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Posts Tagged ‘texting’

4 staffing strategies to help you weather the storm

blizzard snow storm

Ample staffing at your non-profit helpline is always a top challenge, but bad weather brings with it a whole new set of staffing hurdles. Snowy and icy conditions* can especially spell trouble for seamless shift coverage. Particularly powerful storms not only disrupt travel for days, but they have the potential to impact essential infrastructure like electricity and running water. These weather events take strategy and pre-planning to work through them successfully.

Depending on the severity of the storm, you may have no special plan at all except to tell your specialists that they are expected to be there for their shift or find a substitute to cover for them. In many snow storms, travel is possible so long as precautions are taken, such as driving at slower speeds and being extra vigilant. Call centers in urban settings may also benefit from having volunteers living within walking distance or taking public transportation.

But sometimes travel conditions can become extremely hazardous or even impossible. What then? Here are some methods we’ve commonly seen:

  • The show must go on – Shifts go on as scheduled no matter what. Workers who can’t make it in must give ample notice and find substitutes who are able to travel. iCarol’s shift scheduling tools support you and your staff throughout this process; automatic substitute request emails greatly improve the visibility of your needs and the chances of pick-ups from others.
    • Pros: Little to no prior planning or change to your normal operations.

      Cons: The absence of any back up plan can spell trouble, so you should have some alternative options in mind just in case. Your volunteers may have the best intentions of making it in, but the reality is that Mother Nature can easily stop us in our tracks and there’s only so much a person can realistically do when faced with heavy accumulations and impassable roads. You won’t want to be faced with the scenario where the previous shift is stuck with no relief. Take a moment to also consider the consequences of a potential road accident and injury to your volunteer when traveling in dangerous conditions, and the emotional and potentially litigious repercussions of demanding that volunteers travel in unsafe conditions. Further, when a State of Emergency is declared, it often requires that road travelers have their vehicle outfitted with special equipment, and drivers disobeying the order may even be fined.
  • Transfer your calls – In some instances there may be a partner agency, satellite office of your program, or a back-up center in an area unaffected or less affected by the weather, and they can take the lead on operations for a period of time. Our Call Report form sharing functionality makes it easy for you to pass your service delivery on to other centers, while they use your preferred form(s) to log the interactions they’re taking on your behalf. This also ensures your data collection and the resulting reporting can be seamless regardless of who is actually providing the service.
    • Pros: Less direct impact on you, your volunteers, and staff during the event. Being able to simply forward your service to someone else is very convenient.

      Cons: This does come with a few sacrifices. First, your service delivery is being entrusted to others for a period of time. Necessary MOU’s and other contracts should be in place well in advance to ensure that same or acceptable level of service will be provided by the back up center. Consider any financial compensation that must be paid out as well. And you’ll want to have understandings about proper data collection, call handling policies, and more.
  • Work from home – Technology has made it easier than ever to turn any setting into a call center, even your workers’ homes. Calls could get forwarded to that worker’s personal phone or a phone loaned to them from the office. Chats or texts can be taken from virtually anywhere as well. Special tip for iCarol users who might employ this method: You must either turn off ‘Restriction’ (the feature that makes it so your workers can’t see call reports from a personal computer outside the office) or give your staff and volunteers permissions to install the iCarol Certification Tool on their computer. You can read more about this here.
    • Pros: You’re unlikely to get much push back from your volunteers or staff about this plan; the idea of staying warm, cozy, and off the roads will send many a helpline worker to their happy place. Plus, you won’t have to worry about people physically making it in to the call center for their shift. Worried about productivity? The term is referred to as “shirking from home” — the concern that your employees won’t actually get anything done and left to their own devices will shirk their responsibilities. The good news is, numerous studies have discovered that this is a generally unfounded fear. A Stanford University study of call center workers found home work resulted in a 13% performance increase, people took fewer breaks and sick days, and 4% more calls per minute handled thanks in part to a quieter and more convenient working environment. Home workers also reported improved work satisfaction, and their attrition rate was cut in half. These days there are plenty of communication methods available making it so that remote workers won’t feel disconnected. Keep in mind that with iCarol your supervisors can remotely silent monitor chat and text conversations, leave feedback on logged interactions, put out News alerts, send instant messages to your workers via Internal Chat, send emails and SMS messages, and more. Technology has made us more connected with one another than ever before, even if we’re physically separated by many miles.

      Cons: Most modern phone systems have many remote controls that allow you to sign in remotely and forward calls as needed, but some might require you to be on-site to activate the call transfers. If there are no remote capabilities for controlling where the calls are landing, then that means someone has to make it into the office to flip the switches, possibly rendering the work-from-home scenario moot. You’ll also want to consider home office digital security, and whether or not having employees work off-site violates the terms of any of your contracts. There’s also the matter of assuring your volunteers and staff have a suitable work environment free from distraction or disruptive noise or potential confidentiality violations. They also won’t be able to take advantage of some of the infrastructure that may be available at your center, like battery backups or generators in case of a power outage.
  • Camping out – Marshmallows optional. When the forecast calls for dangerous weather and snow accumulations that might make travel impossible, make a decision ahead of time to suspend the usual schedule, and instead have a crew arrive prior to hazardous road conditions developing. This crew will stay for a period of time until travel is safe again and shifts can resume.
    • Pros: Again, you’ll be free from having to worry about workers traveling or one shift getting stuck because relief didn’t arrive. The whole idea here is that they know they’ll be stuck for awhile, and they’re (hopefully) okay with that. This is a policy you could develop long before winter weather strikes, so that you aren’t faced with a chaotic scramble for a solution just before a blizzard hits. You may even cultivate your list of willing participants ahead of time as well. Being able to make these decisions in advance without the storm bearing down on you is certainly a benefit, simply activate the plan when needed.

      Cons: Directors, Managers, and other decision-makers will want to stay in close contact and clearly communicate expectations, especially concerning staff arrival time and decisions about when normal operations should resume. Volunteer or staff health and well-being is a concern. Does your call center have adequate facilities to keep them comfortable for an extended stay of 24 hours or more? Think about bathrooms, bathing and personal hygiene, and food access and preparation. Mentally and emotionally, how will your staff deal with being at the office for a long period of time? They’ll need to have regular breaks and take time for uninterrupted sleep, which means this plan usually requires at least two participants. You’ll also want to review labor laws in your area to be sure your policy doesn’t violate ordinances relating to a worker’s right to ample breaks, and whether or not additional financial compensation is required.

    How do you keep your helpline operating in spite of dangerous travel conditions for your volunteers and staff?Do you employ one of the strategies above, or do you handle winter storm scheduling some other way? We’d love to hear about it! Leave us a comment!

    * While this article refers specifically to blizzards and other winter weather conditions, these strategies could be employed during any disaster scenario, natural or man-made.

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    Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline to launch texting in 2016

    The Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline is joining the growing list of helplines bringing their service online, as reported by their local media. Read more…

    They’re taking on the task of providing online emotional support to the people of Idaho, particularly youth who tend to prefer texting as a way to reach out for help on sensitive topics, and we hope you’ll join us in wishing them much success with this endeavor. Many helplines are facing the realization that these electronic means of communication are not just the norm these days, but increasingly necessary to reach help seekers, and ultimately a channel that’s assisting hotlines in saving more lives.

    ISPH is just the latest of so many helplines that are taking this step. Thinking about taking your services online? To find out why this is so important, and the ways in which iCarol can help you meet this challenge head on and be successful, join one of our regular webinars about offering Online Emotional Support using iCarol.

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    Looking back on our trip to Detroit

    Last week Eliisa, Jackie, and I spent time in Detroit at the annual conference held jointly by the National Association of Crisis Organization Directors (NASCOD) and CONTACT USA (CUSA).

    The conference was held in the Renaissance Center, which is an incredible complex of several buildings right on the Detroit waterfront. The complex contains the Marriott Hotel, a number of restaurants and a food court, business offices, a GM showroom, and more. It’s a bustling center filled with activity and industry and a pretty cool place to visit.

    GM Renaissance Center Detroit
    Photo shared from the Marriott website

    Attending these conferences serves a couple of purposes for us. It gives members of our team a chance to meet in person to work on projects that we’re otherwise working on virtually together. While working through online meetings is very productive and has its perks, there’s something to be said for changing it up periodically and getting to nail out some stuff together in the same room. I’m happy to say we had a couple great work sessions that are going to result in some pretty awesome stuff for iCarol.

    Jackie, Eliisa, Dana (photographer) and Britt (joining us virtually from Germany!) all working together on marketing and business development activities

    Of course one of the other reasons we attend these conferences is to meet up with members of the helpline industry, whether it’s getting some facetime with the clients we know and love, or getting the chance to talk to new friends about iCarol. On Wednesday night we went out to dinner with several leaders of both NASCOD and CUSA for a fantastic meal at Andiamo in the Renaissance Center.

    Our dinner was delicious but what was really great was the chance to catch up with the members of these groups, hear about what’s going on at their crisis centers, and discuss all the wonderful and difficult things about operating a helpline. Plus it’s so nice getting to know everyone a little better and just relaxing a bit. Oh and the chocolate tuxedo cake. I mean, for real you guys, it was incredible. So life changing I had to tweet about it.

    Thursday presented the opportunity to tour two local organizations, Common Ground and Neighborhood Services Organization.

    Our first stop was at Common Ground. This organization is located in Pontiac, Michigan and provides numerous services to the community. Just a few services they offer include: Mobile crisis, face-to-face assessment, crisis intervention and stabilization, crisis residential units, shelter and residential counseling to runaways, victim assistance program, mental health first aid training, and 24-hour helpline that responds via phone, chat, and text. And that really just scratches the surface, I encourage you to explore their website to learn all about their wonderful programs.

    We got to tour most of this facility and I found it to be such a welcoming, safe space. You could tell that a lot of care is taken to make the center feel warm and comfortable, for instance the residential unit did not feel at all cold or sterile or “hospital-esque.”

    art exhibit
    A traveling exhibit featuring art by consumers was on display.

    One interesting stop we made on the tour was to one of the recreational rooms which also housed a beautiful kitchen. The executive chef was preparing a special birthday dinner for one of the consumers, and noted that in addition to providing nourishing meals there were components to his work that involved teaching their consumers about food prep, healthy eating, and also providing some counseling services.

    20151022_144632
    The meal being prepared smelled very enticing!

    A personal highlight of the tour was getting to see Common Ground’s 24 hour call center. We’re honored to have these guys in the iCarol family and it’s always a treat to see the space in which these hardworking crisis professionals are providing their services. Common Ground provides 24 hour phone support, but they also use iCarol to provide chat and texting to their community. In fact, they’re one of several clients who have gone the way of text-enabling their existing helpline number, which means people can text into the same number that they call. We’re glad to hear that this is going great for Common Ground, and other clients are loving it, too. We’ll be bringing you some success stories around text-enabling in another blog at a later date, but for now you can read more details about text enabling here.

    common ground 24 hour call center staff
    Eliisa with the staff of Common Ground’s 24 hour helpline.

    Next up was a visit to Neighborhood Services Organization back in Detroit. Housed in former Bell Yellow Pages facility, as soon as you arrive you can tell that this $50 million community investment was a real labor of love for all involved. You can check out photos of the renovation here and a video on the building’s history and renovation here.

    NSO bell building yellow pages mural front entrance
    A beautiful mural depicting the Bell Building greets visitors and residents at the entrance.

    One program of NSO found in the Bell Building is their Emergency Telephone Service and Suicide Prevention Center (ETS/SPC) which has provided free, 24-hour telephone crisis intervention, suicide prevention and information and referral services for over 37 years. According to NSO’s most recent annual report, in 2014 they responded to 65,743 callers including 750 who were experiencing a suicidal crisis.

    NSO LaNeice tour of call centerLaNeice Jones, Vice President of Programs for NSO and one of our conference hosts, gives us a tour of the call center.

    The building also houses NSO staff offices, and contains 155 furnished, one-bedroom apartments for adults who are working their way beyond their former homelessness. NSO provides a full spectrum of services for the residents, including case management, addictions and mental health treatment, and education on financial literacy and nutrition classes. Having all these services located in a single location and easily accessible to the residents helps address the root causes of homelessness and helps restore lives.

    At the Bell Building there is also a health care clinic which serves not just residents, but other members of the community. And the facility also includes amenities like a gym, fitness room with treadmills and other exercise equipment, computer lab, chapel, and recreation areas.

    20151022_160643
    Indoor landscaping beautified one common area.

    20151022_160909 20151022_162015
    A gymnasium and rooftop garden were among the many amenities.

    If I had to pick one overarching theme or message as I walked through Neighborhood Services Organization it was “Home.” This place is so much more than housing. Yes, it puts a roof over someone’s head, but they are also treating the whole person and addressing the challenges that contribute to homelessness. And all this occurs in a beautiful space that brings dignity to their journey, a place where a true community is formed. So, yes, “Home” is such a fitting word. And ironically as I was writing this blog I found this touching video that perfectly sums up that sentiment.

    After our tours we headed back to the hotel, but LaNeice had a surprise in store for us first! We stopped at the original location of Motown Records! It was very cool to see this historical site where some of America’s greatest music hits were born.

    20151022_171237-1Stop in the name of love! Dana, LaNeice, and Eliisa pay tribute to The Supremes.

    The rest of the conference itself was filled with compelling and highly educational sessions, and we’re sure all the attendees left feeling energized. If you want to catch up on what it was like to attend, check out the hashtag #CrisisDir15 on Twitter. All of us tweeting throughout the conference included this in our tweets and by searching it you can follow along and feel as if you were right there with us (though I hope this blog also accomplished that, too 🙂 ).

    If you want to get in on all the fun for future conferences, we highly recommend NASCOD membership and CONTACT USA accreditation. Both of these organizations offer such great resources to their members and are of extreme value to any helpline.

    We’re so thankful to have been a part of this conference! Special thanks goes out to the Board of Directors for both NASCOD and CUSA, as well as our conference hosts LaNeice and Lisa who truly made everyone feel welcome and at home in Detroit.

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    TxtToday raises funds for national texting warmline

    It’s been awhile since we first told you about about TxtToday, a national texting warmline network spearheaded by CONTACT of Mercer County, NJ in partnership with other helplines across the country. We’re excited to share this update from Chris at TxtToday:

    TxtToday is proud to announce that we will be attending the NASCOD Conference in Detroit this year! We are a national texting warmline with the mission of listening to those in need before their problems become crises. We have so far raised over $26,000 towards our launch goal! We will be distributing more information at the conference so stop by – we are looking forward to seeing all of you!

    If you’re interested in finding out more about this exciting project, make sure you connect with Chris at the CUSA/NASCOD conference in Detroit, or . We’re thrilled at the progress of TxtToday and have enjoyed working with them as they use iCarol Helpline Software to build this network. We’re eager to see how this awesome service continues to grow and develop!

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    Review Texts Received During Offline Periods

    smartphone sms text messaging sending a text

    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.

    Statistics-Messaging

    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.”

    Running After Hours SMS report

    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.

    After hours SMS report

    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.

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    Come join us in Baltimore!

    Baltimore Skyline Inner Harbor National Aquarium

    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!

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    Setting up your Opt-out SMS messages

    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 Messaging left menu

    2. Click on the SMS/Texting link on the upper right hand side of the screen SMS Settings

    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. Settings for SMS

    4. Your first, automated message to the texter can be configured in a new field, labeled “SMS Initial Message.” 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.

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    Text enable your helpline number

    text enable 10 digit number helpline short code long code

    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!

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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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    15 iCarol Messaging Tools That Improve Your Crisis Intervention Service

    When it’s time to pick a Live Chat or Texting platform for your helpline, you’ve got a lot to consider. Your crisis intervention service needs tools that will help you meet grant requirements, comply with accreditations and certifications, and report on the data collected during client interactions. But most important of all, you need to be a source of online emotional support for your visitors and provide excellent service to them.

    You provide a vital service to your community, and a generic, out-of-the-box solution just won’t cut it. Here are 15 functions of iCarol Messaging that will actually help improve your suicide prevention or crisis intervention service.

    ShiftsTotal control of availability – With iCarol messaging you have complete control over when your text or chat service is online and available, using the integrated Shift Scheduling tool right within iCarol. If using Live Chat, visitors to your website will only see you as Online if you have an active shift set up with workers assigned. Similar with texting, if a shift is not set up or no one is assigned to that shift, a visitor who texts in will get a friendly message letting them know your service is currently offline, and it can advise them of when you’re next available.

    Bonus – Experiencing a surge of phone calls due to a local event, crisis, or other emergent situation, and need your workers to turn their attention to those calls? Or perhaps your queue of online help-seekers is full and your specialists need time to catch up before inviting more visitors in. You can take your service offline temporarily with the click of a button so your workers can address those messages. You can quickly turn your messaging services back on when you’re ready to open up the queue again.

    Collect info up front – Registration and Pre-chat surveys let you collect the necessary data at the start of the chat, and straight from the visitor themselves. You can keep it simple, like asking for basic demographic information, or ask questions like, “What’s your main concern today?” or “How upset are you?” with a list of available options. These questions are highly customizable, so you can collect whatever information you need. This data will be presented to your counselors, helping prepare them for the conversation and giving them valuable insight on how to best serve the help seeker.

    Furthermore, the answers to these pre-chat survey questions can have values applied to them, unbeknownst to the visitor, that can flag a visitor as being potentially high risk, based on how they answer certain questions or as a calculation of the entirety of their answers. This risk level will be displayed as the visitor enters your queue, helping your volunteers and staff do necessary triage, assign higher risk chats to more experienced counselors, or provide with quality assurance.

    Bonus – Need to limit your interactions to visitors in a certain geographic area? We’ve got you covered. If you ask visitors their zip code or postal code during Registration and a Pre-chat survey, iCarol will automatically screen for geographic area, allowing only those in your defined area to participate. Visitors from outside the area will get a friendly list of alternate sources of help.

    Vols-StaffSupport for Volunteers and Staff – Your Chat Specialists could face some challenging chats. iCarol offers tools that ensure your workers can rely on peers and supervisors for support when needed. Right from within the conversation window a counselor can ask for help from their direct supervisor. Workers can also send an email or text message to any colleague or supervisor, without ever leaving iCarol. Finally, our Internal Chat tool is a way for people signed in to iCarol to type quick messages to one another. Chat Specialists could ask a colleague for advice on appropriate referrals or tips on how to help a visitor. As a Helpline Director you and other supervisors could be available for consultation while you’re in the call center, or you could sign in from your home computer to check in with workers on shifts occurring after you’ve already left the office for the day.

    Resource and Referral – It’s common during conversations, whether they’re over the phone or through live chat or text, that a help seeker may need services beyond what your helpline offers. Food pantries, shelter, financial assistance, or professional counseling are just a few examples. Every iCarol system includes a resource database that you can populate with all the information about your own local community resources. You can search this database of services while chatting with a visitor and deliver those referrals right within their messaging window, so they can get any further help they may need. Of course, the system retains the statistics about these referrals for reporting later on.

    SearchSilent Monitoring – Supervisors can also navigate to the chat queue and review the active messages going on between their counselors and the visitors. Further, they can look in on those individual conversations to provide help or quality assurance.

    Assess Risk – With access to suicide risk assessment tools (developed by the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) your specialists have tools to help guide them through any necessary suicide risk assessment. This includes suggestions for talking points or questions to pose to the visitor or work into the conversation, with possible answers for your chat specialist to mark. As those areas are answered, a measurement is provided that helps guide the counselor as to the level of risk. Nothing replaces the experience and gut instinct of your trained specialists, but this tool provides a quantitative measurement to help guide them.

    Exclamation Mark copyTools for rescue – One of the biggest points of apprehension that we hear about concerning Online Emotional Support concerns the ability to send emergency personnel to help-seekers in imminent danger. The anonymity that has so many flocking to this mode of support brings with it some challenges when it comes to imminent danger situations. Statistically speaking, rescue is probably a rare occurrence at most centers when you think about just how many calls about suicide your center answers. We all know that what your callers tend to need most when they’re considering suicide is empathetic, non-judgmental listening. Most people just need to express their feelings to someone who won’t become uncomfortable or shut down the conversation. Having a safe place to talk about their feelings is hugely helpful.

    But there are those instances where someone may be in danger and in need of intervention. If you’ve determined a visitor is in need of emergency assistance, best practices suggest that it’s best to engage the help-seeker and try to get them to participate in their own rescue by providing that critical location information. But if they will not, iCarol will make available to your worker the Internet Service Provider (ISP) and IP Address which can be turned over to law enforcement. This information can typically be used by the authorities who will work with that ISP to determine where the user of that IP Address is physically located. With clients who are texting you, at your option you can access their full phone number for use in an emergency.

    As your center plans to add Online Emotional Support to your services, it’s a good idea to contact local law enforcement and start to explore how they might help your center if these situations arise. And if your center does not have a need for this information or if having access to an ISP or IP Address or full phone number of a visitor stands in contention with your policies about confidentiality and privacy, we’ll be happy to remove these tools from your messaging system.

    Data ManagementData Input – Once an interaction ends, counselors fill out a call report form to capture important data. Many things on this form are already filled out automatically: Start and end time of interaction, any information entered by the visitor before and after the interaction, the full, time-stamped transcript, and the referrals you’ve made. There’s ample opportunity for further data collection as well, such as issues discussed, risk assessment information, and more. In short, the call report form contains all information you have about the interaction in one convenient place. All of this can be reported on in the Statistics area of iCarol and/or via Call Report Exports to be analyzed in an external program like Microsoft Access or Excel.

    Visitor Feedback – Remember the pre-chat survey? You can add on a post-chat counterpart, and use it to collect your visitor’s feedback and feelings about the service you provided, self-assessment following the chat, or anything else you’d like them to share with you.

    Feedback and Quality Assurance – One aspect of your chat reporting form will be the chat transcript. That’s right, whether the interaction was via text message or live chat, the full time-stamped transcript of that interaction will become a part of your report form. This comes in extra handy when it comes time for supervisors to review interactions and give feedback. You can give very specific guidance to your workers using these transcripts, pointing out specific moments in the conversation where they really connected with what the visitor was saying, or perhaps where an opportunity was missed. Further, these transcripts can make for excellent training tools for new volunteers who are learning how to provide Online Emotional Support.

    helpline flowFollow-up – There are many reasons you may be re-engaging with a client once the initial interaction has ended. Safety planning and ongoing contact with support systems are extremely important for people who are having thoughts of suicide. You may also want to see if the referrals a caller was given were able to help them, or use a follow-up call or text as an opportunity to conduct a satisfaction or quality assurance survey. If a person reaches your service via Text message, they may want to receive their “call back” this way as well. With our Follow-up activity you can follow-up via phone call or text message. Our handy character counter will even help you keep that message under the limit so that your content can be sent in one single text message.

    Pie chart pointing to dollar signReports for your CEO or funders – We offer a robust set of statistical tools offering many charts and graphs at your disposal, along with more advanced exporting if you’d like to import your data into external programs for further analysis. Reports on the number of interactions your center is handling, pie charts showing the location, demographic, or issues/needs data, are just a few examples of the types of reports you could run. And practically anything you collect on the call reporting form can also be turned into a Call Content Filter. So run that chart showing the number of messaging interactions that were logged in your system last month, and using the filters you can determine how many of those came from Males between the ages of 40 and 60 who messaged you about an Addiction, if you collect that data. What you can report on is limited only in what you choose to collect on your highly customizable call reporting form.

    Collaborating w partnersLoad balancing and collaboration – Say you want to provide your chat service 24 hours a day, but only have the staff to provide this service for some of that time. Or, maybe your center is part of a network of centers within a state or region that would like to come together to offer Online Emotional Support, and want to share responsibility for offering that service. There are several options where, using iCarol, you can partner, contract, and have chats routed according to the partnerships you’ve formed. If you haven’t found a partner, we can help connect you with centers who you may be able to build that relationship with.

    Data SecurityWhat’s Private Stays Private – Text and Instant Message conversations often deal with sensitive subjects. Data stored in iCarol, including messaging data, is encrypted at a level used by financial institutions, so rest assured your data is secure. Our exclusive focus working with non-profit help centers, crisis centers, and information centers assures our understanding of your needs in this area. Be aware, however, that text messages travel over telephony provider networks, and that part of the interaction is out of any text service provider’s control, including iCarol.

    Grow and Expand your service – Perhaps you want to set up a new text or chat service aimed specifically at teens. Using “Portals” iCarol can separate these new programs from the rest of your messaging platform. This program might have its own hours of operation, and you need to collect different data for that program than you would for your base chat/text service, all of which is possible now that you’ve separated this service out via Portals.

    At iCarol we pride ourselves on being a choice solution for non-profit helplines, due in part to our vast experience and intimate knowledge of the helpline industry, and our Messaging capabilities follow those same principles. To learn more about using iCarol to provide Online Emotional Support, current iCarol users can check out the tutorial videos found in the “Help” section of your iCarol system, and open a case to ask questions or start a trial. Everyone is welcome to join us for a webinar on Messaging to learn more, too!

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