Are you thinking about letting visitors contact you via messaging, but are not sure of the differences between Instant Messaging and Text Messaging? iCarol offers both – here’s a quick review of how each differs in access, convenience, variable cost, and privacy.
Instant Messaging lets visitors click on an iCarol-provided “chat now” button on your website to initiate a session with one of your specialists. Both the visitor and the specialist converse from computer screens, typing messages back and forth to each other.
With Text Messaging, counselors also converse from iCarol computer screens – actually the very same screens they’d use for Instant Messaging – yet visitors participate from their own cell phones, not from a computer screen.
We all know that the easier it is to get information or help, the more likely it is a person will ask.
Many of our Instant Messaging clients love having a “Chat Now” button on their website. Not only does it encourage visitors to return repeatedly to their website – who doesn’t want a popular website? – it also offers visitors a handy way of communicating when and where a visitor really needs it.
For example, you could paste the button right next to the screen where visitors search your resource database (another iCarol feature). If the visitor is having trouble finding what they need, help is just a click away.
So Instant Messaging is great for organizations that either have a popular website, or don’t, and appreciate a boost in web traffic while at the same time better serving your community.
Text Messaging, on the other hand, offers a convenient way to ask for help when a visitor is not near a computer. Often clients tell us that visitors who text them would not reach out to anyone if a texting service were not available.
For example, maybe a man’s on the bus on the way to work and he’s stressed about paying his utility bill. Or a mom sitting at a park rocking her sleeping toddler needs help finding an after-school program for her first grader. Perhaps a middle-school student plops down on the family couch next to her siblings after a tough day at school fending off bullies. All of these people might reach out for help via texing.
Text Messaging makes help available right from the convenience of a person’s own cell phone. It’s a kind of access that people tend to expect more and more in a world where texting friends, family, companies, banks, etc. is ubiquitous.
Where the two forms of messaging differ from a variable cost standpoint is in text usage fees. Text Messaging has them, Instant Messaging does not. When you have Text Messaging service, you’ll be billed for usage based on how many thousands of texts you use per month.
In your iCarol system, you’ll always have a running count of texts so you can see your usage level. We won’t cut you off when you reach your billed-for limit; we’ll just make it up on the next bill. As you use more texts, volume discounts kick in. Plus an increased volume helps funders see how popular your service has become.
Your visitors will of course never be charged by iCarol for text usage, but may be charged by their own cell phone provider, depending on their texting plan. There’s a spot in the workflow to add a note to visitors reminding them, and typically our clients like to add such a note as well to wherever they publicize the texting number.
Both Text Messaging and Instant Messaging offer a kind of privacy that a voice phone call does not. That is, nobody can overhear a conversation asking for help conducted via either kind of messaging, because it’s all nonverbal.
That’s helpful for a large segment of the population who might not otherwise reach out for help.
It’s an important factor, of course, for those with hearing or speaking issues, and for those who would rather not speak out loud.
Consider the person experiencing domestic violence, or a troubled student who has a hard time getting out of earshot of siblings or dorm-mates. Clients who work with transgender individuals say their visitors are thankful they don’t have to explain why their voice may not match their gender identity. And some people just are naturally more comfortable typing their innermost concerns than voicing them aloud. The privacy that non-verbal communication affords is a hallmark of both Instant Messaging and Text Messaging.
Text Messaging and Instant Messaging differ in other aspects of privacy, though.
With Instant Messaging, all the communication is handled within iCarol –the ChatNow button connects directly to your iCarol system. Because it’s a closed system, iCarol can control the traffic entirely, and encrypts messages from the time they leave the keyboard of both the visitor and the specialist. Data saved in your iCarol system is encrypted, too – with the same strict encryption used by financial services institutions.
Data saved in the system for Text Messaging is also encrypted, but unlike with Instant Messaging, text messages aren’t controlled end-to-end by iCarol. Instead, while the messages are in transit over the phone lines, it’s the phone carriers that control the security of that traffic. That is true for any vendor’s text messaging offering. These days, phone carriers of course handle traffic for financial transactions, medical information, plane reservations, billing, etc. so you can determine your own comfort level.
Text Messaging and Instant Messaging can be used Concurrently
Because of the distinct features of each type of messaging, many of iCarol’s clients actually use both.
That’s easy to do because the specialist workflow is exactly the same — if you learn one type of messaging, you already know the other. Also, both forms of messaging are integrated nicely into your iCarol system – so much so that specialists can, and do, handle both Text Messaging and Instant Messaging sessions concurrently.
If you’d like to learn more about messaging, please join us for a webinar on Messaging, or contact us for more information.
We’re committed to providing excellent communication about iCarol capabilities, updates, and planned enhancements on regular basis. So, we’d like to invite you to join us for our quarterly review of recent enhancements, as well as a peek at what’s ahead, in a 30-minute webinar this Thursday.
In this fast-paced webinar, we’ll go over the newest ways you can streamline your day with new tools sprinkled throughout iCarol. Hosted by Shelley, our product manager, this is part of a quarterly “new feature review” series. We hope you’ll join us for this webinar on February 5th at 1pm EST.
In this webinar we’ll go over:
Quick refresher on 2014 new feature highlights
Review recently launched new features
Enhancements coming soon
How to keep up with new enhancements
How you can impact new feature development
Remember, if you’re an Administrator in iCarol, in your Dashboard view, you can also view enhancements and changes in the “Announcements, Tips, and Tricks” and “Release History and Future Plans” sections, but these webinars will go a little further to explain the new features, and allow time for your questions.
We think this webinar will be most beneficial and interesting to current iCarol clients who are Program Managers or Directors and use iCarol at an Administrator security level, or those who are considering subscribing to iCarol. That said, all are welcome to attend. We hope you’ll join us on February 5!
The famous pro-football championship game that aired last night (honestly, it’s unclear whether we’re allowed to use the trademarked name in our blog, so let’s err on the side of caution, shall we? 🙂 ) is arguably watched for its commercials just as much as it is for the game itself. As usual, this year’s game produced a number of ads that are generating lots of conversation, both good and bad. It was a great year for ads that focused on social awareness. For instance the “Make it Happy” ads by Coca Cola advocate for positivity in response to bullying on the internet and social media. The “Like a Girl” ad reminds society to stop using that phrase as an insult. And after a year of controversy surrounding the NFL’s handling of domestic violence, there were ads tackling that topic as well.
Last week the organization NOMORE.org released a very powerful ad, which was also shown during the game. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out below.
This is easily one of the most compelling, important tv spots I’ve seen in a long time. When I first watched it I felt sad, scared, and anxious as I listened to the exchange between the woman and the 9-1-1 operator. It’s one thing to understand what domestic violence is, but it’s quite another thing to hear the call for help.*
There are several messages I took away from the commercial. How isolating domestic violence is, for instance. Or how resourceful and resilient survivors of domestic violence are. But for me the most resounding message came at the end of the ad with the text on the screen: “When it’s hard to talk, it’s up to us to listen.”
Finding the strength to speak up can be difficult. Finding someone who can listen, who can read between the lines if necessary in order to help — that’s even harder. And we know that helpline workers use their expert skills to do this with clients every day, not just when it comes to domestic violence, but in identifying child abuse, or thoughts of suicide. You’re able to weed through their words, to pick up on the slightest hint of what’s below the surface, and uncover the deeper issue.
But there are lots of times when a verbal conversation just isn’t possible at all. The woman portrayed in the ad was able to make an excuse to use the phone, and cleverly found a way to call for help without her abuser realizing it. There’s a reason why efforts are underway to enable texting to 9-1-1. Local law enforcement and emergency services are recognizing that in some situations, a phone call is dangerous or impossible.
More and more, help seekers reach out via chat or text instead of a phone call, too. Sometimes because of personal preference, and sometimes because silence is necessary. The instance shown in the ad is just one example; certainly chat or text has been used by those affected by domestic violence to reach out for online emotional support, or even receive emergency rescue during a violent incident. But there are other scenarios where this might be needed, and they may not all be as dire as the call in the commercial.
Think of the teen who wants to discreetly discuss his sexuality without risking a parent or sibling listening in on the conversation. Or the young woman at a party who is feeling anxious and upset, but can’t verbalize that to the friends she’s with and doesn’t want others to overhear. A child may have just been bullied in the hallway at school, and they find it much easier to hop on a library computer for a chat session than it is to make a phone call.
There are plenty of instances where someone needs to talk, but they can’t say the words outloud. It’s important that we be there to listen through the channels the help seekers want to use.
* While the call in the commercial feels very real, it is actually a re-enactment of a real call to 9-1-1
If you haven’t had a chance to check out the new Internal Chat feature, please consider giving it a try. We launched it a couple of weeks ago, and have been hearing how it’s helping centers get rid of passing paper notes, avoid putting callers on hold, fosters a greater sense of community, and just helps day-to-day communications.
Bottom line, it’s a convenient new way to exchange short, typed messages with colleagues, right from the security of your iCarol screens.
There are a plethora of reports available in the Statistics section of iCarol that can be used to illustrate many different facets of your service. Please see below for further information on some of the most commonly used reports.
One of the most basic reports is the call volume report. It shows how many call reports were submitted during the time frame specified.
This report, and any report found in the “Chart Type” menu on the Analysis tab, can be filtered in a number of different ways. The filters available are:
Location – If you enter a specific location or list of locations, the resulting call volume chart will just show the calls from callers located in those locations. If you have a geography based funder who is interested in how many calls you received from a specific area, this filter can assist you in creating a report for the funder.
Time frame – You can enter a very specific time frame for your reports to cover, and you can also change the interval to such options as daily, monthly, hour of the day, day of the week, etc. You can also limit the report to specific days or the week or hours of the day. In this way, you could build a report that showed your call volume during business hours (9am-5pm Monday to Friday), and compare it to the call volume during non-business hours (5pm-9am Monday to Friday plus weekends).
Call Reports and Phone Workers – The Phone Workers drop-down menu will list all the users in your iCarol system. In this way, you could see how many calls each user is submitting. If you use several different call reports in iCarol, you can also user this filter to run call volume reports on just one of your call reports, or any combination of them you wish.
The final filter available is the Call Content Filter. This filter enables you the filter the call volume chart by any piece of data you collect in any of the custom fields on your call reports. You can add up to 5 call content filters. In the chart below, I have filtered to show calls on the topic of Gambling where the caller appreciated the service they received.
Many clients have managers, board members or funders who are interested to see how many calls are being received in regards to a specific demographic or topic. A pie chart is a great way to illustrate this. When you first select the pie chart from the Chart Type menu on the Analysis tab of Statistics, the pieces of the pie will represent the categories on your call report. You will want to “drill down” into one of the categories to get to the more specific data by clicking on a piece of the pie. The pie chart will then show the groups in the category selected. You will want to “drill down” once more to get to the field level of your call report, where the most specific data is stored.
Here is an example. This pie chart shows the categories in the call report:
I clicked on the “Caller Issues” piece of the pie. This chart shows all the groups in the “Caller Issues” category:
Finally, I clicked on the “Addiction” piece of the pie. The chart below shows the specific addiction issues the callers spoke about:
Many iCarol clients track the needs of their callers via the AIRS taxonomy. With the “Needs by Taxonomy” report, these clients can see the most common needs of their callers. This information can be used to ensure call takers are trained appropriately, that appropriate resources to fill these needs are available in the resource database, and even to inform funders and policy makers about the needs of the community.
The “Count of referrals to resources” chart shows which resources have been referred to the most often. This chart is another way to illustrate the needs of the community and could even be used to illustrate the need for expanded programs and increased funding.
This is only a small number of the reports available in the Statistics section of iCarol. We encourage you to explore all the reports available and view the tutorial videos on Statistics to learn more. If you have any questions about Statistics in iCarol, please feel free to contact the Support Team at any time.
Recently, the responses screen in the automated verification tool has been updated and expanded to add more tools to make it even easier for you to manage your verifications. Please read on to learn more about the tools now available on this screen.
The screen is laid out in a table format, with several columns of information. You can reorder any of the columns (alphabetically or by date, depending on the data in the column) by clicking the up or down arrow beside the name of each column. In the upper right hand corner of the screen, there is a search box, so you can search for particular data by resource name, resource type, date, email address or a person’s name.
You will note there is a column titled “Assigned To”. When an individual sends a verification request, that request and the subsequent responses are assigned to that person. In this way, you can divide the responsibility for automated verification requests and responses between several people. Using the check boxes next to the Resource Name and the “Reassign” button at the bottom of the screen, you can reassign the responses to another worker if you wish. Please also note there is a Delete button at the bottom of the screen. You can use the check boxes next to the Resource Name and this button to Delete particular responses if you wish.
Also at the bottom of the screen, there are some settings you can use to filter the data in the table. To access these settings, click the link “Show settings”. “Show Verification Responses for” allows you to filter the list to show only those verification responses assigned to you, or those assigned to everyone. “Show Verification Responses in” is used to filter the responses according to what status they are in. The definitions of the statuses are:
Pending – A verification request has been sent, but the verifier has not responded yet.
Responded – The verifier has submitted (responded to) the verification request sent to them, but the response has not yet been approved by someone at your agency.
Completed – The verification response has been approved by someone at your agency.
“Include the following fields in the Results” will only appear if you are using custom resource fields. These custom fields will appear in a list so that you can filter the responses list to only include those resource records with the chosen custom field.
Finally, in the top left corner, you can determine how many entries you would like to see per page. The default is 10, but you can change this to 25, 50 or 100. If there are multiple pages of results, you can move through each page by clicking “previous”, “next” or a page number in the lower right hand corner.
Restriction and Certification can be used to restrict access to confidential information stored in iCarol based on where the user logs in. If Restriction is enabled, confidential information stored in call repots and caller profiles can only be accessed from computers or networks that have been certified.
*Very Important Note*Restriction and Certification can only be used on PCs. Unfortunately, this functionality cannot be used on Apple products.
To use Restriction and Certification, the first step is to access the Tools tab of Admin Tools and place a check mark in the box next to “Use Restriction”, in the Restriction and Certification section, then click “Save all settings” at the top of the screen.
By default, Admins and Supervisors are not affected by Restriction, meaning, no matter where they log in, they can access the confidential information in iCarol. If you would like to restrict Admins and Supervisors as well, you can place check marks next to the appropriate settings on this page.
Next, you will need to download the iCarol Certification tool, and certify the computers from which users can access confidential information. To do so, click “click here” at the bottom of the Restriction and Certification section, and follow the steps noted. Once the tool is downloaded and installed on the computer you wish to certify, open the certification tool and enter your login and password, plus a name for the computer you are certifying. Please note, if you certify one computer on a network, all computers on that network will be treated as certified and can be used to access confidential information.
There are two settings in Advanced Security settings related to restriction and certification. These settings are found in the left hand column of the Call Reports section.
The first setting is “Can certify computers”. By default, Admins and Supervisors can certify computers using the certification tool. If you would like individuals at other security levels to be able to do this, you can check this setting.
The second setting is “Exempt from Restriction (can always see call reports)”. This setting is used if you are using Restriction in your agency, but want a particular person to be able to access confidential information wherever they log in.
If you have any questions about how to use Restriction and Certification, please do not hesitate to contact the iCarol Support team.
If you use the “AIRS Problems / Needs” categories, there will be a small change to them coming with our next update of the taxonomy. AIRS announced they are splitting “Housing and Utility Assistance” into two separate categories: “Housing” and “Utilities”.
When you subscribe to the 211 Taxonomy in iCarol, you get the benefit of automatic updates and maintenance to the taxonomy about once per quarter, helping you stay current and meeting AIRS accreditation standards. Our next taxonomy update will be in early October 2014 so when that is completed, you’ll see this new Problems/Needs category change reflected in your iCarol system.
Once the change is in place, you can continue using any number of statistical reports on Problems/Needs to track and report on these issues, like this one showing the Problem/Needs categories with the current category breakdowns.
Our Taxonomy updates take care of things like adding new codes or replacing codes that have been retired by AIRS. With the October update we will apply the changes to the needs categories, and we’ll automatically and retroactively place previously collected needs into the new appropriate categories, making your annual reports fall in line with what is being requested by AIRS.
If you’re a current iCarol user and have questions about what it means to use Taxonomy in iCarol, check out our videos found in the ‘Help’ section of your iCarol system. If you have questions or want to add Taxonomy to your iCarol system, log a case with us and we’ll be happy to work with you!
We recommend that when staff or volunteers leave your agency or discontinue service with you, that you disable their user profile rather than delete it. We recommend that you only delete a user profile if it was created by mistake, or the user has not done any “work” in iCarol (signed up for shifts, submitted call reports, created or edited resource records, etc.). This is because when you delete a user, all interaction he or she had in iCarol will no longer be attributed to them. For example, you will no longer be able to see which shifts they served, which chatboard posts they created, which call reports they submitted or which resource records they created or edited. Instead of listing a name in call reports and resource records, “unknown or deleted” will be shown. If the user is disabled, their name will remain on the interactions, but they won’t be able to sign into iCarol.
To delete a user, follow these steps:
Click on Vols-Staff in the left hand menu, and then click on the name of the person you would like to delete. Once you are in the user profile, click the edit button at the top of the screen.
The buttons at the top of the screen will change. Click the Delete button.
Warning text in red will be displayed, explaining the effects of deleting the user profile. If you delete the profile, the effect is irreversible and we cannot recover this information for you. If you are sure you want to delete the profile, click Confirm deletion.
To disable a user, follow these steps:
Click on Vols-Staff in the left hand menu, and then click on the name of the person you would like to disable. Click the Admin tab in the user’s profile, and then click the edit button at the top of the screen.
Click the drop-down menu next to iCarol Account and choose Disabled, then click the Save button at the top of the screen.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to submit a case to the iCarol Support Team!
During the summer, and other common vacation periods, staff and volunteers may need to adjust the time they serve at your agency. You want to ensure that your calendar is up-to-date with all changes and the following iCarol features are there to assist.
Unregister from a shift
If a volunteer or staff member has already signed up for or been assigned to a shift, but realizes that they cannot serve the shift, they can un-register from the shift. To do so, the volunteer or staff member will use the shifts area of iCarol to navigate to the day of their shift, and will click on their name in the list of shifts. A pink box will appear to the right, and in that box, there is an “Unregister” button which they should click.
Clicking this button will remove the person’s name from the shift, and it will revert to an “Open” shift so someone else can sign up for it.
This feature is similar to the “Unregister a shift” feature, but goes an extra step and facilitates the coverage for shift assignment changes. If a volunteer or staff member has already signed up for or been assigned to a shift, but realizes that they cannot serve the shift, they can ask for a substitution. To do so, the volunteer or staff member will use the shifts area of iCarol to navigate to the day of their shift, and will click on their name in the list of shifts. A pink box will appear to the right, and in that box, there is an “Ask for Substitution” button which they should click.
Clicking this button will send an email to all users indicating that the volunteer or staff person is looking for a substitute, and will highlight the shift in yellow so it is easily spotted. If someone would like to substitute, they would navigate to this shift in the Shifts area of iCarol, and click the Accept button.
Whether or not you allow un-registration or shift substitutions, and how soon before the start of a shift a person can unregister or ask for a substitution, are settings Admin’s can control via the Shifts tab in Admin Tools.
Exceptions to Repeating Assignments
If you have members that are assigned to the same shift over a period of time, the repeating assignment is a great tool to use. This tool allows you to collectively schedule those repeating assignments and it also handles exceptions, such as to remove the person from the shift during a particular time span when they will be on vacation. To do so, use the shifts area of iCarol to navigate to the first shift within a repeating shift assignment that they would like to unregister for and click on their name. A pink box will appear to the right, and in that box, there is a link labelled “Repeating assignment” which they should click.
This will cause the following box to pop-up:
Firstly, the volunteer or staff person should click the radio button next to “Remove”. Next, using the drop-down boxes, they should indicate what time frame (every, every other, each month’s first, etc.) and what day of the week they would like to be removed from. The date next to “between” will be defaulted to the date of the shift the volunteer or staff person is adjusting. The volunteer or staff person should adjust the date next to “and”, or check the box next to “no end date” to remove themselves from every shift into the future. Finally, they should click the “Make these changes” button.
If you have any questions about these tools, please do not hesitate to submit a case to the support team via the online case management tool, found in the Help menu in iCarol.