What is it?
OVE has been working with AARP Innovations team to stand up a virtual call center (AARP’s Friendly Voice) for people to call who are feeling isolated and or just need a friendly voice. The AARP Foundation is also engaged to offer insight on preparing volunteers to work with vulnerable adults. The Friendly Voice effort is a component of AARP’s Community Connections resource.
What is the AARP Community Connections effort?
AARP Community Connections is a website (www.aarpcommunityconnections.org) and helpful resource for the public as our nation addresses the coronavirus. (The effort was initially called AARP Mutual Aid but its name was changed to AARP Community Connections.) The site, developed by AARP Innovation Labs, includes a wide array of COVID-19 resources. The website directs users to information and enables users to organize their own “mutual aid” groups to stay connected, share ideas and sign up to help their family, neighbors and those most affected by COVID-19. A Spanish language version of the page will soon be launched.
How will it work?
There are three core lines of work: 1) Identifying people who would like a friendly call and 2) Recruiting and supporting volunteers to reach out to interested people, and 3) The actual call between a volunteer and person requesting the call
Identifying those to be called:
- A special website (www.aarpcommunityconnections.org) with the ability to capture contact information from people who would like to receive a periodic friendly check-in call from an AARP volunteer is about to launch. It will be tested for a few days before being widely promoting across the country
- Those interested in receiving a call will provide us their phone number and a window of preferred time for a volunteer to call them (anticipate that calls would be placed between 10 am – 2 pm and 2 pm – 5 pm in their time zone)
- It is expected that the outreach to the public will eventually include a toll-free number that a person could call to chat with a trained volunteer
- A virtual volunteer position description has been crafted
- Information about the role is being emailed to current AARP volunteers through state office outreach and a national e-alert. Interested volunteers are invited to express their interest in helping with this effort by completing an online interest form.
- The information form captures key contact information, availability, experience (if any) with a customer service/call center, and if the person speaks Spanish.
- All respondents will receive a follow up email with an invitation to join a briefing session.
- At this point and in the interest of time, recruitment is only being done among existing AARP volunteers and staff since they are known to the organization and are aware of AARP’s policies and procedures (over 600 people have completed the interest form!) Eventually, and once more experience and systems are in place, there will be an opportunity to recruit and on-board others
The actual call
- The trained volunteer will receive a list of people to call and relevant information such as preferred time for the call-back and if Spanish speaking
- The volunteer will log onto OVE’s phone tracking system which will record the call and allow the volunteer to enter specific notes about the call (a requirement)
- Using an OGC approved framework for the call, the volunteer will identify him/herself and explain the reason for the call and that the call is being recorded for quality and training purposes.
- The volunteer will begin with a question like “how are you doing?”
- If there is a real or perceived need that critical help is needed for the person, the volunteer will take appropriate AARP-approved steps to offer a local resource or call emergency officials, if needed.
What type of training will be offered?
Beginning Monday, March 21 and for the foreseeable future, OVE will host introductory briefing sessions about the effort. Follow-up training sessions will be held with small groups of volunteers to review the framework for conversations, tips and topics to avoid. The training includes four required elements: participation in an introductory briefing call, tech-check to ensure volunteer’s computer system is adequate, participation in a Zen Desk training to learn about the call tracking system and participation in the content/approach training. Volunteers can request additional training and support from OVE.
When will this resource launch?
Volunteer recruitment launched on March 20, 2020 and we anticipate that AARP will issue a public announcement about the opportunity to receive a friendly call within two weeks.
When do volunteers begin to make calls?
After successfully completing the three virtual training sessions, the vetted volunteers will receive the contact information for those who have opted into this program and want to receive a call. Calls will be made during normal business hours for the relevant time zones.
Will volunteers be given names of people to call from their own state?
At this point in time, we are not able to assign volunteers to their own state. It might be possible in the future depending on the number of volunteers we have in place but right now there will be a central pool of volunteers responding to calls from across the country. Each call have notes associated with it in the call tracking system that all volunteers must use so that relevant information is captured for follow up and/or escalation
What if someone asks for a call back? Will the same volunteer call that person again?
Call back requests are possible and will be noted on the ticket associated with the individual (all people being called will have a ticket generated in the phone tracking system). At this point we are not saying that the same volunteer will be calling the person back BUT there is the capacity (and expectation) that a volunteer will enter brief follow up notes so that the person being called doesn’t have to repeat their story (e.g. live alone, have a cat, children out of state, etc) to whomever may call them back.
What if the volunteer identifies a person in crisis?
Volunteers will not attempt to resolve an issue for a person in crisis but will be given a resource packet that includes 211 and other public health and emergency service contacts for the area.
Will the names of people who’ve asked to be called be kept confidential?
The name and contact information for an individual who has expressed interest in being called will only be used for this effort with the name and phone number being shared with a volunteer.
How will AARP protect the safety of those being called by a volunteer?
In order to be a volunteer for this effort, volunteers will be required to participate in a three-part training/on-boarding experience. The calls can only be made through a link to a technical platform (called Zen Desk) that both stores the caller information, is used to assign specific call-back information to a volunteers (they will be assigned calls) and we expect to use the feature within the platform to record the calls in case there is any concern about the way a call was handled.
What is the link between the AARP Mutual Aid effort and AARP Community Connections?
There is a reference on the AARP Community Connections website about creating local mutual aid groups which will likely be organic, self-directed efforts. These local groups might include a friendly caller effort which can easily co-exist with AARP’s national Friendly Voice effort.
What about other friendly caller programs in our area?
AARP’s Community Connections program, which includes a friendly caller program, is not intended to replace new and existing programs within a community. Our hope is that AARP Community Connections it is a complementary resource. States have the option to use their channels to help raise awareness for other virtual volunteer efforts with local and state non-profits.
How will this service be promoted to the public?
ICM is engaged and working on a plan to promote this offering. When there’s an ability to field live calls through an 800—phone number, States will be notified when there is a number to share with their networks. In the meantime, States can promote the www.aarpcommunityconnections.org website.
The specifics of AARP’s overall awareness and promotional plan aren’t known at this time but will likely include outreach to state and community officials, agencies and the general public through online and print messages.
How many people will AARP be able to respond to through this effort?
It is unclear how many people will be interested in receiving a friendly call, but in just a few hours there are over 180 prospective volunteers willing to take on this role. We will monitor the number of requests and our ability to respond recognizing that we will need to offer either a same day or next day response. As the project moves forward we expect to have a system that handles both in-bound and out-bound calls where approximately a 100 people per day could be helped; the number could increase based on our ability to attract and retain vetted volunteers.
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