Here at iCarol, we sure appreciate the critical nature of your work. That’s why we’re always looking for ways to make your workday tasks easier. One of the features in our engineering labs right now is a way for users to communicate with colleagues more easily from within iCarol. This feature will let those with logins send typed messages to each other easily and instantaneously – the conversations will pop up on the bottom of your screen, wherever you are in iCarol.
The sky’s the limit on how you could use this feature. Here’s some ideas:
- Ask a colleague for help finding just the right resource. Because back-and-forth with your colleague is typed, not verbal, you won’t have to put the caller on hold while you get assistance.
- While editing a resource, you have a formatting question. Quickly message a supervisor for clarification.
- You’re training a new call-taker. Coach them through calls by typing suggestions to them.
- Bad weather is delaying the arrival of one of your call takers, so she’ll be a bit late for her shift. Ask someone currently on shift if they can stay an extra 15 minutes to cover.
Note that your colleagues with whom you’re messaging could be right next to you, across the hall, or miles away.
As you’d expect, we’ll offer settings to let you control how this feature works in your organization. Administrators could decide if and when they’d like to enable it for their team.
The feature is in late-stage development and we expect to move it into our testing labs in a few weeks. We expect a release before the end of the year. Stay tuned!
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!
The volunteer screening and application process serves a dual purpose. It gives the helpline manager the opportunity to meet the volunteer and evaluate their ability to work on the helpline. For the volunteer it can be a discovery meeting where they learn more about the realities of helpline volunteerism. For both parties it’s a major step in deciding if the volunteer will move to the next stage.
Most helplines have a well-established list of questions to ask, but we’d like to offer these for your consideration…
1. Why do you think you’d be a good fit for our helpline? – The responses to this question let your volunteer share their qualities, but they’ll also reveal their preconceptions about what it’s like to work on a helpline. Portrayals in movies, television, or commonly held beliefs about crisis work tend to permeate volunteer expectations. Someone might answer, “I think I could give great advice.” This may open the door for you to talk about the reality of the work you do at the helpline. Perhaps you don’t give advice but rather listen to the caller, talk through their options, and let the caller ultimately decide what they’ll do. The volunteer will appreciate the chance to learn about what they can really expect when working on the helpline as opposed to what they’ve been imagining it’d be like.
2. Are you comfortable being observed and receiving feedback? – There’s a good chance your call center is a place where several people are working together at once, often times in close quarters. Your workers may routinely be right there observing their partner’s calls and giving peer feedback afterward. They can also expect to receive feedback from supervisors. New volunteers should be prepared for the work environment and know that feedback isn’t about someone else being critical of their work, but rather it’s intended to help them be successful and better serve the callers. For some, the prospect of regular observation and evaluation may be more than they were expecting.
3. Can you think on your feet? – Quick thinking is an essential quality for any helpline volunteer. The tone of a call can change in an instant and a skilled volunteer will pick up on hints at suicide and know how to proceed. You never know when a caller might say or ask something that takes you by surprise, and the ability to come back with a quick response will ensure the volunteer is always ready and in control of the situation. Not all volunteers will know how to hit the curveballs.
4. Are you a good detective? – You might not immediately think of investigative skills as being important to helpline work, but they’ll come in handy. You can’t just hear, you have to listen, and sometimes that means discovering more than what’s being revealed on the surface. In talking with a caller, sometimes it takes the right methods of reflection and questioning to get to the core of what’s going on for the caller and how the volunteer can help. Searching for the right referrals for a caller can also take some sleuthing and creativity especially when resources are limited or the caller isn’t eligible for services. Thinking outside the box and coming up with ideas and alternatives is a useful skill to have.
5. Do you need to see results to feel like you accomplished something? – New volunteers may be disappointed to find that after spending an hour talking a caller through a problem, that same person may call back in a month, still experiencing the same issue. And for callers who live with chronic and persistent mental illness, each day may come with a similar set of challenges, routines, and coping skills. Helpline workers aren’t always going to see huge changes and immediate positive turnarounds. In many cases, you never even know how it all turned out. The miracle success stories may be few and far between. This doesn’t mean, however, that the work you do isn’t helpful. Often in the helpline world, we need to re-frame our expectations and what we see as “success.” For some callers, just making it through the hour is successful. That hour spent on the line was an hour they didn’t feel as lonely, and it provided them with the boost they needed to get through the evening. If a volunteer needs to see more apparent success in order for them to feel like they had an impact, helpline work may leave them feeling burnt out and disappointed.
There’s a lot to consider when vetting a prospective volunteer. These questions may help both you and the volunteer further evaluate their desire, readiness, and natural abilities to determine whether they’ll end up joining your organization.