What are the Steps to Launch a Support or Crisis Line?

Support and Crisis helplines are a critical service that nonprofits can provide to their clients and a great way to complement their core offerings and gain a larger audience.   This post will guide you through the steps involved with launching a support helpline and show how, with software like Izzy, the technical hurdles and risks are removed and it comes down to a few clear steps.

While these 5 steps may look daunting, the process is straightforward, and typically takes between 1 to 8 weeks.

Why launch a support helpline?

Before even contemplating what is involved, it’s important to make sure a support helpline is right for your organization and what purpose it will serve.  The following are a few examples of what support helplines can provide:

  • Referrals
  • Crisis support 
  • Peer support
  • General information or administration

What does a support helpline look like?

A support helpline can range from a small adjunct to an organization’s primary offering, to a new 24/7 initiative. Either way, Izzy can be customized to your situation and allows you to focus on the people, not the technicalities.  

Izzy has been launched to handle many scenarios, including:

  • Province Wide Number that sends clients to one of two centres depending on client’s location
  • Routing calls to landlines at a call centre, or to support personnel’s cell phones (or both)
  • 24/7 lines or just a few hours per week
  • Two person operations up to organizations with over 300 staff & volunteers
  • Remote network of volunteers

What are the steps to launch?

Regardless of the breadth of the offering, there are a few common requirements to launch and run one.

1. Decide what you want to offer

Your organization must decide a few things regarding how the line will function.  These are questions like:

  • When will it be open? – is this a 24/7 operation, or a couple hours on Wednesday’s.  Izzy’s scheduling system can be used to handle any number of scheduling scenarios
  • Will it offer phone, text and chat? – Izzy handles any combination of phone, text and chat depending on what your organization wants to offer
  • What phone number will it use? – if using phone or text, it will require a phone number.  Izzy staff can help you procure a new phone number (local, or toll free) or can work with your carrier to route existing numbers through Izzy.  In most cases, we can also just carve off the texting portion of existing numbers to route through Izzy, and leave the voice portion untouched (depending on your carrier).
  • What is the expected volume? – this will be critical when deciding how you will staff the support helpline, and will also help Izzy come up with a package that suits your needs.
  • How will it be staffed? – will you be relying on current staff, hiring new staff, using a volunteer base?

 

Contact us at Izzy and we can guide you through any of these to help you choose what’s best for your organization.

2. Secure funding

There will be an added expense when launching a support helpline, but it will depend on the size of the line.  There are several grants and programs for mental health and digital services that we will be collecting for your reference.

Some expenses include:

  • Staff
  • Advertising
  • Carrier charges
  • Software

For future funding, Izzy’s comprehensive reporting tools will help with yearly KPIs and the integrated platform ensures no calls go untracked.

3. Internal planning

The following are recommended to have in place before opening your support helpline:

  • Internal Documentation – it is recommended your organization create best-practices documentation for support personnel to define techniques to handle your clients’ needs
  • Resource Guide – keep an up-to-date guide of resources for your support personnel to provide clients.  Izzy provides excel templates to upload this onto the platform, or Izzy can be integrated with existing 3rd party resource guides.
  • Advertising Plan – nobody will call your line if they don’t know about it.  Determine if you want to run an advertising campaign, and what it will look like.
  • Create a Schedule – determine when the line will be open, and who will be staffing it and who will be supervising it.

4. Pre-launch Izzy

Izzy staff will guide you through finalizing the following and launching the site in ‘test mode’:

  • Message customizations – you will be able to customize the messages client’s receive for things like “The line is currently closed”, “Your phone number has been blocked”, “Please wait while we connect you”, etc.
  • Users – an excel template with all your users so they can be uploaded in one easy batch
  • Resource Guide – an excel template with all your Resources for batch upload
  • Ticket Definition – a Ticket is a questionnaire that support personnel must fill out for each call.  You will be provided an example ticket which can be customized so you capture the information your organization needs.  
  • Install Chat Widget on your Website – Izzy works with your web team to install a chat widget on your site and any partner sites you want.  While the widget is installed before the line is launched, it remains dormant until launch day
  • Phone Number Routing – Izzy works with you and your carrier to ensure phone numbers are procured and routed properly.  Existing numbers are routed in such a way that there is no downtime.

5. Training

Izzy provides 2 online training sessions before launch:

  • Train the Trainer – 1 hour session where supervisors are walked through the administrative functions of the system, and shown how to train future personnel..
  • Support Personnel Training – 30 minute session where your staff and volunteers are trained on how to answer and track calls within the system.  

Your organization should also provide support training — depending on the experience of your team, this may vary; however, internal training is critical to ensure clients are receiving the support they need.  Izzy is often used during training to perform mock-calls with new personnel.

6. Launch!

We flip the switch, and your support helpline is live!

Summary

Launching a support helpline is a big undertaking, but the Izzy platform takes the guesswork out of it, and Izzy staff are here to guide you through the entire process.  Book a Demo to learn more!