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Expand Your Brand: Public Resource Directory option

If you use iCarol’s Public Resource Directory feature to let visitors search for resources on your website, you can also offer the ability for visitors to create a pdf of their search results that they could print out or save. Laptop in useThere’s no extra charge for this if you subscribe to the Public Resource Directory feature.

If you’d like to customize that pdf, we can do that for you. You could have a custom cover page and/or a custom page header. Maybe you’d like to include your logo, a mission statement, and/or funder information? There is an extra setup charge for this customization. Please contact your iCarol rep or .

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iCarol announces new Text and SMS Capabilities

Recently we announced the availability of several exciting new capabilities related to Texting/SMS in your iCarol system:

Smart Phone with texting thumbs
  • Send a text message (SMS) to your callers from a follow-up task attached to a call report. Best practices from suicide prevention professionals show that proactive follow-ups can reduce risks to suicidal callers.

  • Send ad hoc text messages to your staff and volunteers, and allow them to receive automated iCarol notifications like shift reminders by text message. As many people now check email less frequently, this is an important new channel for them to use.

  • See the total text message usage for your iCarol system. If you have any feature enabled that can generate Text/ SMS messages, you can now go to the Statistics -> Messaging page to see how many are being sent and received.

  • If you also have iCarol Messaging (SMS), then when people respond to these outbound text messages, their responses will come into your Messaging queue. If not, they will receive an auto-responder indicating responses are not monitored.

To turn on these features and learn more about using Text Messaging/SMS at your helpline, go to the Admin Tools page and click on the new Messaging tab. Please note that Text Messaging / SMS traffic can result in additional charges from iCarol as well as for the recipient from their mobile phone service provider. If you have any questions, feel free to contact the iCarol Support Team by logging a case.

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iCarol celebrates 211 Day

It’s February 11th and today we celebrate 211 Day. 211 is an easy to remember three digit number, but unlike 411 or 911, the focus of 211 is to provide callers with information and referral to health and human services in their communities. Best of all it’s free* and confidential. Boasting an impressive reach, 211 is available to nearly 91% of Americans and 56% of Canadians. In the US 211 has a presence in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

211 is the number to dial when you need to know what local service might help you prevent an eviction, apply for food stamps, seek treatment for mental illness or addictions, or avoid a utility shut off due to an unpaid bill. Rather than spend hours of frustration calling around to various agencies, callers can make 211 their first call for assistance and speak to a trained Information and Referral Specialist that can spend time evaluating their needs, educating them about resources, and then connect them with the appropriate services.

flooding

211 is also an essential service in times of disaster. In recent years during hurricanes, blizzards, flooding, earthquakes, and other natural disasters, 211 is widely known as a number to call for information and referral. Even in the more routine, yet still disruptive, events such as extreme cold or heat, 211 is available to refer callers to heating or cooling centers. Winter can be especially hard for people with financial hardships as utility cut offs can pose a real danger. In times like these 211 helps direct callers to local services that assist with utility bills, sign up for energy assistance, or prevent a shut off.

iCarol is delighted and honored to work with so many 211 providers across the US and Canada. These organizations provide a vital service to their communities and connect millions of people to essential services each year.

iCarol Assists Kids Help Phone

Smart Phone  with one finger

Kids Help Phone has a 25 year legacy of providing phone and online emotional support for Canadian children and teens. An authority on a variety of topics, their professional helpline counsellors are available 24/7/365 to talk to kids about any issue. They are a nonjudgmental source of trustworthy information on mental health, bullying, sexual health, peer and family issues, addictions, and more. Tens of thousands of kids reach out to their services each week via phone, online chat, and written correspondence on the Kids Help Phone website. They play a large role in the continuum of mental health care for Canadian youth.

Kids Help Phone recently launched the “Always There” app and “Resources Around Me” public database. “Always There” was developed with the help of kids submitting their input and voting on features. It allows kids to keep a private log of their feelings and experiences. App users can contribute to stress buster activities that offer helpful tips, inspirational quotes, and jokes.

Resources Around Me” provides Canadian youth with greater access than ever to the resources available in their communities. By simply starting with their location and then the types of resources needed, teens can easily find what they’re looking for and then connect directly with those resources.

iCarol API

The iCarol team is proud to have been a part of this project through our support of the resource database and the API. How can your organization make use of these same tools? How about adding on the Public Resource Directory to your iCarol system so you can share resources with the public via a resource search on your own website? iCarol’s Resource API gives your software developers the data they need to work on a variety of new and exciting projects. If you’re interested in pursuing a project like this, send an email to

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When Wintry Weather Wreaks Havoc on your Helpline

blizzard

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.

  • 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.

  • 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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Prevent Repeat Callers from Skewing Your Statistics and Reports

Statistics

If you’re like most helplines, you have several repeat callers who use your services regularly, often more than once per day. Having access to empathetic listeners brings comfort to those with chronic and persistent mental illnesses or developmental disabilities. They access your hotline as a part of their repertoire of daily activities and coping skills that keep them feeling supported and grounded.

They’re an important part of the work you do and they need your services, but have you stopped to think about how their calls affect your statistics?

Data collection on all calls, including those from your repeat callers, is very important. But one individual calling multiple times can skew your numbers on things like gender, age, race, and issues.

One thing we suggest is that you add a question on your Call Report that simply asks your phone worker whether or not the call being logged is from a repeat caller, with ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ options for the answer. This question could also be included on the ‘background’ tab of repeat caller profiles so it can automatically be collected when that profile is used.

Graph with upward trend

If there comes a time where you need to exclude repeat calls from your data, now you have the option to do so. When it comes time to run a statistical report, add that question as a Call Content Filter. Select ‘No’ as the filter if you’d like to exclude all of your repeat callers from that report. A filter with the answer ‘Yes’ will show you just your repeat callers’ information. Applying no call content filter at all will show data from all your callers, repeat and non-repeat.

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Using Feedback to Encourage, Praise, Teach, and Boost Morale

Feedback is critical to your phone workers’ professional growth and skill enhancement. Without it, call takers might feel left in the dark and unsure of whether they are doing a fantastic job or totally missing the mark.

Do you regularly take time to give written feedback to your call specialists? Devoting even a half hour of your day to reading call reports and giving written feedback can remind your call takers that you are taking quality assurance seriously and that someone reviews their call documentation. Something as simple as a “Nice work!” or “Good job with this one!” can encourage a phone worker after a difficult call.

If the call report leaves you asking questions or wishing they had done more, then the feedback area of the call report can be a great place to ask some questions or give suggestions on how to handle similar situations in the future. If you choose to make the feedback viewable to your other workers, it can serve as a training tool to them, though sometimes private feedback is best. And though written feedback is likely the quickest and least time-consuming method, consider those times when a phone call or in-person processing of the call may what your phone worker really needs. Want some tips on how to incorporate call reports and/or feedback into your management plan?

  • Use the ‘Highlight’ feature – Does your call center have the ability to ‘highlight’ a call enabled? This feature allows certain calls to appear highlighted in yellow on the main calls page. Many clients use this to draw attention to calls or callers of which they want their phone workers to be aware. You could just as easily use this feature to highlight the ‘Call of the Day’ or draw attention to a call that deserves special recognition or serves as a great example of good phone work or superb documentation.
  • Review Call Reports at meetings – Do you have regular all-staff meetings? Choose a call report to review with your staff at your next gathering. It’s a great opportunity for your workers and volunteers to process a call together, praise the good work of the call taker, or talk about other ways they may have handled the challenges of that call.
  • Print Caller Feedback – Many clients choose to have the ‘Caller Feedback’ text box appear in their call reports. Once a month, extract your call report data from the Admin Tools section of iCarol and review the entries in the Caller Feedback field. Print the positive feedback your workers received from callers and post it somewhere in your call center. Reminders that callers appreciate their work and value the time spent on the phone can be a great morale booster for your volunteers.

Got tips of your own? Leave us a comment!

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HBO Documentary “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1” now airing on HBO

Veteran's Helplines

On Veterans Day, HBO began airing the original documentary “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1.” The documentary highlights the work of the call center in Canadaigua, NY that answers the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s phone line operated specifically for veterans at risk of suicide. The documentary features harrowing footage of crisis responders working to find anonymous callers in imminent danger, and the quiet and touching moments between the empathetic workers who listen without judgment and the veterans reaching out for help. Check your local listings, this documentary is not to be missed. Visit the HBO website for more information and to check the airtimes.

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iCarol helps MHA of New York City’s helpline withstand the “test of hurricane Sandy”

Recently a client (Mental Health Association of New York City) using iCarol through the worst of Hurricane Sandy in Manhattan shared these kind words about how it helped them work through the disaster: “I wanted to let you know that iCarol was one of the few systems we use that stood the test of hurricane Sandy and for that we are very grateful. Chat was especially important because it was the only service we provide that continued without interruption and allowed us to respond to people in crisis. Our building transformer blew up causing us to lose power which had a huge impact on our phone and routing systems but iCarol stood and thanks to iCarol we were able to work remotely.” –Gloria J., Senior Counselor Continue Reading

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