In a world where so much is accessible 24/7, people have grown accustomed to getting what they want when they want it, no matter the time of day. But providing a service ’round the clock is tough, especially for a non-profit. If your helpline is like most others, you’ve had to make some choices about when to offer certain services, particularly for new channels like texting. You’ve probably carefully thought things through and analyzed the information available to you, weighed it against your budget and staff availability, and come up with a realistic schedule for your texting service.
But there’s that nagging voice in the back of your head, asking you if your service is online and available at the right times. You’re asking yourself questions like:
“Did I choose the right hours of operation for my texting service?”
“What kinds of texts are coming in when my service is offline?”
“How many of those people might be in crisis?”
“At what times are these texts being sent?”
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could see the content of text messages your service receives during your offline periods? Guess what: You can!
We’ve added a report to Statistics that allows you to see information about texts coming in to your center during hours where your texting service is offline. It’s easy to find and use.
Start by clicking on Statistics in the left main menu, then click on the Messaging tab.
You’ll see there are already a number of various reports you can run on your SMS service. Under “Choose a report” select “After hours SMS” from the drop down list. Simply select the date range you wish to evaluate, then click “Go.”
The resulting chart shows each text received during your offline hours. It includes the date and time the text message was received, the Portal (if applicable), the visitor’s phone number, and the content of the message they sent.
Please note that we’ve truncated the phone number for the purposes of this blog, but when you run an actual report you’ll have access to the full 10 digit phone number. Of course you can Export this data to Excel and analyze it further.
This report will help tell you what kinds of texts are being sent to you after hours, and at what times. By tracking this information, and evaluating what days or times experience the most traffic, you can start to get a picture of where there is a demand for more availability. This information should serve you well if you are applying for additional funding to expand your service hours.
Donna and I recently returned from the National Council on Problem Gambling‘s annual conference, and we had such a great time!
This year’s conference was held in beautiful Baltimore, Maryland. Since I’m from Maryland and still live there, I was quite excited about attending this conference. It’s always fun when so many people from all over the country or world are visiting, perhaps for the first time, a place with which you’re quite familiar. I had a fun time all week sharing little tidbits about my home state with people from out of town.
And, if you ever travel to Baltimore I highly recommend the hotel where the conference was held, the Baltimore Hilton right across from Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Perfectly centrally located for all sorts of fun activities in the city including baseball or football games, and the world famous Inner Harbor. Plus the conference rooms and all the accommodations for the conference were top notch.
Check out this photo taken from my room as the sun sets over Baltimore.
In the center of the photo is the Baltimore Convention Center, just to the lower right of that is the famous Otterbein Church, and if you look just above the Convention Center you’ll see the Inner Harbor in the distance. Like I said, centrally located!
We were invited to attend and present at the pre-conference Helpline Symposium. This was an exciting opportunity to show many of the NCPG affiliates all around the country how iCarol chat and text works. iCarol is the provider for NCPG’s national text and chat lines, so when a chat comes through that website or a text comes through that national text number, it will be routed to an affiliate center based on routing criteria like availability and location. So, as affiliates choose to come online and be part of that national chat and text network, we’ll be ready and delighted to help get them set up on iCarol. It’s another great example of the networks and collaborations that can be built using iCarol. We hope to bring you more information about this network and how it’s growing as time goes on.
Here’s Donna presenting information about the national chat and text network. Special thanks to Robyn from the Louisiana affiliate and Amy from the National Council on Problem Gambling, who helped us do a live demonstration!
The Helpline Symposium was a great chance to hear from affiliates about their experiences. A number of really interesting topics were discussed, such as marketing challenges facing the industry. Coming up with effective, consistent messaging, and increasing visibility and awareness of problem gambling issues, as well as promoting where people can get help, were all among the topics this engaged and energetic group discussed.
We sure did have a great view from our conference room where the symposium was held, check out the beautiful scene just out the window of Oriole Park at Camden Yards where the Baltimore Orioles play.
Throughout the conference the culture of Maryland was on display in the best of ways. We caught one of Maryland’s famous crabs hanging out with a volunteer during the symposium break!
Of course networking and spending time with friends is a highlight of any conference. We took in a delicious dinner at Dempsey’s located right across the street in the Camden Yards complex. Here’s Donna (center) with industry friends Robyn and Mary posing just outside the ballpark.
Before we knew it, it was time for the welcome reception. What a great event! The baseball theme was tons of fun, everyone was wearing jerseys representing their favorite teams. But it gets better — the food was ballpark themed too! Soft pretzels, popcorn, crackerjacks, a sliders station, and it wouldn’t be an event in Maryland without some crabcakes! We got to visit with so many wonderful people from various parts of the industry, too, since the exhibitor’s hall was all set up, where our booth was located.
While we’re talking about the reception, I’ve got to give a huge shout out to the hosts of the conference, the Maryland Council on Problem Gambling and the Maryland Center of Excellence on Problem Gambling (University of Maryland School of Medicine). Every detail was so great, from the food to the accommodations to the conference rooms and session spaces and fun activities. What fabulous hosts they were!
The conference kicked off the next day with a great keynote by psychiatrist Dr. David Mee-Lee, who has worked for years as an expert in addiction both substance and non-substance related, as well as co-occurring conditions. It was a really engaging keynote with lots of comic relief via Dr. Mee-Lee’s slideshow.
The breakout sessions were highly informative. I attended sessions on a variety of topics including veteran gambling addiction, gambling addiction as it relates to mental illness such a schizophrenia, and new technologies being used in video gaming units at casinos. I plan to bring you more detail on those interesting topics in the coming months.
Another fun networking event was the Friday evening trip to the American Visionary Art Museum in the Federal Hill area of Baltimore. Fun fact: Just two miles further down the street from the museum is Fort McHenry, where Marylander Francis Scott Key witnessed a battle in the War of 1812 and wrote a poem which would later become the lyrics to the United States’ National Anthem, The Star Spangled Banner! See, I told you I enjoyed peppering people with facts about my home state!
While no photos were permitted within the museum, I encourage you to check out their website. It was an extremely unique, thought-provoking place unlike any art museum I’ve been to before!
Next door to the museum was a reception area with more yummy food (four words: crab mac and cheese!) where we took in an exhibit specifically about problem gambling, with pieces of art by students, people in recovery, and family members of problem gamblers.
This was a particularly powerful piece titled “Losing Hand” by artist Jennifer L. Walsh, who experienced the effects of problem gambling through her own mother’s addiction.
The caption reads:
“Losing Hand: Why Gamble When You’ve Already Won” is an image of a losing hand of poker. The player’s hand in the foreground is holding five cards, each with an image of what they have accomplished or gained in their life and what they are actually losing when they gamble.
The Ace of Hearts is the last card in the hand and is slipping out of the thumb’s grip, signifying the loss of family due to the habit.
We had a fantastic time at the conference and enjoyed meeting so many of you in the problem gambling industry. If you didn’t get a chance to chat with us at the conference, please check out our website and contact us for more information on iCarol Helpline Software. Or, feel free to attend one of my regular webinars to get an idea of what we’re all about!
We’ve enhanced a number of our features and opened up some new tools to your system Admins in recent weeks. Here’s a bit of a review.
Caller Profiles – We covered this in detail in an earlier blog, but to review, we’ve added some new tabs to your Repeat Caller Profiles that give you new tools that allow you to:
- Track recent referrals given to that caller
- List the follow-ups scheduled for that caller
- Track Public Resource Directory activity by a registered user via a Repeat Caller Profile
SMS Settings – For our clients who have multiple SMS portals, you can now adjust various settings for each portal. This is newly opened to Admin users as previously the iCarol Support and Technical Teams needed to make these types of changes for clients who have more than one portal. When you arrive on the SMS Settings page, be sure to select the correct portal from the drop down menu.
Once you select the proper portal you can edit things like:
- Your initial auto response – which should explicitly ask the visitor to give permission to text them as well as offering the “Opt Out” instruction
- Welcome message – if you’d like to send an additional auto message after the initial permission/opt out message
- Waiting in queue message – something to send to the visitor as they wait for the counselor to join
- Offline auto response – the message the visitor receives when they send a text but your agency is offline
- Pre-written messages – save your workers from having to type the same standard messages over and over again
Advanced Hyperlinks – Anywhere you find a Rich Text editor in iCarol (When editing the “Help Tip” text in a Call Report Form, or Description of a Resource Record, for example) you now have a bit more advanced hyperlinking tools.
- Choose your link type – URL vs. Email
- Choose your target – Will the link open in the same window, a pop up window, etc.
- Set other advanced settings
Resource Settings – We’ve opened up LOTS of settings for you under Admin Tools -> Resources that previously only our Support team could change for you. Just a few examples:
- Decide if you’d like to use a record type called “ProgramAtSite”
- Assign Coverage Areas to Site and ProgramAtSite records
- Choose which record types can be given as referrals
- Decide to hide the “Make Referral” button from your search results, i.e. you can only use the “Make Referral” button when viewing the details of a record
- Choose certain fields to display in your resource search results in addition to what is shown by default
This is really just scratching the surface, and many of these settings have Help Tips which will give you more information on how to use them. Of course if you have questions about how to use any of these enhancements, please do reach out to our Support team for help.
Donna and I are pleased to announce that we’ll be in Baltimore representing iCarol at the National Council on Problem Gambling Conference in July!
As the Chat and Text provider for the National Council on Problem Gambling, we’re looking forward to meeting representatives from various state affiliates, as well as the other service providers who’ll be attending the conference. We’re especially excited to be kicking off the pre-conference Helpline Symposium with our own presentation and demonstration of iCarol.
If you’re planning to attend the conference we’d sure love to hear from you so we can schedule some time to connect while in Baltimore. Please plan to stop by our booth or we’d love it if you would to us ahead of time so we can schedule some time to chat with you!
As we’ve discussed in our recent webinar and white paper, an important aspect of staying compliant when texting is to ask permission of the help seeker, and to put in a STOP message to enable texters to opt-out of text conversations. As a result, all U.S.-based organizations should have their first, outbound text message configured similar to the one below:
“[Name and location of organization] Welcome! Do you give your consent to text you? Reply yes to continue, STOP to cancel. Message & data rates may apply.”
We’ve made it easy for you to set it up in iCarol. Here’s how:
1. Select ‘Messaging’ on the Left Hand Menu
2. Click on the SMS/Texting link on the upper right hand side of the screen
3. Look for “Settings for SMS”. There will be a new pull-down menu for your portals. It will automatically be set for “default”. Select the portal for which you wish to configure the message. If you only have one, there should only be one named choice in the pull-down list.
4. Your first, automated message to the texter can be configured in a new field, labeled “SMS Initial Message.”
5. Once you’ve configured the message, click the Save Settings button at the bottom of the screen.
Don’t forget that SMS messages have a maximum of 140 characters in the U.S.! Many organizations use abbreviations for some of the wording. You may have to play with your initial message configuration to get it under the character limit.
Note that future updates to the iCarol system will include making the Initial message field a required one for U.S.-based organizations. This will help ensure you don’t forget to configure the message.
For any questions on the configuration options, please contact Support via the Help Page within iCarol.
We recently added the ability for clients to configure which details of resource records are displayed in the search results list. This provides additional information to users, without having to open the resource record by clicking details.
Fields that may be included are:
- Coverage Areas (may slow performance)
- Application Process
- Languages Offered
- Hours of Operation Note
- Closest Site, or Location Description
The last setting “Closest Site, or Location Description” will be included in the results when a city value has been chosen from the Geographic Filters on the resource search page, and when the Program is linked to a ProgramAtSite record with location information.
Here is an example of a resource search results list without any of the above additional fields added:
Here is the same search with all of the available additional fields chosen:
If you would like to turn on any of these options, please submit a case via the online case submission tool.
So you’ve decided to add Texting to your Helpline’s service. Great! But how do you go about picking a number for people to reach you via text? And how will you advertise this new channel?
When you offer your services via Texting with iCarol, you can choose between a 10 digit number, or a short code. Either is allowed by the regulatory entities, so the choice is up to you. But what if we told you that you may already have the perfect number?
For helplines in the US and Canada it’s highly likely that you can text enable your existing 10 digit or 1-800 helpline number. That means that rather than adding on a new number, you can accept texts on the number where you already accept calls. We have several clients doing this already with much success. There are many benefits to going this route.
- Parallel your advertising – When the number is the same for texting or calling, it’s easy to align your marketing efforts, saving you time and money.
- Simplicity in messaging – Think of how clear your ad or website will look with a message like “Text or Call us at 1-800-555-HELP” rather than giving out two separate numbers. Cut through the confusion — there’s just one number to remember for either mode of communication.
- Reach more people – Your helpline number is already well known to your community. Offering the ability to text this same number could increase the likelihood of people remembering it and using it, which can result in greater traffic to your texting service.
- Your phone service is unaffected – Keep your voice service exactly as is with your current phone provider — enabling texting on this number won’t change your original voice channel.
- People may already be texting you – That’s right — we’ve had clients text enable their helpline number to find that when texting is turned on, before any advertising of the text service happens, that people are already sending texts. Texting is such a common and accepted mode of communication these days that many people assume they can call OR text you on the same number.
There is a process to go through to set up your existing helpline number to also accept texts, but we’d be happy to help you through the steps. today to get started!
Crystal and Neil are dusting off their spurs and cowboy hats – they’ll be in Dallas for the Annual I&R Training and Education Conference, held by the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS), May 27 – 30th.
There are some special events we’d like to note, first that Crystal, who is a specialist in Taxonomy and I&R, will present a workshop titled
Taxonomy 102: How to make taxonomy customization decisions, and policies to consider.
Here’s the description of the session, which falls in the Resource Database Track:
So you understand the basic concepts of indexing records using the AIRS/211 LA County Taxonomy, but what comes next? Join us in discussing how to make Taxonomy customization decisions for your organization, and more importantly your resource database. Analyze a database and choose levels to index records. Learn the difference between horizontal and vertical indexing, and how to avoid these common indexing misadventures. Explore the different schools of thought on target terms, and work towards developing your own targeting policies. This session is intended for Resource Database staff with a basic understanding of indexing using the AIRS/211 LA County Taxonomy.
We should note that Crystal’s session is not iCarol-focused, it is educational and will be helpful to Resource Database staff regardless of the software solution used by their helpline. You can join her session on Saturday, May 30th from 10:45am to 12:15pm in the Dallas Ballroom B, 1st Floor, Conference Center.
There will also be an iCarol User Group session on Wednesday May 27th from 2:00-3:45 in Majestic 5, 37th Floor, Center Tower. The User Group session is aimed at leaders and staff at organizations who use iCarol so they can learn about our latest updates and ask questions. If your helpline would like to learn more about iCarol, whether you’re a current subscriber or not, you’re certainly welcome to attend.
Of course while in Dallas we’ll also be welcoming visitors to our booth (201) in the exhibitor’s hall. We’re looking forward to talking with everyone there in hopes of telling others about the iCarol solution, and welcoming more I&R centers into the iCarol family. If you plan to be at the conference and would like to chat with us, please !
You may have noticed some new tabs and tools recently added to your Repeat Caller Profiles. Here’s a look at what they can do.
The Referrals tab shows the most recent referrals from your resource database that were attached to Call Report forms filled out for this caller. They’re listed with the most recent referrals at the top, and older referrals further down the list. Clicking on the Date will take you directly to the finished Call Report where this referral was attached. Clicking on the name of the referral will take you directly to that resource record.
This is a quick way to see what referrals have recently been suggested to your caller, so you can ask them if those referrals have been helpful, or prompt discussions about progress in their situation or treatment plans.
The Follow-ups tab shows approximately 50 of the most recent Follow-up Activities scheduled on Call Reports filled out for the caller. The view here shows the Date on which the Follow-up is due, Status, and Subject line for a quick summary. Like the Referrals tab, each Date is a clickable link that will take you directly to the Call Report form where this Follow-up Activity was assigned.
This can be useful in a number of ways, because even repeat callers can benefit from follow-up calls. Some experts have suggested that receiving a call directly from the helpline during times of high stress or crisis can help repetitive users of the service better respect boundaries or comply with call limits. This list provides a quick way to see how many activities are set up for this caller, the frequency at which they’re being scheduled, and whether they’ve been completed or not.
Public Resource Directory Activity
Each caller profile has a field where an Email can be entered.
We can also enable the capability for visitors to your Public Resource Directory (PRD) to create accounts and save lists. (Contact our Support Team if you’d like to have this enabled for your PRD)
If this client were to create an account on your Public Resource Directory using the same email indicated in their profile, information about when their PRD account was created, when they last logged in to your PRD, and their saved Resource records is shared on the Website tab of the profile.
If you’d like to track this information for any PRD user, our Support Team can set up a process where each new PRD account created will automatically create a Caller Profile in your system. Just ask us to enable this capability for you.
We hope you’ll enjoy using these new features of the Caller Profile. If you encounter any questions, please reach out to the Support Team for help.
Note: This blog describes a process that helps you or your web developers create guided searches of your iCarol Public Resource Directory. While this is still relevant to users of that version of the Public Resource Directory, as of July 3, 2017 a new version of the Public Resource Directory includes a built-in Guided Search builder. Learn more…
Passing parameters from your website to your Public Resource Directory (PRD) is a great and easy way to help guide your users to helpful resources. This feature is included in the Public Resource Directory add-on at no additional cost.
Guided searches can save time, help your users find what they need, and if you use the 211 Taxonomy, can help improve your statistics by encouraging exact Taxonomy searches. Webmasters can pre-load the Public Resource Directory public search page by sending search parameters in the URL hyperlink.
A current example of a client who does this is http://montana211.org/. They put a custom search box on their main page, which was developed by their webmaster. When a search is conducted by a PRD user, they generate a URL for the resulting page. Not only can search terms be passed to the Public Resource Directory (PRD), but other search filters such as location can be passed to the initial search.
Another client who uses pre-populated searches is http://www.211oc.org/211oc-guided-database-search.html. The guided search enables the public users to choose a general category, and then presents them with a list of more specific categories. Once a more specific category is chosen, the public resource directory is pre-populated and the user is presented with a list of appropriate search results.
Basic PRD URL vs. Populated URL
Example of Basic PRD URL:
This link will open the PRD in a new tab/window, with empty search criteria. A user will then have to enter a search term, choose geographic filters to refine their search, and initiate the search by clicking search (or choosing from the drop down list).
Example of a populated PRD search URL:
This link will open the PRD in a new tab/window, but will include populated specific search criteria. iCarol will also complete the query before the page loads for the user, removing the extra step of clicking “search”. The user can change any of the filters or search terms to further refine sequential searches.
How to read the Populated URL
The parameters are passed within a defined section of the URL, and by programming the hyperlinks from your website to the pre-populated URL, you can pass these criteria to the PRD. Search parameter starts with the field name, includes an equals sign (=), then includes the parameter value to pass. Each parameter is separated by an ampersand (&).
You can get the populated URL by completing a search in your PRD system, and copying the URL from the address bar. For a more dynamic approach, your webmaster can use text boxes or drop down boxes to help guide a user’s input.
Understanding Available Parameters
Org – Org is your Organization number, the unique number used by iCarol to represent your system
Country – Geographic Filtering for Country
StateProvince – Geographic Filtering for State or Province
County – Geographic Filtering for County
City – Geographic Filtering for City
PostalCode – Geographic Filtering for Zip/Postal Code
pst – [Coverage | Physical | All ] – Filter resources based on coverage area (“Resources serving”), physical location (“Resources within”), or omit this parameter to use your systems default.
Search – [Food] – Is the actual search term you want to find using the filters above. This can include the name of a specific resource, a general concept or phrase, or be specific such as a customized category or taxonomy term.
Sort – [Alphabetical | Proximity] – Is the sort order that the results will display in.
NameOnly – [True | False] – Set your search type to “Search Names” or “Search All Fields”, or omit this parameter to use your system default.
If your organization wishes to use this feature, or if you have any additional questions on how to use it, please submit a case to the iCarol Support Team via the Online Case Submission Tool, found in your Help menu.