2-1-1 and Enterprise Text Messaging on 898211

Text message I&R services and regional community alerts are helping change the 211 landscape through increased capacity, efficiency and expanded reach to underserved populations and the ever-growing population of individuals who prefer text for their primary channel. 211s and blended sites (crisis/I&R) are finding text is quickly becoming their most important communication platform in their suite of services.  PreventionPays Text and 898211 (aka TXT211) offer 211s a web-based texting platform built for 211 services and is understood as such by all mobile carriers in the US. In addition to text based I&R and regional alerts, 211s on 898211 are demonstrating increased capacity and efficiency in the following ways:

  • I&R Specialists manage multiple sms encounters simultaneously
  • Phone-2-Text Referrals to one or more callers
  • Regional alerts to entire populations by zip code or other program keyword
  • Automate triage for more qualified encounters
  • Conduct fully automated follow-ups to obtain survey data and other information often required by their funders
Text your zip code to 898211 and see if your 211 is textable!

Text your zip code to 898211 and see if your 211 is textable!

The service can save staff time and curtail missed calls.  Traditional telephone support requires a 1-to-1 responder to client ratio, whereas 898211 has demonstrated instances where a single specialist is managing 5+ encounters concurrently.  Adding text will help with declining voice call volumes because more clients are texting 211. Text will increase response times due to the unique nature of sms communication; the natural ebb and flow of sms dialogue is synergistic with the I&R service delivery paradigm. Text will also open the door to new funding sources, as we will discuss further in this post.

What does this mean to your 211?

Adding text is a simple solution that will change how your 211 contact center operates. With the addition of texting, your resources are instantly mobilized.  Texting opens channels to grant dollars for government and local initiatives pertaining to group specific health programs, and disaster relief services e.g. veterans, youth, deaf and hard of hearing, and homeless to name just a few.  As a backup to 911 during disasters, and a conduit for rapid communications on behalf of federal agencies like HRSA, CDC, FEMA it’s imperative 211 maximize its reach to all demographics.  SMS reaches across all groups like no other communication channel and does not discriminate.  PreventionPays platform increases reach to many of the most disadvantaged and difficult to reach groups.  For many, their cell phone is their lifeline, the last link they have to human services.  898211 will increase responder efficiencies, while decreasing missed calls.  The system further supports fully automated follow-up surveys so that 211s can collect data required by their funders without having to expend precious staff time making calls to people who don’t answer their phones.  Your I&R specialists should be doing what they do best – linking individuals and their families to critical resources. 

Key FAQs about PreventionPays Text Services and 898211 Tier 1 Short Code:

The short code, 898211 and platform "PreventionPays Text" have been chosen as the National Platform by United Way Worldwide. Currently, 898211 is used by more than 40% of the 211s in the U.S. Watch the Nationally broadcasted webinar 

The Short code 898211 is provisioned as a Tier 1 meaning complete coverage across all mobile carriers in the U.S. with enhanced capacity like carrier grade message tracking and auto-retry.

PreventionPays is the only text solution that supports both two-way text dialogue and regional alerts under a single intuitive, easy-to-use dashboard.

Enhanced services include fully automated referrals via the OnDemand Utility (completely unique to the PreventionPays Platform)

Carriers have provisioned 898211 on their gateways to function in two very specific ways, as 211 I&R and 211 Disaster/Health & Safety Alerts 

898211 strictly follows all CTIA and FCC guidelines with fully automated optin/out protocols

Customized and scalable Phone-2-Text referrals to single or multiple mobile numbers - upload, send and analyze the beautiful data!

End user privacy is always protected with fully automated optin/out protocols

Message tracking and auto-retry protocols: all messages you send through 898211 will receive a delivery receipt from the carrier once the message is delivered to their client’s mobile phone. In the event that it can’t be delivered, the system will auto-retry every 5 minutes until delivery is confirmed.

Not all mobile phones can call 2-1-1, but every mobile phone can send a text to 898211.

Provides a lifeline for underserved populations including youth, hearing/speech impaired, homeless and/or temporarily displaced (where their mobile phone is their only link to social services)

898211 is provisioned with inherent routing - each site is responsible for a specific set of zip codes (mirroring the structures already in place under 211 and United Way funding mechanisms)

898211 supports overlap coverage without duplicate responses

898211 supports 211’s primary aim to provide consistent service to anyone, anywhere, anytime (text messaging is the most versatile, durable and consistent form of communication)

898211 is ideal for post disaster alerts, getting people connected with resources when it matters the most.  Even when web and telephonic services are down, text messages survive the most devastating disasters, as witnessed with Katrina, Haiti, Chile and Japan

SMS was originally created for the armed services, a small, simplistic set of characters sent and received in the most war-torn regions, a more reliable alternative to short wave radio, CB, web, or telephonic devices

898211 is registered as a 211 service with cell phone carriers, and is bound by CTIA and carrier guidelines to always function according to two levels of service:  Two-way I&R support and Regional Community Alerts (push, group text)

Contact us today for a demo! Learn why text is the most critical communication upgrade for 211s! Learn why 898211 is the service of choice by providers and their funders. 

For a demo email info@preventionpaystext.com

Or text DEMO to 898211

Getting Help "OnDemand" from 211 in Oklahoma! A Fully Automated Text Referral Utility

Getting help by text through a fully automated triage that queries end users for their zip code and need and then presents the information to the CRM and receives the three closest referrals and then delivers those referrals to the end user's mobile phone in under 30 seconds! Amazing right?

So, how does it work? Simple. Oklahoma residents text keyword "211OK" to 898211 and then what happens next is truly magical. A series of text messages will ensue obtaining end user's zip code and issue and then, within seconds, "thank you... in a moment you will receive three referrals for your zip code and need." Then, beep, beep, beep (or buzz, buzz, buzz depending on your phone) the screen lights up with the referrals and the end user never utters a word to the call specialist. The exchange is recorded in their CRM (powered by "RTM Designs") and a live operator doesn't even need to know that the event took place.

We're so excited about this new functionality and look forward to sharing it with other 211s and I&Rs. Please note, with each OnDemand encounter, end users are alerted that they can text their zip code at anytime to access live support. So, if something goes wrong or they can't find what they're looking for, they're always just a text away from two-way, live support. We understand that automated referrals can be tricky business and we want to be sensitive to the fact that automation will not solve everyone's problems. However, so far, this tool has saved the agency time and resources. They're already answering less calls because more of those contacts are being handled by the OnDemand service. So, in that respect, it's doing exactly what it's supposed to be doing, helping alleviate stress on over-burdened phones.  

According the Oklahoma 211, they see this as just another choice in how their community receives information. You can go to their website and find resources through the decision tree or you can text 211OK to 898211 and respond to the automated questions. The Next-Gen help-seeker is already here, walking among us.  Oklahoma 211 is working to find ways to expand their service capacity so that they can make a smooth transition and hopefully bridge the generation gap by giving GenYs and Millennials information in ways that are more consistent with Next-Gen preferences. This work builds on prior work in Idaho and Connecticut where automated referrals are being transmitted to mobile phones in a fully-automated exchange. In Connecticut, it's food bank referrals, in Idaho, it's a free lunch program during the summer months. 

Interested in learning more about how Oklahoma 211 started this work? Donnie House is the project lead, she can be reached at: dhouse@csctulsa.org visit their website! 

If you're interested in learning more about OnDemand Text services, text DEMO to 85511 or call us at 805.653.6000 You can can also email info@preventionpaystext.com

We are so pleased with the project! It’s already making a huge difference in how our community receives help with critical resources like utility assistance and food related resources while freeing up specialist to focus on helping other clients with more complex needs. A win-win!
— Donnie House, Program Manager, Community Service Council, Tulsa, Oklahoma 211

Colorado WIC Shares about Texting and Peer Counseling at the National WIC Association Conference in Denver!

Colorado WIC was highlighted at the National WIC Association Conference, in Denver Colorado for their work in Peer Counseling, how they use a secure text service to manage communication with their participants. The project and text platform has helped them maintain consistent communication with moms that are in the most rural areas of their state.   

Background:

Peer Counseling is an important and now integral part of WIC services and how WICs engage with their priority population - GenY and Millennial moms. Peer Counselors (PCs) are young women (typically, women who have received WIC services in the past) to manage a caseload of expectant moms and provide them with education, tips, and resources about breastfeeding.  Depending largely on their population size, WICs will receive funding and then they will be required to hire and manage the workflow.  Each Peer Counselor will be responsible for working with several pregnant mothers which will make up their “caseload”.  Several years ago (when this work commenced) one of the earliest observations was, communication between PCs and their moms can be inconsistent.  Over the past several years, many WICs have experimented with alternative communication methods in an effort to improve program outcomes.

The Problem:

For the Peer Counselor, it’s often difficult to maintain frequent communication with all participants in their caseload. They will try to call them on the phone but most of the women that participate rarely use their mobile phones for voice calls. For everyday communication, most people use texting and this is particularly true among GenY women. The dependence on sms for most communication was initially observed over 5 years ago. In fact, that was the genesis of the Peer Counseling Text program, the hope that through safe and structured text messaging, WIC agencies would be able to improve/increase communication between Peer Counselors and the GenY moms in their caseloads.   

The Solution:

Colorado WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Text Program

Colorado WIC Text Program uses a unique combination of automated educational texts with two-way dialogue. Clients are opted in to the program and assigned an educational track.  The track will send weekly messages that are timed according to the expectant mother’s delivery date. During this time, participants are encouraged to ask specific questions about the content or a general question about breastfeeding. Their Peer Counselor responds to their clients’ questions by using a PC or laptop, tablet or smart phone. Participants are using their mobile phones. The system helps the Peer Counselor with efficient and intuitive, user-friendly controls. PCs can communicate with single participants or as a group. All communication is stored in co-located data centers. The website uses HIPAA protocol for the storage and archiving of the data. 

Over the past several years, Colorado WIC has identified the following benefits/outcomes:

  • Increased breastfeeding support to rural areas
  • Cost-efficient
  • Preferred communication method for participants
  • 95% of local agency staff surveyed agreed this is a valuable addition to WIC breastfeeding education and support services
  • 95% of participants would re-enroll with a future pregnancy

  • 96% of participants would recommend to others.

Who to contact:

For questions about the program at the state level:  Erin Johnson, RD, CLC Colorado WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counseling Program Coordinator - erin.johnson@state.co.us

For questions about program details, how it works:  Sonja Lindsay-Crites, IBCLC Pueblo WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Program Coordinator - lindsaycrites@co.pueblo.co.us

For info about the conference in Denver, contact:  National WIC Association

"IN211 Partnership" Works Together to Respond to I&R Texts!

In early 2016, IN211 Partnership approached the PreventionPays team with one question, can we share our traffic? We said, when do you want to start? 

It's great that 211s can offer their services through more channels than the phone. With 80% of Americans texting more than they make voice calls and email, combined, it's no wonder texting has become the most important communication upgrade for 211 Contact Centers. But what happens when a text isn't answered? 211s in Indiana are working together to ensure that doesn't happen.

PreventionPays Text has lead the way developing an enterprise level website powered by a Tier 1 short code, 898211 aka "TXT211" that enables 211 Contact Centers to respond via live two-way text conversations, to requests from the public for help finding food, shelter, health services, clothing, child care, housing and so much more. How does it work? The model is simple. An end user (individuals, families) can text their 5-digit zip code to the short code, 898211. Then, their text is routed to the 211 that's responsible for calls/texts from that zip code. This model is working extremely well. In fact, United Way 211 in Atlanta (the first 211 in the U.S.) saw their text traffic go from 500 unique encounters in April 2015, to now more than 4,500 request per month!  And that number just keeps climbing! 

We believe the drastic increase is due to the expanding base of end users. More and more people who grew up texting (gen-y, millennials) are finding themselves entering the stage of their life where they need more social services. A temporary financial setback can be catastrophic without help - losing one's job results in loss of wages, which results in missed payments. What supports are available for them? Who will help them with basic needs like putting food on the table and paying rent? That's where 211 comes in. They are by nature, a help hotline for people who need help, a clearinghouse for information and referrals (I&R).

211s specialize in connecting communities to these vital resources. And they're a filter for all the predatory services like high interest personal loans and payday advances. They maintain a current database of social services and they're a critical safety net for the public - they keep people off the streets with roofs over their heads and a shirt on their backs - literally. Great, right? But what happens when the people needing the help stop using the channel 211 uses to make these connections? "Calling" 211 (as in picking up the phone and dialing 2-1-1) is becoming an increasingly foreign concept, particularly among the next-gen help-seeker that uses their smart phone for just about everything, EXCEPT placing phone calls. Who could've predicted that?! In fact text is the most used function on our phones. By contrast, making calls is 6th on that list. (source: PEW Research)

This is the cold, hard truth that 211 managers are facing, with declining numbers of calls, which grow month over month. Many 211 managers are turning to other channels to boost their numbers. And text has been the most widely used alternative. Why? It's universal. Just about everyone texts. Seniors are now texting 211. According to Pew Research, Americans 55 and under text more than they talk on the phone and email. And it's the 55 and up segment that is fastest growing.  211 can reach all groups regardless of age, gender, ethnicity. A simple, easy way to get vital information. 

The short code, 898211 is provisioned with all carriers in the United States. In fact, it's the only Tier 1 short code provisioned specifically for 211 related communications and now shared by dozens of 211s across the country. Unsure if your 211 is covered? Try it! Text your zip code to 898211! For covered zip codes, you'll get an optin message and simultaneously routed to the closest 211. For zip codes that are not yet covered, you'll get an automated bounce back, "We're sorry we don't understand your text... please only text the zip code/keyword for the program you're trying to reach or dial 211." The system is calibrated to always provide a response even when live help isn't available.

In Indiana, all six 211 sites have successfully launched texting services on 898211 with one additional component - they've agreed to join forces to create a safety net for each other! That means if you live in Indiana, your text will go to the closest 211. If the closest 211 doesn't respond to your text in 5 minutes, the other five sites have agreed to be backup and to cover for each other, in the same ways that they cover each others' phone calls when needed.  So, staff at the other sites will get an alert about the unanswered text in their neighbor's queue and then have the option to click the text and respond! Therefore, if specialists are tied up on calls, or they need to schedule an all-staff meeting, the "network" will respond when any of the individual sites cannot. This project is emblematic of where services with an online presence (web-based, SaaS) are going next. Why let a text go unanswered?  By working together on the same text service platform, these agencies are tackling a very big issue with a very simple solution.  Congratulations, Indiana 211 Partnership for being trailblazers in the I&R sector!  It's also important to note, the short code 898211, a dedicated, branded short code for 211 services, is powering these communications. The concept of sharing traffic is only made possible because everyone in the state is texting 898211 and all 211 contact centers are using the same web-based application to respond to those texts.  In early 2016, IN211 Partnership approached the PreventionPays team with one question, can we share our traffic? We said, when do you want to start? 

Want more info? Are you a 211 seeking texting services for your agency? Text DEMO to 898211 or call us at our office 805.653.6000. You may also email info@preventionpaystext.com

Are you a member of the public and need help? Text your zip code to 898211 or call 211.  Want more info about this exciting work? Visit IN211 Partnership or email info@IN211.org 

Cheryl Graham, director or United Way 211 Howard County will be sharing about their progress and strategies during a webinar on September 6, you can register here (make sure to select the September 6th option): https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/rt/2726525326567937026

Great news!  IN211 developed marketing materials to promote the new service and call to action: "text your zip code to 898211". They have generously offered to share their materials and messages with other 211s. You can view their portfolio here:   http://unitedwayhoco.org/get-help/2-1-1united-way-of-howard-county/2-1-1-marketing-materials

The Science of Live Help by Text - Defining the Encounter

We are now tracking all encounters as having the following characteristics:

1. An optin, initial text from end user requesting live help

2. An outgoing text (hand-typed or canned that is sent by a responder)

3. Close case  

Each of these series are now being tracked and recorded in the system with unique ID numbers. You can find a record of your encounters by going to the "Home" page - aggregate stats with graphs showing total incoming/outgoing sms and the total encounters. Home page is meant to be a snapshot of your daily, weekly, monthly, yearly activity on the system. Additionally, there's a specific report called "Encounters" that has the following columns: "encounter ID" "phone number" "no of outgoings" "no of incomings" "duration" and "status"

This report will help document the work you're doing in a way that is consistent and therefore, measurable. Additionally, you'll be able to use your encounter data for research. You can still count your encounters however you like. This layer of service is meant to help with that so that you can use the encounter data as a starting place and build from there.  

We will be updating the pdf that describes each of the reports to include a description of the encounters report. You can start to run reports now. Go to Reports tab, and then click the sub tab "automated reports" select the report called "Encounters" and then choose the frequency: daily, weekly, monthly, every 6 months or last year.  Then click "create report". Your report will be ready for download according to the run schedule. You can create an ad-hoc report that goes back as far as a year with a custom time-frame. Under the reports tab, select the sub tab "manual" and then select "Encounters" then choose the timeframe and click "create report".

If you have any questions about this or other new features/functionality, contact "support@preventionpaystext.com"!