Home > live chats > Live chats: Helping those in need

Live chats: Helping those in need

With the economic situation driving record numbers of people through the doors (and to the phone lines) of the Hamilton County Department of Job and Family Services, we have experimented with innovative ways to help people in need.

In mid-2008, we started offering live online chats — with a goal of helping people better understand our programs and services. We have conducted more than 40 as of this writing.

The chats mostly take place 10-11 a.m. on a Wednesday. An expert in an area such as employment services, child support, Medicaid, food stamps, subsidized child care or cash assistance sits next to me at my PC… and we give prompt answers to questions.

We answer some inquiries privately, especially if they involve confidential case information.

Mostly, we share publicly, so everyone can learn from the running Q/A.

We use a software tool called Bold Chat, which costs about $39 a month, for the chatting. And I cut and paste questions and responses into an HTML page on www.hcjfs.org for the running chat transcript viewable by the public.

People access Bold Chat and the HTML page (the running transcript of the chat, later an archived Q/A) through a link on the Web site’s home page.

We average about 10 participants, 15 questions and 80 views (which grows to 300 or more over time). Some chats draw 30 participants; others, none. If a chat is slow, I interview the expert — and we still get people viewing the running transcript.

In the second half of 2009, participation dropped a but, so we backed off on frequency.

But the first two chats of this year — about Child Care and Employment Services — were very busy. So we’re planning to schedule chats at least every other week in 2010.

Bold Chat has other uses, too. In March 2009, we began offering private chats with Child Support customers about their cases. Technicians field questions 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Monday-Friday, on the Child Support page under Services on www.hcjfs.org. An invitation to chat pops up after somebody is on the page for a minute. Customers love the quick response–the fact that they don’t have to sit on hold on a phone for a long time.

We’re considering offering chats with clients from other program areas such as Medicaid and food stamps.

All of these practices will help us help those in need of assistance — many of whom haven’t accessed our services before, and don’t understand the system or its complexities.

Hope you find this interesting. I’m planning to continuing sharing my experiences in these public relaitons practices with you as the year unfolds.

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  1. February 21, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    Live chat being used for employment assistance… hmm… very nice application implemented very nicely.

    • mikeboehmer57
      February 22, 2010 at 8:58 am

      Thank you. There’s another at 10-11 a.m. this Wednesday on http://www.hcjfs.org, if you’re interested.

  2. September 10, 2010 at 9:37 am

    I need a copy of my child support order ,how do i go about getting a copy of it and will it cost me.

    • mikeboehmer57
      September 11, 2010 at 1:23 pm

      Please visit http://www.hcjfs.org. You can chat live 10 a.m.-2 p.m. weekdays. This blog has no connection to my work at Hamilton County JFS.

  3. November 3, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    when i was quite younger, i alway enjoy online chatting with friends and relatives “”

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