The success of your follow-up program hinges in part on how many contacts you can make and how much outcome data you can collect. And that is very dependent upon how many help-seekers will agree to take part in your program.
Asking a client to agree to a follow-up can be intimidating, and it takes skill and experience to ensure their participation. Here are some tips guaranteed to turn more of your inbound contacts into follow-up opportunities.
Build rapport – The success or failure of getting a caller to agree to a follow-up contact actually begins from the first moments of the call. Building rapport and trust between the specialist and help-seeker is a key component to the success of the call itself, but also impacts the chances of future contacts. If your specialist struggles to make a connection, or the client doesn’t feel heard or helped, they’re unlikely to welcome a call back. But, if your help-seeker feels connected to the call specialist and feels a sense of trust, they’re much more likely to agree to hear from your service again.
Don’t ask – One strategy that will help you get a “Yes” is to not ask them the question at all. Asking someone, “Can I call you back tomorrow?” gives them a choice of saying “Yes” or “No.” What if you make the assumption that they want to hear back from you? Instead of asking permission, try telling them you’re going to reach out to them again, and put them in position of having to refuse. Sound uncomfortable? It’s all about the delivery and can take some skill to pull off. Some example phrasing:
If done correctly, your client won’t feel pushed or pressured, they’ll feel cared for.
- “I’m so glad you reached out to us today. Hey, I’m going to call you back tomorrow just to see how things are going, what time is good for you?”
- “I want to check in and see how you’re feeling tomorrow, what’s the best number to reach you at?”
- “Just to be sure you got everything you needed, I’m going to call you back to make sure those referrals could help you. How’s Thursday afternoon?”
- “When we get back in touch to check in, what works better for you, should I text you or call you?”
- “We want to help you through this, I’ll check in again tomorrow to see how you’re feeling.”
Pick your moment – There’s no rule saying that you have to schedule the follow-up contact at the end of the interaction. If there’s a moment earlier in the call that feels right, take the opportunity then. Maybe it’s when you’re giving referral information, or at a moment when the person needs to be reassured that you truly care. If you find that moment at some point earlier in the conversation, schedule the follow-up then, or at a minimum, plant the seed, and continue your conversation. Then come back to the topic at the end of the call to remind them you’ll be following up and firm up the details.
Avoid the “S” Word – Surveys and feedback are important, no doubt, and there’s a great likelihood you’ll need to collect data from the client when you follow-up. But, there’s usually no reason the help-seeker needs to know this when scheduling the follow-up. The word “survey” can be a turn off to many people, so knowing this is expected of them may discourage the very thought of being called back. If you must give them notice of this, then the word “feedback” may be safer (e.g. We’d like to call you back and get your feedback”). If possible, don’t mention either when you’re scheduling the follow-up contact. Instead…
Make it about them – The client should feel like you’re following up because you care, because you want to know they’re okay, because you want to continue helping. This shouldn’t be hard, because of course you DO care and you DO want to keep helping! The more you make them feel like there’s nothing in it for you, and that it’s all about being there for them, the better your chances that they’ll want to hear from you again. And the more successfully you do this, the more eager they’ll be to give back to you by answering your survey questions when the time comes.
Continue helping – Speaking of what’s in it for them, don’t forget to let your callers know that they have something to gain from hearing from you again. Having the chance to talk about their situation again may be an attractive prospect. Maybe you can offer them additional referrals, or brainstorm more options with them dependent upon what’s transpired since you last spoke. If they feel like you’re an ally on this journey with them, they’ll welcome continued contact.
Give them options – Give your help-seekers options for how they can hear back from you, and consider how they reached you as a guide for how they may wish to be contacted again. Phone callers may wish to be called back, but make sure they know you can text them or email them, too, if those provisions are in place. Research conducted by Varolii Corporation in 2013 found that text messaging was quickly becoming the preferred channel of communication for most American consumers, and one in five consumers were equally likely to prefer a text message as they are receiving a voice call. Consider your client’s age as well – 36% of 18 to 24 year olds said a text message was their preferred form of communication with businesses. For help-seekers whose initial interaction happened via live chat or text, there’s a good chance they’ll reject a follow-up by phone. Convenience may be key for some clients; your ability to reach back out by alternative channels could improve the chances they’ll agree to future contacts from your service.
The truth is that anyone can create a report using all the tools we now have available via the computer. But there are several key areas to focus on if you want to create a report that not only gets a funder’s attention but also results in increased funding opportunities.
Here are some tips to think about as you set up your reports to produce awesome outcomes:
- The report is visually appealing and professional looking — before sending your report out to a funder, have someone who has not seen the report take a look at it and see what their first impression is. Is it a report format that catches someone’s attention? Ask the person reviewing the report to describe their first impression and what words they would use to describe the report format. If the words are not what you would expect (i.e. “wow, this looks really professional and really caught my eye”), spend more time polishing the format. You want your report to be the one that stands out from a stack of many others.
- Data is displayed in a way that is easy to read and understand — assume your reader does not know your field of expertise so your data has to be presented in a way that makes sense, is easy to follow and does not rely on someone’s knowledge of the field to understand what the data represents. Avoid using acronyms or terminology that someone outside of your field may not understand.
- Interpret the data for your reader — data alone is powerful but data that includes narrative which explains what the data means, particularly how it relates to what your funder is wanting to know, is more compelling. Data can be interpreted in many different ways, depending on the perspective of who is looking at the data. Be the one to offer the perspective of how the data should be interpreted by telling the story with a narrative. Answer the questions that someone may have in looking at the data so as little as possible is left open to interpretation.
- Use the tools available to you — Microsoft Word and Excel are your best friends when it comes to report formatting and data display. Use the tools built in with both of these products (or other similar products) to create a report format that gets that “wow” factor. As examples, you can create spreadsheets and charts in Microsoft Excel that are easy to export into Word. A product like Excel is a better tool to use for data display and data accuracy. You can create formulas in Excel to ensure all your totals are accurate. Microsoft Word, on the other hand, is a better product to create your report in as the intent of Word is to allow the user to visually create a document that allows for both data display and narrative formatting.
- Your report answers the questions your funder is asking — to do this, you need to know your funder and what your funder is wanting to spend money on. Only include the pertinent data and information that will help the funder make their decision. It’s easy to include data and information that we think is important but the intent of your report should be to answer the questions that are important to your funder.
As you create and write your reports, always remember that you want your report to be the one that gets a funder’s attention from among many others who may be vying for the same funding that you are. Data tells a story and your report can be the mechanism that explains that story and ultimately leads to increased funding for your agency.
On Tuesday the The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced they’ll accept applications for up to $2.1 million for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Crisis Center Follow-Up program grants for up to 3 years. This program promotes systematic follow-up assistance to suicidal persons who call the Lifeline and persons discharged from partnering emergency departments.
Grantees will provide telephone follow-up to Lifeline callers who have been assessed at imminent risk of suicide and emergency interventions.The positive effects of follow-up for those having thoughts of suicide is apparent and confirmed in many studies. This particular program has provided life-saving intervention to many people since 2008.
SAMHSA is projected to provide an estimated six selected crisis centers with up to $115,000 per year for up to the next three years. Actual award amounts may vary and depend on the availability of funds. For more information and to apply, visit SAMHSA’s website.
It’s been awhile since we first told you about about TxtToday, a national texting warmline network spearheaded by CONTACT of Mercer County, NJ in partnership with other helplines across the country. We’re excited to share this update from Chris at TxtToday:
TxtToday is proud to announce that we will be attending the NASCOD Conference in Detroit this year! We are a national texting warmline with the mission of listening to those in need before their problems become crises. We have so far raised over $26,000 towards our launch goal! We will be distributing more information at the conference so stop by – we are looking forward to seeing all of you!
If you’re interested in finding out more about this exciting project, make sure you connect with Chris at the CUSA/NASCOD conference in Detroit, or . We’re thrilled at the progress of TxtToday and have enjoyed working with them as they use iCarol Helpline Software to build this network. We’re eager to see how this awesome service continues to grow and develop!
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will provide up to $46.8 million in funding over the next few years to support suicide prevention programs as well as those that meet the emotional needs of people affected by disasters.
According to a SAMHSA press release, one grant for up to $18.6 million over the next three years will be awarded to Link2Health Solutions, Inc. of New York, which manages the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Lifeline) and the National Disaster Distress Helpline (Helpline).
The Lifeline, a national network of suicide prevention helplines which can be reached by dialing 1-800-273 TALK (8255) or via live chat through their webside, will be receive up to $15.9 million from the grant so they can continue to administer and grow the network.
Since its inception, the Lifeline has responded to 7,514,238 calls from people in crisis. Last year it responded to more than 1.3 million calls, which is an average of 3,719 calls daily, nationwide.
Our congratulations and continued appreciation goes out to the helplines that provide this service, many of whom we’re honored to have as clients. You can click here to read the full press announcement.
We’re very happy to help spread the word that the Bell Let’s Talk initiative has been extended for five years, with funding increased to $100 million!
Read more here. You can also read Bell’s announcement here.
This is excellent news for Canadian mental health initiatives. Congratulations to all the agencies that benefit from this campaign, and we look forward to participating in Bell Let’s Talk for years to come!