Helplines plan to invest more in technology to meet growing demand

80% of helplines surveyed expect demand to go up in the next 2-3 years

Connect Assist has released some interesting research on charity helplines surveying over 100 charities in January this year. Of these, 81% had a helpline, with the vast majority of these providing advice, information and signposting.

An overwhelming majority of charities are predicting a rise in demand, with 80% of respondents signalling this. Only 7% predicted a decrease. With cuts to wider services, it is thought that many vulnerable people have been accessing helplines as an alternative which may explain the large growth in helpline use over the past few years.

Senior charity staff identified managing demand and managing resources as the two biggest challenges of running a helpline. Capacity, and managing fluctuations in demand were big challenges, as were budget limitations, and staffing issues; including finding people with the right skills.

When asked what they would change about their helpline if they could, respondents were far more likely to want to see changes to improve system integration through better use of technology, including CRM integration, and better ability to offer homeworking. Being able to have access to better data to use in forecasting and planning was also high on the wish list. There was also some desire for more staff, longer opening hours, and offering more communication channels.

Overall, two thirds of charities in the survey highlighted technology as being the key investment or change that their organisation will make to improve how they engage with the people that are trying to reach them.

Of the organisations that took part in the survey, most felt that the helpline was very important to the wider charity, with an average score of 9.4 out of 10 on a scale of 1-10, so the services that are provided through the helpline were seen as being an essential component of operational and service delivery.

Channel use was interesting. All of the surveyed helplines had telephone and email offerings, with half having postal mail and social media channels. Chat options were far more popular than text offerings. This reflects a strong desire to tailor services to meet service user’s preferred methods of communication. Nearly 40% of helplines were handling over 100 contacts a day; with 18% handling over 500 contacts a day.

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