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How is iCarol better than Google for Information and Referral software? Let me count the ways.

Would you want police officers driving their personal vehicles for their work? Doctors performing surgery in a spare bedroom at their house, using utensils from their kitchen? Teachers writing their own textbooks? Librarians arranging books by their personal tastes? No – and for similar reasons you want call specialists to make referrals to service providers based on the standards and tools honed by professionals for decades, nation-wide.

Here are some reasons why Information and Referral software like iCarol is better than using a public search engine like Google, and also why those search engines are poorly suited for professional work.

Why Information and Referral software is better than Google (or other public search engines):

    • 1. Well-structured resource records and fields that have been tuned for information and referral work – when a call specialist is looking at a record, they know exactly where to find relevant information about a service, like service description, eligibility, contact information, hours of operation, etc.
      2. Search algorithms under your control – yielding predictable, repeatable search results based on factors highly tuned for doing information and referral work, not on factors that are best for generating advertising revenue or that favor entities who happen to have done a good job of search engine optimization.
      3. Geographic service areas – limit search results to just those that serve the client location, and then also sorted by proximity to that location. Otherwise you risk sending a client to a service for which they are not eligible.
      4. Precise categorization of services, with the 2-1-1 Taxonomy or another well-structured category scheme – So for example when you are looking for a “Food pantry”, that term is well defined, sits in a rational place in the taxonomy (so it can be found) and will yield all services available in your community that meet the definition. With over 9,500 such taxonomy terms in a well-structured six-level hierarchy, call specialists can find the right services with high accuracy.
      5. Find related services relevant to the caller – recommends other services that might be useful to the caller, based on referrals made to callers in the past and/or services that are often referred to together.
      6. Annual validation of data – Confidence that the information you are providing is up-to-date and correct in the recent past.
      7. Adherence to your Inclusion Policies – Ensure that incorrect, illegitimate, illegal or immoral resources are not referred to by your call specialists.
      8. Consistent and professional results – For two callers with the same needs and locations but served by different call specialists, they would get the same referrals, as they should.
  • And why public search engines like Google are not well suited for professional I&R work:

    • 1. Human services are in the business of, well, serving humans. They are not in the business of optimizing their website for high rankings in search engines. Many valuable services do not even have websites. Relying on Google to find and rank searches would inevitably miss countless important services in your community.
      2. Websites get outdated leading to incorrect service information.
      3. Services go defunct, even if the websites are still available.
      4. Even if correct, website formats, layout and content are vastly different from service to service, leading call specialists to spend undue time trying to figure out if they offer services a) meeting the clients needs b) that the client is eligible for and c) that is near the client.
      5. Google changes its search algorithm frequently to suit their needs and the needs of their advertisers, often in very controversial but opaque ways.
      6. The terms a call specialist might search for would be of course highly subjective, which would yield different results even for callers with identical needs.
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