One of the great things about Messaging with iCarol is the inclusion of notifications to tell you when a help seeker is waiting to have a chat or texting session with you. Historically these notifications arrive on your computer screen where you’re signed in to iCarol, and you can then promptly assume that new conversation. This ensures that visitors are promptly attended to, helpling them feel heard and cared for.
The drawback to this is, your volunteers and staff can’t always be at their workstation for the entire duration of their shift. They may have work that takes them to places other than the call center, whether that’s down the hallway or across town. Perhaps, like many agencies, your overnight shifts are sleep shifts with staff permitted to sleep or at least doze, either in the office or at their homes, with the understanding that they need to be awake and alert at a moment’s notice. In these and other scenarios, receiving those notifications only at your workstation computer presents a challenge.
But now there’s an additional option available: your chat specialists can receive text message alerts to their mobile phone when a new conversation arrives.
In a system update scheduled to occur today, our Messaging users will be able to set up these notifications to be sent to their volunteers and staff via text message. And to add an additional layer of protection, supervisors or on-call staff can receive escalations if the incoming conversations aren’t assumed promptly. This feature will be available to all Messaging users who host and control their Messaging service, at no additional subscription cost, though it’s important to note that each sent alert will count towards the bundle of texts purchased for that month.
Admin users will need to turn on these mobile alerts and set it up to your specifications. At first this functionality will only be available to our North American clients, but rest assured we are working diligently to bring these same tools to our clients elsewhere in the world as soon as possible. We can also offer this enhancement just to users who host and control their Messaging services, i.e. at this time messaging services which are part of bigger collaboratives that you participate in or share coverage of, where you do not control the messaging settings, are not eligible for the mobile alerts feature. We know how useful and helpful these alerts are, and so we’re working hard to expand the coverage of this tool for an even wider range of iCarol users.
Click the +/- to Expand/Collapse set up instructions and screenshots +–
To enable SMS Mobile Alerts:
Log into iCarol as an Admin
Click on “Admin Tools” from the left menu
Click on the “Messaging” tab
You must first enable system SMS messages by clicking the settings “Allow staff and volunteers to send SMS’s to each other from within iCarol” and “Allow iCarol to send automated notifications like shift reminders to staff and volunteers who have enabled this in their profile.” If you were not previously using SMS notifications, please note that using Mobile Alerts may result in nominal monthly increases to your iCarol subscription. Please contact our support team if you’d like to learn more before enabling these notifications.
Next, click on “Enable Messaging Mobile Alerts”. Enabling this setting will send a “New Chat” SMS to volunteers signed up for messaging shifts at the time the conversation is started.
(Optional) Configure Messaging Mobile Alerts Reminder Settings by choosing values from the configuration drop-down lists:
Mobile Alert Frequency: This setting identifies how much time will pass between SMS reminders. Options range from “never” to 30 minutes.
Number of SMS reminders to send: This setting identifies how many SMS reminders will be sent after the New Chat SMS notification. Reminders are sent to all volunteers signed up for Normal Messaging Shifts. Options range from “never” to 5 reminders.
Escalate to On-Shift Supervisor after: This setting identifies at what point the On Call/Support worker will be notified of the waiting conversation. Options range from “never” to 5 attempts.
Click “Save all settings”.
To get an idea about how these settings affect the total number of alerts that are sent, as well as the total wait time a visitor might experience based on those alerts (should the volunteer or staff person not respond immediately), please review the chart below.
Enable Staff and Volunteer Settings
Volunteers and Staff are encouraged to enable the SMS Mobile Alerts setting on their profiles themselves, so they can be sure they understand and authorize these alerts, and then accept the agreement to receive SMS messages to their mobile phones. They must permit SMS messages to be sent to their phone or else they will not receive the mobile alerts of new conversations while on shift.
Log into iCarol as an Admin, or as a Volunteer with Messaging access
Click on “Vols – Staff” from the left menu
Locate the volunteer profile, and click on the first name to access details
Click on the “Contact Info” tab
Click the “Edit” button and edit the profile to include a Mobile Phone number and click the “I permit SMS’s to be sent to this mobile phone”, click “Save”. (If a Mobile Phone number and the “I permit” setting is already configured, skip this step.)
Click on the “Notifications” tab, and enable the SMS Notification for “New Chat Alert SMS”
Anyone can confirm that Messaging Mobile Alerts is fully configured by signing on to iCarol, clicking on the Messaging page from the left menu and looking for the “You have Messaging Mobile Alerts configured. Rest assured, if a chat comes in, we will notify you” message at the top of the page.
In order for the SMS Mobile Alerts feature to function, volunteers must be signed up for a Messaging shift at the time the IM/SMS conversation is started. During the setup of your shifts you will be able to specify “Normal Shifts” and “On call/Support Worker” shift types. All volunteers signed up for normal messaging shifts at the time the new conversation is started will receive the New Chat notification, and sequential reminders. All workers signed up for On Call/Support Worker shifts, even if these shifts are not specifically messaging shifts will receive escalations.
Below is an example of what the initial mobile alerts or reminders will look like as they arrive to your volunteers’ phones, and what escalations may look like when arriving to supervisors’ phones:
Our hope is that this additional option for notifying your volunteers of newly arriving conversations will help you provide a high quality, prompt response to your community. We realize that when adding new channels to your service, you’re often asking volunteers to multi-task and provide both your traditional and alternative services simultaneously. Rest assured that in spite of this multi-tasking and wherever their shift duties may take them, these alerts will assist in consistent, complete service delivery.
We also hope these new notifications will help with staffing and service hour decisions. Overnight staff can be better notified of these conversations even if they are not at their workstation, in the event your agency allows sleeping shifts overnight. Additionally, if you are unsure of the best hours in which to provide your new chat or text service, and you want to keep your service open 24/7 for a time to gauge peak service times, these alerts will better help you maintain that ’round the clock coverage, especially if staff are to go about their normal business or even be at their homes for part or all of that period. These mobile alerts will allow new services to keep the service open for extended hours, without needing a person to be tethered to their workstation for that entire period.
Dana (She/Her/Hers) joined the iCarol team in 2013 after 12 years of direct service and administrative duties at a blended 2-1-1/crisis intervention/suicide prevention center. As the Communications and Social Media Manager at iCarol, you'll find her presenting Webinars, Tweeting, Blogging, Facebooking, and producing other materials that aid helplines in their work.