is not near a computer. Often clients tell us that visitors who text them would not reach out to anyone if a texting service were not available.

For example, maybe a man’s on the bus on the way to work and he’s stressed about paying his utility bill. Or a mom sitting at a park rocking her sleeping toddler needs help finding an after-school program for her first grader. Perhaps a middle-school student plops down on the family couch next to her siblings after a tough day at school fending off bullies. All of these people might reach out for help via texing.

Text Messaging makes help available right from the convenience of a person’s own cell phone. It’s a kind of access that people tend to expect more and more in a world where texting friends, family, companies, banks, etc. is ubiquitous.

Variable Cost

Where the two forms of messaging differ from a variable cost standpoint is in text usage fees. Text Messaging has them, Instant Messaging does not. When you have Text Messaging service, you’ll be billed for usage based on how many thousands of texts you use per month.

In your iCarol system, you’ll always have a running count of texts so you can see your usage level. We won’t cut you off when you reach your billed-for limit; we’ll just make it up on the next bill. As you use more texts, volume discounts kick in. Plus an increased volume helps funders see how popular your service has become.

Your visitors will of course never be charged by iCarol for text usage, but may be charged by their own cell phone provider, depending on their texting plan. There’s a spot in the workflow to add a note to visitors reminding them, and typically our clients like to add such a note as well to wherever they publicize the texting number.

Privacy

Both Text Messaging and Instant Messaging offer a kind of privacy that a voice phone call does not. That is, nobody can overhear a conversation asking for help conducted via either kind of messaging, because it’s all nonverbal.

That’s helpful for a large segment of the population who might not otherwise reach out for help.

It’s an important factor, of course, for those with hearing or speaking issues, and for those who would rather not speak out loud.

Consider the person experiencing domestic violence, or a troubled student who has a hard time getting out of earshot of siblings or dorm-mates. Clients who work with transgender individuals say their visitors are thankful they don’t have to explain why their voice may not match their gender identity. And some people just are naturally more comfortable typing their innermost concerns than voicing them aloud. The privacy that non-verbal communication affords is a hallmark of both Instant Messaging and Text Messaging.

Text Messaging and Instant Messaging differ in other aspects of privacy, though.

Keyboard and screen in useWith Instant Messaging, all the communication is handled within iCarol –the ChatNow button connects directly to your iCarol system. Because it’s a closed system, iCarol can control the traffic entirely, and encrypts messages from the time they leave the keyboard of both the visitor and the specialist. Data saved in your iCarol system is encrypted, too – with the same strict encryption used by financial services institutions.

Data saved in the system for Text Messaging is also encrypted, but unlike with Instant Messaging, text messages aren’t controlled end-to-end by iCarol. Instead, while the messages are in transit over the phone lines, it’s the phone carriers that control the security of that traffic. That is true for any vendor’s text messaging offering. These days, phone carriers of course handle traffic for financial transactions, medical information, plane reservations, billing, etc. so you can determine your own comfort level.

Text Messaging and Instant Messaging can be used Concurrently

Because of the distinct features of each type of messaging, many of iCarol’s clients actually use both.

Call Report Editing copy

That’s easy to do because the specialist workflow is exactly the same — if you learn one type of messaging, you already know the other. Also, both forms of messaging are integrated nicely into your iCarol system – so much so that specialists can, and do, handle both Text Messaging and Instant Messaging sessions concurrently.

If you’d like to learn more about messaging, please join us for a webinar on Messaging, or contact us for more information.

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iCarol Webinar: Enhancement Review and Future Plans

Webinars w gray

We’re committed to providing excellent communication about iCarol capabilities, updates, and planned enhancements on regular basis. So, we’d like to invite you to join us for our quarterly review of recent enhancements, as well as a peek at what’s ahead, in a 30-minute webinar this Thursday.

In this fast-paced webinar, we’ll go over the newest ways you can streamline your day with new tools sprinkled throughout iCarol. Hosted by Shelley, our product manager, this is part of a quarterly “new feature review” series. We hope you’ll join us for this webinar on February 5th at 1pm EST.

In this webinar we’ll go over:

  • Quick refresher on 2014 new feature highlights
  • Review recently launched new features
  • Enhancements coming soon
  • How to keep up with new enhancements
  • How you can impact new feature development

Remember, if you’re an Administrator in iCarol, in your Dashboard view, you can also view enhancements and changes in the “Announcements, Tips, and Tricks” and “Release History and Future Plans” sections, but these webinars will go a little further to explain the new features, and allow time for your questions.

We think this webinar will be most beneficial and interesting to current iCarol clients who are Program Managers or Directors and use iCarol at an Administrator security level, or those who are considering subscribing to iCarol. That said, all are welcome to attend. We hope you’ll join us on February 5!

Click here to Register

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Just Your Type

Internal Chat copyIf you haven’t had a chance to check out the new Internal Chat feature, please consider giving it a try. We launched it a couple of weeks ago, and have been hearing how it’s helping centers get rid of passing paper notes, avoid putting callers on hold, fosters a greater sense of community, and just helps day-to-day communications.

Bottom line, it’s a convenient new way to exchange short, typed messages with colleagues, right from the security of your iCarol screens.

It’s available at no extra cost now, to all subscribers. For more information on how to turn it on and enable staff, and other functions, check out the help videos for more information, or register for our February 4th webinar.

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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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Our Most Popular Statistical Reports explained

There are a plethora of reports available in the Statistics section of iCarol that can be used to illustrate many different facets of your service. Please see below for further information on some of the most commonly used reports.

One of the most basic reports is the call volume report. It shows how many call reports were submitted during the time frame specified.

iCarol Statistics Call Volume Chart

This report, and any report found in the “Chart Type” menu on the Analysis tab, can be filtered in a number of different ways. The filters available are:

Location – If you enter a specific location or list of locations, the resulting call volume chart will just show the calls from callers located in those locations. If you have a geography based funder who is interested in how many calls you received from a specific area, this filter can assist you in creating a report for the funder.

Time frame – You can enter a very specific time frame for your reports to cover, and you can also change the interval to such options as daily, monthly, hour of the day, day of the week, etc. You can also limit the report to specific days or the week or hours of the day. In this way, you could build a report that showed your call volume during business hours (9am-5pm Monday to Friday), and compare it to the call volume during non-business hours (5pm-9am Monday to Friday plus weekends).

Call Reports and Phone Workers – The Phone Workers drop-down menu will list all the users in your iCarol system. In this way, you could see how many calls each user is submitting. If you use several different call reports in iCarol, you can also user this filter to run call volume reports on just one of your call reports, or any combination of them you wish.

The final filter available is the Call Content Filter. This filter enables you the filter the call volume chart by any piece of data you collect in any of the custom fields on your call reports. You can add up to 5 call content filters. In the chart below, I have filtered to show calls on the topic of Gambling where the caller appreciated the service they received.

iCarol Statistics call content filters

Many clients have managers, board members or funders who are interested to see how many calls are being received in regards to a specific demographic or topic. A pie chart is a great way to illustrate this. When you first select the pie chart from the Chart Type menu on the Analysis tab of Statistics, the pieces of the pie will represent the categories on your call report. You will want to “drill down” into one of the categories to get to the more specific data by clicking on a piece of the pie. The pie chart will then show the groups in the category selected. You will want to “drill down” once more to get to the field level of your call report, where the most specific data is stored.

Here is an example. This pie chart shows the categories in the call report:

iCarol Demographics Pie Chart

I clicked on the “Caller Issues” piece of the pie. This chart shows all the groups in the “Caller Issues” category:

iCarol Statistics Demographics pie chart sub category

Finally, I clicked on the “Addiction” piece of the pie. The chart below shows the specific addiction issues the callers spoke about:

iCarol Statistics Demographics Pie Chart fields

Many iCarol clients track the needs of their callers via the AIRS taxonomy. With the “Needs by Taxonomy” report, these clients can see the most common needs of their callers. This information can be used to ensure call takers are trained appropriately, that appropriate resources to fill these needs are available in the resource database, and even to inform funders and policy makers about the needs of the community.

iCarol Statistics 211 Taxonomy AIRS Needs

The “Count of referrals to resources” chart shows which resources have been referred to the most often. This chart is another way to illustrate the needs of the community and could even be used to illustrate the need for expanded programs and increased funding.

iCarol Statistics Top Resources with most referrals

This is only a small number of the reports available in the Statistics section of iCarol. We encourage you to explore all the reports available and view the tutorial videos on Statistics to learn more. If you have any questions about Statistics in iCarol, please feel free to contact the Support Team at any time.

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Introducing iCarol Folksonomy

When people in the public are searching your public website for a resource that can help them, it can sometimes lead to frustration that they are getting no results. When you look closer at how they are searching, it becomes clear that they aren’t familiar with the way that resources are named or categorized. In other words, they are expressing a need, like “I am hungry” but the resources in your database are represented as services, like “Food pantries”.

In fact in commonly used categorization schemes, such as the AIRS Taxonomy or a custom categorization scheme built directly by your helpline, you won’t find the word “hungry” in any of the categories, terms or definitions. Multiply this by all the possible needs people have, and you can quickly see how a great deal of the population won’t get connected to valuable services. Other example searches are “I need a ride to work”, “My family needs a place to stay” and “I lost my job yesterday”.

So how can these help seekers, who are expressing a need, be connected with the services that can assist them? Clearly, we need to build a bridge between the two approaches. The solution we’re employing in iCarol’s Public Resource Directory is called the Folksonomy (an intentional mashup of the word Folk, as in “colloquial”, and Taxonomy).

In a nutshell, it helps find results if the search did not match an Agency or Program name, a taxonomy term or the officially defined synonyms for taxonomy terms (called “use references”). It does this by picking up colloquial words or phrases in a search and corresponds them to taxonomy terms, and then performs the search for resources assigned to those taxonomy terms.

A perfect example would be if someone typed “I am really hungry” into the search box. The Folksonomy fills the gap that normally would be mediated by a helpline’s phone worker on a call by connecting the expressed need to one or more taxonomy terms, like Food Pantries and Ongoing Emergency Food Assistance.

We have been testing this approach with clients and it is yielding exceedingly good results. Those clients also have an administrative interface to find recent searches yielding no results, and then to make Folksonomy entries so that future such searches will instead yield the right results.

Here is a scenario where the word “ride” is a Folksonomy entry corresponding to several taxonomy terms. If you had performed this search before we implemented the Folksonomy you would have gotten zero results. Instead you now get a number of transportation-related resources:

Folksonomy

By building that bridge between the layman’s terms used by your web visitors and the detailed categorization of the 211 Taxonomy, iCarol’s Folksonomy will greatly improve the ability for your Public Resource Directory searchers to find what they are looking for and ultimately get the services they need.

We’ll have more information to share about implementing iCarol’s Folksonomy in the coming weeks. Want to learn more about managing your Resources with iCarol? Join us for our Resource Management Webinar on May 20th at 2pm EST.

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