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Posts Tagged ‘Helpline software’

iCarol attending the AIRS conference in May

2015 AIRS Conference Dallas TexasNext month members of our team will be in Dallas for the 37th Annual I&R Training and Education Conference, held by the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS).

In case you’re not familiar with AIRS, it is a membership association for Information and Referral agencies and personnel, and it is the driving force behind the standards and quality benchmarks set in the field of I&R. They boast a diverse membership that includes agencies, community organizations, and even governmental departments that all connect people to the services they need. Their members are located all throughout the US and Canada. Many of the 2-1-1’s and other helplines using iCarol hold AIRS accreditations and many of their staff hold certifications offered by AIRS.

Whether a helpline’s resource database needs are limited to a small community with just a few dozen referrals, or they are a large scale 2-1-1 with contact centers all over the state or province, iCarol’s resource database will work for them. That’s because our tools are scalable, flexible, and robust. That’s the message we’ll bring to Dallas next month, and we’re looking forward to talking with everyone there in hopes of telling others about our tools, and welcoming more I&R centers into the iCarol family as we have been doing for years now.

Will you be in Dallas? We hope we can catch up with some of you attending and talk to you a bit about iCarol. If you’re planning to attend, and let’s find a time to chat at the conference.

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Celebrating Earth Day

At iCarol we want to create tools that assist helplines in saving time and money, but we also care about minimizing our impact on the environment. This Earth Day we’d like to highlight some of the ways that iCarol helps you go green and also increases your efficiency.

1. With Internal Chat your workers send typed messages to one another digitally; No more passing notes.

2. Email or Text your referrals to a client

3. Shred and recycle your paper follow-up schedule, just go to our follow-ups page to see who’s due for a call, when, and what staff member is making the call (or sending the text!)

4. When using a Call Report as an intake form that will be passed off to another agency, you can use the PDF feature to email the call report instead of printing it

5. Storing your volunteer and call data securely online reduces the need to print and store physical files, saving you paper and space

6. Specialized Exports create a Word or Excel file of just the resources you need and none of the ones you don’t

7. Online shift scheduling provides realtime updates so you don’t have to print or email new versions of your shift calendar with each change or picked up shift

8. Use the News feature to eliminate the need to print and post memos in the call center

9. Your Public Resource Directory allows the public to search, save, and map the resources they need so they can get what they want quickly and know where they are going

10. iCarol gives your organization more options for workers to complete tasks at home which means fewer vehicles on the road

11. You can note in a resource record the bus line or transit options for a resource making it easier for someone to consider public transit instead of driving

12. Automated Verification removes the need to mail or fax update requests

13. The electronic feedback loop in call reports eliminates the need for printed notes or other correspondence for feedback

How has iCarol helped you go green? Leave us a comment!

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Collaborative Messaging: Build Networks, Connect with other Helplines

Collaborating w partnersOne key feature of iCarol is the ability to link and share service delivery with other helplines in a variety of ways. Historically a common partnership scenario involves call centers who pass some or all of their calls to other iCarol-using centers either as after-hours contracts, or on an as-needed basis for overflow. iCarol accommodates these partnerships with call report sharing capabilities. Much the same with resources, centers can share resource databases with others who may be taking their calls, or to better service the needs of help-seekers with a wider range of potential services to refer them to, or through setting up provincial and state-wide resource databases to be accessed by a network of helplines who can all take part in maintaining these resources, thus reducing burden to each individual center.

These same principles of sharing volume to benefit centers and clients alike also extends to iCarol Messaging, and in recent month’s we’ve made improvements in this arena.

As an example, one nationwide network using iCarol was using a sort of round-robin approach in how to route chats to the centers who were members of that network. Visitors would arrive to the website and click through to chat, and from there they’d be routed to one of the centers based on the schedule, and the coverage area of the center. Once they were properly routed, they’d arrive at that center’s registration page and after completing registration they’d appear in just that center’s messaging queue.

There are some challenges to this approach, namely:

  • The routing system didn’t take counselor availability into account so chats may be routed but the destination center may be overwhelmed with other work and short on counselors to take chats
  • The visitor was visible just in the iCarol system to which they were routed
  • Registration pages may have a different look and feel, depending on the center to which the visitor was sent
  • Lack of control over the data being collected by individual centers
  • Statistics could not be run in real-time; they had to be aggregated first

chat networks sharingOur developers have been working on a new approach for this network, and they’re currently using it to much success during the pilot period. So, how does the approach work now? The network is using a single shared “portal” made available to the participating centers in their iCarol systems, rather than routing the chats as it did before. This means:

  • Standardized registration pages make for a more consistent look and feel, and better branding for the network
  • Pre-written messages, reporting forms, and data collection are standardized
  • The network system directly hosts and controls their own data, so they get better reporting capabilities
  • Chats are visible to any center serving the visitor’s area, meaning better load balancing and shorter wait times for visitors, fewer abandoned chats
  • Chats are clearly marked as being from the network, but appear in the same queue as the center’s other local chats for ease of use

We’re excited to say that this pilot period has gone very well and the network is enjoying the benefits of the shared portal technology.

We’d welcome the opportunity to talk to you about your network whether it’s provincial/statewide, or national, to see how this functionality could improve and streamline your messaging services and benefit all your participating centers and visitors alike. Current iCarol users, please open a case with us, or if you’re not using iCarol yet please contact us to learn more!

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Get Connected with your Volunteers and Staff

Internal Chat copyEarlier this year we added a feature to iCarol that had proven to be one of our most popular feature requests from our clients. You wanted the ability to exchange typed messages with other workers signed in to your iCarol system.

It was popular for a good reason: there are so many great ways this tool can be used. Here are just a few ways our clients are already putting this to use…

Resource searches – Your Resource Managers are great sources of information and have an answer for everything. If a Call Specialist needs help finding the right resource for a caller, but can’t quite remember its name or the way it’s categorized, they can send a quick, typed message to the Resource Manager for some assistance.

Guidance when working with clients – Whether it’s working through assessing risk or sending rescue, or you’re just having trouble connecting with a client and need some tips, a second pair of eyes or ears from a colleague can be super helpful. If your shift leader is across the room or in another location, no need to throw office supplies to get their attention. Send a quick message to say, “Hey, can you come listen to this call?”

Supervisor check-in – Helpline Directors have a tough task of needing to be available and on-call practically all the time. Internal Chat allows you to quickly check in with your staff even if you’re already home after a long day. From anywhere with an internet connection you can sign in to see that folks have arrived and signed on, and send a quick encouraging note as they start their shift.

Have fun! – Collect lunch orders, check and see who wants to hit up karaoke after shift, or send a goofy joke to brighten someone’s day.

These chats are also protected — the security you enjoy throughout the rest of iCarol extends to Internal Chat, and your Internal Chat conversations are expunged on demand, and also when you sign off. So you can feel confident discussing confidential information via these conversations if needed.

Bottom line: We wanted this new feature to be one more way that your volunteers and staff can feel connected to their colleagues, their supervisors, and by extension connected to the mission of your organization. We truly hope this feature has done this for your center.

Internal Chat is included as a part of any iCarol system, it just needs to be turned on by an Admin user and then permissions granted to workers to use the feature. For instructions on how to do this and more, check out our help videos or watch our webinar.

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Using iCarol’s Built-in Suicide Risk Assessment Tools

When your volunteers are working with a help-seeker either on the phone, in-person, or online, there may come a time where assessing that person’s risk for suicide becomes necessary. Several years ago the Lifeline developed suicide risk assessment standards based on industry research. We then took these standards into consideration and developed a tool for use in iCarol that guides your volunteers and staff through that assessment process. Like other forms in iCarol, this guide can be customized to your needs.

The assessment begins with three basic and direct questions that gauge whether the person is thinking of suicide today, if they’ve thought about suicide very recently, and whether they have ever attempted to kill themselves.

three questions

Instructions guide the worker to proceed if any of the questions receive a ‘Yes’ answer. A fourth question asking about suicide in progress can help determine imminent risk, and our ‘Help tip’ reveals important questions to help quickly clarify this risk and begin rescue if that is part of your helpline’s policies.

Suicide In Progress Help

Four areas influencing risk are explored: Desire, Capability, Intent, and Buffers and Connectedness. Each section contains a number of topics, each with a ‘Help tip’ providing suggestions on the types of questions or statements that could be worked into the conversation. This can help your staff build rapport with the client and allows the interaction to continue naturally, rather than feeling like a questionnaire.

Exploring risk

As they talk with the client, they can select any of three options for each area which best captures where the client is for that particular topic. As these options are selected, our tool weights these answers and provides a measurement that helps gauge the overall level of risk.

Weighted risk gauge

Next, your worker can discuss and record the client’s reasons for living and reasons for dying. This can be a compelling tool for discussion and an important piece of the conversation. When someone is at risk for suicide, finding and focusing on reasons for living as compared to their reasons for dying can be a powerful exercise.

Reasons for living and dying

Finally, your worker can record the level of risk as determined through their discussion with the client or from the measurement tool. A series of instructions can help guide them towards resolution, referral, and other outcomes.

Again, because our forms are customizable to your own practices, this guide can be used exactly as delivered or you can make your own adjustments and edits if needed.

Providing a safe place for open, honest discussion about suicide, free of judgment, is the cornerstone of any crisis service. This powerful risk assessment tool will help your volunteers and staff feel supported, equipped, and confident when working with callers at risk for suicide, all while helping your center conform with industry standards.

Want to know more about our Suicide Risk Assessment tools, or want to enable them in your system? Please , or existing users can open a support case.

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We never talk anymore: The preference to text instead of talk

An interesting take on the preference for texting over talking can be found in this article by Bizzuka.

Some key points to take away:

  • Smartphone owners aged 18-24 send and receive 4,000 messages per month.

  • 43% of 18-24 year-olds say that texting is just as meaningful as an actual conversation with someone over the phone.

  • 42% of teens say the primary reason they have a cell phone is for texting. Safety was second at 35%.

These and other statistics about millennials are sourced here.

Millennials aren’t the only ones who text, though. According to Factbrowser, statistics reveal that US smartphone owners who use text (92%) send an average of 111 messages per week, and 49% of those who use social media daily would rather text than call someone.

More evidence that texting is not a fad but rather an often preferred mode of communication that’s here to stay.

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Favorite Things: Eating Pie, Analyzing Data, and Irrational Numbers

Happy Pi Day this coming weekend!

What is Pi Day? Nominally, it’s a celebration of the mathematical concept of pi from high school geometry class (it involves circles), but my kids and I use it as an annual excuse to eat more pie.pi day

Actually, Saturday is technically Pi Day only in countries where the date format is like this: MM/DD. That’s because in those countries March 14 is written as 3/14 – get it? Pi = 3.14.

People in countries that use the date format DD/MM could wait until Pi Approximation Day (yes, that is a real thing), which is July 22. That’s written as 22/7; 22 divided by 7 is 3.14, hence, pi. But who wants to wait months to have an extra serving of pie? I say go for it now. Anyway, who among the pi cognoscenti would throw stones? You can bet I’ll consider myself Australian on that date, for snack purposes.

I was thinking this could also be also a good chance to extol the virtues of all the great pie charts in iCarol. Head over to the Statistics area, and you’ll see lots of ways you could use pie charts to display your data. My favorite part is when you make a pie chart, you can click on the slices to drill down into the data even further.dnc-d8v0puku

But really, that’s torturing the homonym a bit too far, with no satisfying gustatory payoff.

So instead I’ll end with a handy way to remember the first few digits of pi. I can’t say that I run into too much need to calculate the area of a circle with such precision, or, frankly, with any precision at all. But it has helped me annoy — er I mean impress — friends at parties. Where, of course, I parlay this knowledge into getting extra pie. It all comes full circle (pardon the pun).

Here’s the memory trick — the words in the following sentence each have the same number of letters as the first few digits of pi:

“How I wish I could calculate pi easily” (that is, “how” = 3 letters, “I” = 1, “wish” = 4, etc., so the sentence helps me remember the first digits of pi: 3.1415926).

I hope this earns you as many desserts as it has for me. And if you have the stomach for further party-scoring-knowledge, here’s another: Pi is considered, in mathematical terms, an irrational number. That means the digits go on forever.

Somehow it gives me great comfort to know that some numbers truly, technically, are irrational.

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Search on up to three categories simultaneously

We’ve got a new optional tool for searching for resources using custom categories. This tool lets you conduct category searches on up to three categories (sometimes also referred to as “keywords”) simultaneously.

Those using the taxonomy are familiar with this already; what’s new is the ability for everyone with custom categories to use this.

multiple category searching

So how can this be helpful to your searches?

You could use this new tool to search for resources tagged with both “rent help” and “utility help” (if you had those categories set up, for example). That could be helpful if your caller had transportation issues, and needed a single place to go for both. The search results would only include resources tagged with both of those custom categories.

As another example, you could also use the tool to search for “rent help” OR “utility help.” That could be helpful if the caller had general financial issues, and you wanted to find any resource that might be able to help. In that case, the search results would return resources tagged with at least one of the categories you indicated. You’d get more search results with this method than you would for the first example.

If you’d like this tool enabled in your system, there’s no added charge. Please submit a support case, and our team will take care of that for you.

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New Tools for Finding Follow-ups and Surveys Due

We understand how important the follow-up process is at your helpline. There are many different reasons to follow-up with a help seeker after your initial conversation has ended. Safety planning and ongoing contact with support systems are extremely important for people who are having thoughts of suicide. Or perhaps you’d like to see if the referrals a caller was given were able to help them. Many centers also use a follow-up call as an opportunity to conduct a satisfaction or quality assurance survey.

helpline flowWhatever reason you are following up with a client, our follow-up activity within a call report form makes it easy to schedule these follow-ups. You can collect the important information you’ll need to conduct the follow-up call, not just the person’s name and phone number but important information to preserve confidentiality, like knowing whether or not it’s okay to leave a voicemail, or to say where you’re calling from if a third party answers the phone. Your volunteers can even sign up for an email notification to tell them a follow-up call has been scheduled and assigned to them. There’s also a handy “inbox” on the main calls page where they can quickly navigate to the list of follow-ups that are scheduled.

With our next release we’ll be launching improvements to the pages that list Follow-ups and Surveys due. Those pages, as always, are accessed from the Calls menu. Here are highlights of the changes, which you’ll see soon:

  • New arrows on the top bar let you change the sort order of each column: call report form number, due date, client name, phone worker, assigned to, and subject.
  • To make the date column sortable, that’s now in YYYY/MM/DD format.
  • A new search box lets you more quickly find the call reports you need by typing in a search term.
  • You can still reassign followups, but it looks a little different — the pulldown is gone. Instead, please just click on the “assigned to” name, and then you’ll see the list of names from which you can choose.

We hope this enhancement helps save time in your daily work; making it so you can quickly and efficiently find the information you need when conducting follow-up interactions.

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New SMS Options: Text Notifications and Send Text Messages to Other Users in your iCarol System

Our clients spoke and we listened! Many clients expressed a wish for iCarol to be able to leverage text messaging in new and different ways. Therefore, we added three new ways to use text messaging in iCarol. This article will outline how to send text notifications and text messages to other users in your iCarol system, and a future article will outline how to conduct follow-ups via text message. These new options carry no set-up fee, but you will be charged a monthly fee for the text messages sent, at a rate of $40/1000 messages/month.

The new SMS options will first need to be turned on by an Admin in your iCarol system. They can be found by clicking Admin Tools in the left hand menu, and then the “Messaging” tab. Doing so will take you to the page pictured below, where you will want to click the box next to the first two options to place a check mark there, then click the “Save all settings” button at the top of the screen.

1 Admin Tools

Those individuals who would like to be able to receive SMS messages from other users or would like to receive notifications via SMS will need to edit their user profiles to include a mobile phone number, and to give permission for SMS messages to be sent to them. To do so, the user, or an Admin on their behalf, will click Vols-Staff in the left hand menu, then click on the name of the person whose profile they would like to edit. Next, click the Contacts tab, the click the Edit button at the top of the screen. Next, enter a phone number into the Mobile Phone field, and click the box next to “I permit SMS’s to be sent to this mobile phone” to place a check mark there. Finally, click the Save button at the top of the screen.

2 Profile

Please note the text in red. SMS messages from iCarol may be sent at any time. It is suggested that if you would not like to receive SMS messages during certain time frames, you explore your mobile phone options to determine if there is a setting you can use to delay delivery of SMS messages to certain time frames. Most mobile phones have this option so that, for example, it can be set so that SMS messages are not delivered between the hours of 11pm and 9am. Any message that might have been sent during that time frame is not delivered until after 9am. Alternately, most mobile phones also allow users to set their phone to silent, so that the notification sound that usually plays when a phone call or text message is received is not heard. Once the option to send SMS notifications is turned on, additional options are displayed on the Notifications tab of user profiles as below.

3 Notifications

Each individual, or an Admin on their behalf, can edit these options to indicate which notifications they would like sent via SMS.

To send a SMS message to another user, follow the steps below.

1. Click Vols-Staff in the left hand menu
2. Click on the name of the person you would like to send a message to
3. Click the Contact Info tab of the user profile
4. Click the mobile phone number
5. A new tab or window will open where you can type your message and send it

4 Send SMS

Non-Admin users can only send SMS messages to one user at a time. Admin users can send a SMS message to multiple users at once. They would do so by following these steps:

1. Click Vols-Staff in the left hand menu
2. Click the boxes next to the names of the people you would like to send a SMS message to, so there are check marks placed there
3. Scroll to the bottom of the screen and click on the Send SMS link

5 Select coworkers

4. The form to type your message and send it will appear

6 Send SMS

A new report has been added to the Statistics page of iCarol to help you track how many SMS messages are being sent from your system. Admins can access this report by clicking Statistics in the left hand menu, then the Messaging menu. This report contains several filters so you can determine from what area of iCarol the SMS messages are being sent. “Between Staff and Volunteers” is the option to choose if you would like to see how many notification messages and messages between users are being sent.

7 Statistics

If you have any questions or need any clarification on this functionality, please do not hesitate to send a case to iCarol Support!

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