Beginning in 2011, when the United States Senate first recognized Information and Referral Services Day, November 16th was designated to raise public awareness and recognize the critical importance of the I&R field.
Every day thousands of people find the help they need quickly, conveniently and free of charge because of Information and Referral (I&R) services. I&R services come in all shapes and sizes, from crisis lines that provide their local community with a core set of human service referrals, to larger scale 2-1-1 centers providing comprehensive Information and Referral services to entire states or provinces covering many different topics and types of services.
Information and Referral is the art, science and practice of bringing people and services together and is an integral component of the health and human services sector. People in search of critical services such as shelter, financial assistance, food, jobs, or mental health and substance abuse support often do not know where to begin to get help, or they get overwhelmed trying to find what they need. I&R services recognize that when people in need are more easily connected to the services that will help them, thanks to knowledgeable I&R professionals, it reduces frustration and ensures that people reach the proper services quickly and efficiently.
The people who work these lines are consummate professionals who are often times like living, breathing encyclopedias; providing answers to questions ranging from, “Where can I get a free meal for my family” to “There’s a horse running loose in my neighborhood, who do I call?” We at iCarol are really honored to have so many Information and Referral services all across the world use our software to help provide these services to people who reach them via phone, chat, text, or through intake and screening forms or resource searches on their websites.
If you’d like to learn more about what iCarol does to support efficient referral management, check out this page of our website that goes over some of those features.
Happy I & R Day, everyone, and kudos on the awesome work you do connecting people with the services they need, and addressing the social determinants of health in your communities!
Learn more about Information and Referral:
Providing excellent customer service is a top priority for the iCarol team, and this year we enhanced the ways in which we serve our valued customers. Below are details about several new initiatives we have implemented this year.
Premier Support Package
iCarol offers a Premier Support Package. This includes all of the features of the Standard Support Package, as well as:
- Case responses for Premier Support subscribers will be prioritized.
- A member of the iCarol Support Team designated as the customer organization’s Technical Account Manager (TAM). This is an assigned member of the Support Team who will oversee all requests for ongoing training and support assistance.
- This also includes at least one scheduled 60 minute team screen share/call per month between the TAM and the Designated Support Contacts to be scheduled by the TAM.
- Additional iCarol team members may be brought in to best assist the client, but all interactions will be directed and managed by the TAM.
Contact us for more information
Expanded Support Hours
We have added weekend availability to our normal support hours. In addition to our previous hours of 8am to 8pm Eastern Monday through Friday, members of our Support Team are also available Saturdays and Sundays from 12pm to 5pm Eastern.
These are the hours during which our team is available to investigate and respond to support cases through the case management system, email, and live chat (Now available to all customers! See below for details!). In addition to these support hours, our technical and infrastructure teams will continue to monitor for system uptime and performance 24/7, and our Support Team has a process in place to routinely check the case queue for urgent issues at points beyond normal support hours, as has been our policy in the past.
Live Chat with Support
Our Support Team is available through Live Chat during normal support hours for all of our customers as a part of our Standard Support Package that is included with an iCarol system subscription. Designated support contacts can initiate a Live Chat session with members of the support team during normal support hours by taking the following steps:
- Log in to your iCarol system
- Click ‘Help’ in the left hand menu
- Click ‘Cases – contact the iCarol Support Team’ at the top of the screen
- Click the ‘Live Help Online’ button in the middle of the screen, OR the ‘Chat Now’ button at the bottom of the screen
If you are a customer and have any questions about the services outlined above, or if you would like to upgrade to Premier Support, please open a case with the Support Team. If you are a not an iCarol customer yet, please contact us. We would love to hear from you!
Many thanks to our current customers who have provided kind and valuable feedback since we implemented these new support options. Your input greatly assists us as we continue to look for ways to improve support delivery to you.
A Public Resource Directory (PRD) — the iCarol feature that empowers iCarol customers to allow their resource database to be accessed and searched on the web — is an invaluable tool, especially for 211s and other Information and Referral contact centers who need to provide their communities with modern ways to find help using self-service and other alternatives to making a phone call.
When a website visitor is browsing a PRD and collecting resources to pursue, they want easy ways to save the information so they can access it when they are offline, share it with a friend or family member who needs assistance, or simply keep a local copy of the resources they’re planning to pursue accessing services from.
iCarol customers using the Public Resource Directory 2.0 version can allow public visitors to their iCarol Public Resource Directory to download a PDF of a resource record, providing another option to make the resource record information portable, accessible, and shareable.
iCarol customers using the PRD 2.0 can learn more by accessing the Help Articles knowledge base when signed in to their iCarol web application.
Awhile back we shared our intentions to make some changes to the terminology we use when talking about certain iCarol features and capabilities. Namely, referring to “callers” or “calls” as the standard when talking about the people served and how you serve them. Before we go any further, let’s backup and review…
Recap – Why the changes?
iCarol was inspired by the volunteer experiences of our founders in a helpline environment, which were, at the time, very much rooted in call taking as the method of engaging with and helping people in need. Over the years, new technologies that lend themselves to different and expanded ways of communicating only grew in popularity and availability, and iCarol adapted as a result by enabling into the software communication channels like Live Chat, Texting/SMS, and connecting clients with services through a public website, for example Online Forms and the Public Resource Directory.
The fact is, iCarol is such a flexible solution that since the very beginning our customers have used it for far more than just phone-based work. But, much of the terminology we use when talking about our software centers around calls. For example, the functionality used to document interactions with clients and collect necessary information has historically been called “Call Reports” or “Call Report Forms,” and the area of your system where these interactions are logged is titled “Calls.” There are other examples like “Caller Profile” and “Phone Worker” being used throughout our public website and web application (aka “web app”).
We want to be more inclusive and consider the broad scope of how iCarol is actually used by our clients by using terminology that actually reflects its full potential. It’s important that we do this so that our current customers feel their work is understood and respected by the iCarol team, but also so that potential clients understand that iCarol is the solution for them, and ensuring they don’t mistakenly think its capabilities are limited and can’t meet their organization’s needs.
What is changing?
After surveying our clients and having internal discussions, we have settled on some new terminology to transition to:
It’s important to note that these changes are cosmetic only, and none of these changes should impact the way iCarol works or how you use the software to complete tasks.
|Calls (as seen on the left main menu of iCarol)
|Call Report or Call Report Form
||Contact Form/Contact Record
||Vol/Staff, Volunteer or Staff, Worker
||Help seeker, Person in need, Client
When will these changes occur?
We have already begun making changes throughout our public website to reflect the broader scope of how people can and do use iCarol. You may also notice these newer terms on our blogs and other public-facing content, and they may be used by members of our team when they’re answering your questions or working with you on Support cases.
In regards to the iCarol software that you sign into and use each day, changing terms there will take longer to implement. We are still in the process of analyzing all the areas that need to change, and we will then decide what areas to prioritize and organize our efforts before any changes will begin. When we do begin changing terms in web app, you will find these changes will happen in phases and for a time there may be some inconsistencies, i.e. some pages use the new terms while others still use the old ones. We appreciate your patience through the process. When we know more about when you can expect to start seeing these changes in iCarol, we will communicate that on the blog and the iCarol Dashboard.
Read past blogs on this topic:
iCarol offers multiple ways for you to retrieve the data you put into your system. You can use our Statistics area to access dozens of available-on-demand charts and graphs that present information that our clients most commonly need to meet their reporting requirements. You can also apply numerous filters to these reports, drilling directly in to uncover the desired information. This area is a sufficient source of information for most of your basic reporting needs.
But, we understand that others may want or need to run cross tabulations, pivot tables, or otherwise customize their reporting experience a bit further. Our users can extract their raw data files for further analysis in external programs like Microsoft Access or Excel, or simply export the data for offline storage. These data tables contain every last detail about activities like your shifts, volunteer and staff profiles, the records in your resource database, and contact records including the data from contact record text entry fields, among other activities.
Our philosophy is this: The data you put into iCarol is YOUR data— we are simply the stewards of it by keeping it stored and protected for you, and so of course you should have access to it as needed. Many of our users choose to go to the Admin Tools area of iCarol to export this data on a regular basis. However, this does require taking a few steps to initiate the download, then waiting for the export to complete before you can begin your analysis.
We’ve created an enhancement to the Admin Tools export area: Scheduled Exports. Using this feature, our users can schedule an automatic export to occur. This export can be delivered in your iCarol system just as the manual exports, or you can set a path to a S/FTP that you’ve provided for this data to be delivered to.
Each iCarol customer is allotted one free monthly scheduled export to use in their system.
This feature is also available as a subscription — you may add on several scheduled exports to your iCarol system for a nominal monthly cost. When you subscribe to this feature, you may choose from multiple time frames for the scheduled exports to occur: Weekly, Monthly, Quarterly, or Annually. If you find yourself needing to export information on a repeat basis throughout your reporting cycles, having these files exported automatically is a convenient and time-saving solution.
To add your free monthly scheduled export, log into iCarol and navigate to the Help area to read our detailed Help Articles with step-by-step instructions (simply search for “Scheduled Export”).
And, if you want to save even more time and have more exports automatically delivered on a recurring basis, open a case with the Support Team to get started!
The Automated Verification Request/Response (AVR) feature in iCarol helps you keep resource records reliable and up-to-date, and saves hundreds of hours when compared to sending manual emails, letters, or making phone calls. But, you may find over time the list of Requests sent by you, or your organization, may become long and therefore hard to determine what requests are still open.
If you use the AVR feature, it’s also likely your organization has setup a Verification Process, in which you set a certain number of times you’ll reach out to an organization requesting an update be made, and specify the ways in which you’ll reach out to organizations. For example, you may have a Verification Process setup where you send 2 emails to an organization, then if they don’t respond X weeks after the 2nd email is sent, you may try calling the organization twice, and so on and so forth.
For this reason, and more, it’s helpful to keep the list of open Requests updated so it can be used as a tool to help keep track of your Verification Process. You can keep this list updated using the buttons at the bottom of each Request to ‘Close’ or ‘Hide’ the request, depending on your desired outcome, in combination with the filters available on this page for which ‘Existing Verification Requests’ you want to include in this list.
Updates were recently made to the buttons that control which Requests appear on the list as Open, which ones appear as Closed, and which ones are Hidden. The updates made these buttons more meaningful and user-friendly, making it so each button has a slightly different outcome. The three buttons available to choose from are ‘Hide this request on the list’, ‘Mark the Request as Closed’, and ‘Mark as Verified and Close’, and each button causes different changes to happen within the resource records included in the Request you’ve selected.
Depending on which button you choose, the changes are as follows:
- ‘Mark the Request as Closed’ will:
- change the status in the list of requests to ‘Closed’ so it can be filtered from appearing in the list
- cause no change to the ‘Last Verified…’ or ‘Verifier’s…’ data
- make the Request links sent to verifiers inactive, making it impossible to submit a Response for this particular Request
- ‘Mark the Request as Verified and Close’, will:
- change the status in the list of requests to ‘Closed’ so it can be filtered from appearing in the list
- change existing date in the ‘Last Verified…’ and ‘Verifier’s…’ fields, unless a Response has been submitted by a resource included in the Request
- make the Request links sent to verifiers inactive, making it impossible to submit a Response for this particular Request
- ‘Hide this request on the list’, will:
- cause no change to the ‘Last Verified…’ or ‘Verifier’s…’ data
- permanently remove the Request from appearing in the list of requests on the left side of the page; once you do this, there is no way to un-hide the request
- make the Request links sent to the verifiers remain active, making it possible for a verifier to still submit a Response for this particular Request
After you have your Requests marked as ‘Close’ or ‘Hide’, you can use the filters at the top of the Automated Verification Requests page to show only ‘Sent’ Requests, which are any Requests where you haven’t chosen to ‘Close’ or ‘Hide’, or you can use the filters to show only ‘Closed’ requests.
When you choose to use each button is entirely up to you and your organization, and should be based off your internal processes, but the information outlined in this blog provides all the details and information you’ll need to make the best decision for the work you do! For more information about how to use this tool, you can read the help article ‘How to close or hide an Automated Verification Request’.
Happy Pi Day! What’s that exactly? Remember geometry and learning about finding the area and perimeter (aka circumference) of circles? To get your calculation correct, you need Pi in your equation. You might also see pi as the Greek letter “π”. It’s the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter — which is always approximately 3.14159… (it’s actually been calculated to over one trillion digits beyond the decimal point!).
In the US and some other countries we write our dates in a MM/DD/YY format so today, March 14th, is 3/14 — Pi Day! And even though most other countries write their dates in a DD/MM format, today is generally accepted as Pi Day worldwide since there are only 12 months. If you’re nerdy like me, you can read more about Pi Day here. Yes, it’s a real thing. Yes, it has its own website.
In honor of Pi Day, here are 3 interesting uses of pie charts in iCarol.
1. A Bird’s Eye View
Use Pie Charts to give you a sort of broad overview of how the numbers or percentages are shaping up for a certain sub-category of your contact form. Or, use it as an overview of your location breakdowns.
In the Analysis tab of Statistics, when selecting Chart Type, you have two Pie Charts to choose from, either Caller Issues and Demographics (which will start by showing you all the Categories on your contact form) or Caller Location.
The resulting charts are below. If you selected the Caller Issues and Demographics chart you get this broad overview of your contact form Categories.
And if you selected the Location pie chart you’ll see a high level look at the geographic location entries.
2. Drill down to get more detail
Once you’ve got that high level pie chart available, you can click on pieces of the pie to drill into the data below. Drilling into a Category will then show you the sub-categories that are available. These sub-categories are the Groups or questions asked within each category on your contact form. On a location chart, drilling into the State or Province piece of the pie will show you the county level information.
If we take our Caller Issues and Demographics chart above and drill into the mauve colored “Issues” category, we’ll see the Issue choices of sub-categories.
If we click on the “Mental Health/Counseling” piece of the pie, we’ll drill down to the lowest available level, which are the field choices or answer options within that sub-category. These are the items you may find in the drop-down or list of check box choices on the contact form.
As mentioned, if you drill further down into the location pie chart, you’d get the counties breakdown. So if I click on Nevada, I’ll see the Nevada counties chosen.
Clicking on Eureka county shows me how the city numbers shape up for that county.
3. Percentage vs. Count
Remember if percentages aren’t really your thing and you’d like to see a count instead, just click the “Total Count” option for any of the pie charts shown.
Now that I’ve told you a bit more about pie charts in iCarol, I suggest you go celebrate Pi Day in the truly best way possible — enjoy a piece of real, edible pie.
Save the date and book your spot — our next Enhancement Review Webinar is scheduled for Monday, December 18, 2017 at 1pm EST!
A reminder that these webinars are a way for us to provide users with a summary of the latest enhancements that have been added to your iCarol systems. This isn’t a training nor do we dive deep into instructions on how to enable or use these tools, though all of that information can be found in our help articles and other training materials inside iCarol. The webinar is our chance to go over what was added, what problems it solves and what direct benefits you could see from using it, along with potential use cases.
Sign up now by clicking the button below. Remember, if you find you can’t make it on the day of the webinar, we always provide a recording and make that available on our website and we also send out a link via email to all those who attended, or those who registered but were absent. We hope to see you there!
We’ve recently added to iCarol the capability to send your Resource Specialists or Resource Managers an automated email notification when a Resource record in your database is “flagged for review.”
What Are “Flagged Resources?”
It’s important that your Resource Database information is kept accurate and reliable so that your Call/Chat Specialists are giving out the best information possible. One of the tools that help you accomplish this in iCarol is Resource “flagging” — marking a record in such a way that Resource Specialists or Resource Managers know to give it some attention.
How It Works
Say a client received a referral from your organization last week, but when they call that referral they find the number is out of service, or they reach the organization but are told the program they called about is no longer offered. Oftentimes such clients will call you back to complain or report the difficulty accessing services. In other cases, you may discover the encountered barriers on a follow-up conversation with the client. Another potential scenario — one of the employees of an organization listed in your database may proactively call your service and speak with a Call Specialist to report needed changes to their listing. Regardless of how the question is raised to a record’s accuracy, within iCarol your volunteers and staff can go into the Resource record and “flag” that record along with a note describing the necessary changes, or simply note the request that the Resource Manager follow-up with the organization.
This process is far better than taking the time to write the Resource Manager an email, or leaving them a note or voicemail. Those steps take time away from your specialists’ responsibility of answering calls or chats and providing other direct services to clients. By simply typing a note in the Resource record within iCarol and hitting the “Submit” button, your specialists won’t have to leave their workstation or stop what they’re doing to pass the information along. This not only saves them time and keeps their focus on serving clients, but also helps safeguard against this important task being forgotten or overlooked.
On the receiving end of the flagged Resource is the Resource Specialist or Resource Manager, who will see an alert on the main Manage Resources page noting that a Resource was flagged for review. Simply clicking a link on that page takes the Resource Manager to the full listing where they can review the issue and clear the flag once any investigation and adjustments are complete. Until they do this, others who view the record as a potential referral for a client will see that is has been flagged, so they know to be aware and proceed with caution before providing it as a referral.
With this latest enhancement, in addition to the in-system alert seen at the top of the Manage Resources page, certain staff can also receive a system generated, automated email alerting them that a Resource has been flagged. This additional alert helps Resource Managers respond more quickly when a Resource record’s accuracy requires review.
How To Enable/Disable This Notification
We have automatically enabled this setting for all users whose security permissions indicate they have a role in Resource Management, i.e. they can create and edit Resource records. To change settings for any of your users, take the following steps:
- Log in to iCarol as an Admin
- In the left main menu, click on ‘Vols-Staff’
- Click on the name of the person whose notifications you wish to change
- Click ‘Edit’
- Click ‘Notifications’
- Select or un-select the ‘Resource flagged for review notification’ setting
- Click the ‘Save’ button
If you wish to disable this setting for all users of your iCarol system, but the size of your staff makes this an onerous task to complete manually, please open a case with our Support Team and they can assist you. Your case should contain the subject line: “Disable the ‘Resources flagged for review’ setting for all our users.” For a limited time our Technical Team can run a script to turn off this notification en masse for all users in your system. We’ll honor requests for this action through December 31, 2017.
There are over 100 different “standard” fields available for use in your iCarol Resource Database which allow you to track and curate resource information you need to help your community. Some of these fields include Phone Numbers, Address, Languages Spoken, Description of services, etc. and are commonly used in the industry to describe what a service is, how it is offered and who it serves. But, you may not wish to have all of these fields appearing and populated on each level of the resource “hierarchy.”
For example, many people choose to have fields like Address and Phone number shown only for the Program, Site, or ProgramAtSite resource records, and not the Agency record level. There are probably several fields that you don’t wish to appear on the Public Resource Directory listing for the public, but you would like to have them appear in your internal iCarol system for your I&R and Resource Specialists. Customizing the fields being shown and editable at each level of the resource hierarchy is controlled using iCarol’s Resource Field Visibility tool, which recently underwent some very helpful enhancements.
Why the Changes?
These enhancements are a direct result of the feedback we’ve received from clients about this tool. Among this feedback was that the tool took too many clicks to operate, not all fields were available, some fields that were available shouldn’t be, and more. In addition to this feedback about what wasn’t working, clients offered some great suggestions on what could be added, such as ways to control the visibility of fields appearing on resource PDFs, and ways to enhance resource quality by requiring some fields to be required and always have values or text entered when editing.
Important note, we’re making the new Field Visibility tool available users now as a BETA feature. We welcome you to use it and test it out, and report any problems to the Support Team. Right now the new tool is available for configuration by Admins and those with Resource Manager security settings, but please note that the new Field Visibility settings and new version of the tool will not be applied to your system until you switch over to use the new tool (instructions below). Right now, these settings can only be used to control Resource Viewer, Resource Editing, Resource Auto-Verification, and Resource PDFs. Support for either version of the Public Resource Directory and Resource API are coming very soon.
The New Tool
To get to the Field Visibility tool, take the following steps:
- On your left main menu in iCarol, click on ‘Resources’
- Click on ‘Manage Resources’
- In the far left column click on ‘Field visibility’
You will arrive at this page.
When you navigate to this Field Visibility Settings page, you’ll note that to the right is a setting which shows which version of the Field Visibility tool you are currently using. Until you switch to ‘BETA: New field visibility settings,’ your settings as they are on the old tool remain in place. Warning: If you click on ‘BETA: New field visibility settings,’ you will be switched over to the new tool. We advise that you first configure your new settings before making the switch.
To explore the new settings page and/or begin configuring settings using the new tool, click the link to the right that says ‘Setup my new field visibility settings.’
Like the old tool, the field names appear down the left, and there are four columns to represent each level of the resource structure hierarchy: Agency, Program, Site, and ProgramAtSite.
There are a few new key things to note on this page:
- The new tool can currently be used to change the following areas: Resource Viewer, Resource Editing, Resource Auto-Verification, and Resource PDFs. To decide which of these you want to change the visibility settings for, select the appropriate one from the dropdown list.
- Where appropriate, for instance the settings used for Resource Editing, you can note that a field should not only be visible, but should also be required to have a value or text entered. Some fields, like ‘Name,’ are already set to be required and this is not editable, as having a Resource name is necessary in every record. These requirement settings will help you ensure important and necessary fields are not left blank, and results in cleaner and more accurate resource data management.
- There is a “Select all” or “Apply to all” setting at the top of each hierarchy column, allowing you to either turn visibility on or turn it off for every field* in the list with a single click.
*does not apply to the ‘Name’ field as this must always be visible.
- If you use Custom Fields, they appear at the bottom of the fields list. This allows you to control Custom Field Visibility in the same place as all other Field Visibility, rather than needing to navigate to the Custom Fields settings area of iCarol’s resource management tools.
- While changing your settings, it may help to have the field names appear alphabetically rather than having to sort through their typical groupings. Here you can change the field order from grouping to alphabetical and back again.
- If you haven’t yet Saved your changes and would like to undo the settings changes you made, simply click the ‘Undo Changes’ button. After clicking this button and clicking through a warning message, all settings will revert to what they were at your last save point.
- When you are ready to save the Field Visibility settings, click the ‘Save Field Visibility Settings’ button.
When you’re satisfied with the settings under the New Field Visibility Tool, and have saved your settings, you can then switch over to putting the new tool into use whenever you like. To do that, simply click the ‘BETA: New field visibility settings’ button.
We hope you enjoy the New Field Visibility tool and that you find it useful. Our goal was to apply all the helpful feedback we’ve received over time and make the process more streamlined and efficient, while offering even more options, control, and helping with clean data management. If you have questions or need to report any issue with the BETA of this tool, please contact the iCarol Support Team.