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Overview

As part of their service, We Are With You offer web chat services to support people dealing with addiction and mental health. They have one web chat team that is responsible for the whole service, from helping with addiction to mental health.

It took one week to get the web chat services up and running.

We Are With You don’t externally advertise their web chat service. On average they answer 50-70 chats a day (before COVID-19, but demand has remained steady).

Preview of the Withyou website

Users and needs served

Web chat has different user groups looking for different information:

  • As a person looking for help with their mental health or addiction I need to find information that I know is trustworthy.
  • As a person looking for help with their mental health or addiction, I need to be free to choose if and when I disclose my personal information.
  • As a person who is concerned about a loved one who needs support with addiction or mental health, I need information about how best to support them.
  • As a professional, I need a place to find support and/or advice for managing my own clients addiction or mental health issues.

Software and tools used

Live chat inc.

Complete customer service platform. We Are With You use this software to run their web chat service.

Cost

$16 per month (free 14-day trial).

Considerations

They have a free 14-day trial so you can test to see if it is suitable for your service needs before committing to purchase.

You can manage web chats from multiple websites in the one place. Originally We Are With You used one web chat platform accessed by multiple websites, for their different services (over 50’s alcohol use, mental health registration, blood borne viruses etc). This keeps track of where each client comes from so if you use multiple services on one platform you know what they’re contacting your organisation about.

It’s good for reporting - you can add tags after each conversation that give an idea of what the conversation was about. You can then produce a report which shows trends in similar tags etc.

Sling

Free employee scheduling app. We Are With You use it to schedule shifts and communicate with colleagues during a shift.

Cost

Free

Considerations

This web based platform allows you to schedule and book staff onto shifts.

It also has a chat space which is like a virtual break area. This is where people come and ask for support with a call or supervision if they need it.

It has a news feed for sharing useful information between colleagues.

Recipe steps

1. Set up Webchat

Selecting a platform/technology provider for a web chat service

We Are With You selected their web chat service platform because it’s easy to pick up and use. They didn’t want to have a difficult learning process of new software.

See if you can test with a free trial before you commit to purchasing.

Understand what features you want out of a platform so you can select one what is fit for purpose

2. Staffing Webchat

Dedicate a specific team of people to work on your web chat services

We Are With You run a 9am - 9pm service, working usually in shifts from 9am-6pm, 6pm-9pm.

It is hard to do multiple things at once if you’re having a conversation with someone online. Therefore, you need a team solely focused on delivering support and responses to live chats.

Figure out how many staff you need on your web chat team

We Are With You based their number of staff on the traffic that their website gets.

They have 2 permanent members of staff.

They need 3 members of staff at any one time on one shift to support people who are trying to access support or information.

If you are a small charity or you don’t have a lot of traffic, look to join up with other charities. You can share staff to cover multiple services. If you’re working in a local area look to see what other charities are they you could connect with.

Training staff

Learning the technical aspect of a web chat service is the least important part. Connecting with people in the right way is more difficult to learn. Try to use a platform which doesn’t require a lot of learning and use it during training so staff get used to it.

Training should result in staff members being upskilled when they join the web chat team. At We Are With You you’re not always an expert when you join.

Try to create a team of staff who know the organisation well - We Are With You staff must have 2 years minimum experience in the organisation before training as a web chat adviser. This is so they have an understanding of how to connect with people and experience in what a recovery journey looks like.

When staff have completed training they should begin working on live conversations with the guidance and oversight of a supervisor.

We Are With You use a type of whisper system, where the training member of staff can work alongside another staff member to build their confidence before working alone. When someone starts, after technical training, they’ll be observing another member of staff in a live conversation to assist without engaging with the client directly.
Then they will be supported by a supervisor as they begin their own live chat with a client. The supervisor can help gather information for the client or advise the staff member but they are not seen by the client.

Finally the training staff member is confident to continue answering live chats on their own, and know they can check in with colleagues virtually if they need help. This system means a client will only ever feel supported by one person and build a connection with them, instead of multiple people.

All staff members can deliver all types of support from light touch to more in depth support. Everyone doesn’t need to be a specialist.

We Are With You have always run training for web chat remotely, as they have staff across the country.

Have a plan for being responsive if change is expected

Staffing for web chat has been constant for We Are With You, their demand hasn’t changed too much due to COVID-19.

They have a capacity of staff who can no longer do their day to day job, who could be trained up if they’re needed.

If there is a media campaign or ad about their service, We Are With You recruit more people in case there is an increase of service.

3. Running a webchat

For a client

  1. Clients come onto the organisation’s social media page or website.
  2. There’s a box that says chat now which clients can click on. If they don’t click into web chat but have been on the website for a while, a nudge will pop up to let them know they can ask for help.
  3. When they enter into a chat it’s picked up by a member of staff. To begin they have to consent to the discussion (Collect GDPR info etc.). We Are With You don’t collect any personal data but they do ask clients to agree to a privacy statement which informs them of how the conversation might be viewed etc.
  4. Staff will usually agree with the client how they can move forward by the end of the conversation, depending on what they need.
  5. Clients end the conversation feeling supported and informed. Staff continue to pick up more conversations with clients.

Guidance

Make it easy for people to start a conversation

If they’re flicking through different pages on your website have a chat window pop up.

Minimise the information you collect from people early on as this can discourage people from using the service. We Are With You doesn’t collect any information at the beginning of a web chat discussion.

There’s a change in dynamic with speaking online in comparison to speaking face-to-face. We Are With You found people are a lot more direct in the questions they ask and the information they share. This can change the tone of the conversation. Sometimes people can’t verbally share their story so typing it to someone is easier.

It’s important to ask questions until getting to the right questions. Shape the conversation to understand and get a response which indicates how they actually feel.

Conversation moves more quickly and you need to reassure you’re still there. For example, if you need to pause a conversation to find additional information, let them know what you’re doing.

Web chat isn’t only for quick queries or transactional needs. You can run a full support service through this medium. We Are With You said that originally their web chat service was meant to be transactional but it became apparent that it was a service on its own.

Consider integrating web chat into your case management systems so you can refer easily to other channels and services (both internally and externally).

Web chat is good for reporting because everything is recorded. We Are With You use Sling to tag conversations. You don’t need to do intensive tagging as it can be time consuming. Specific tags help you to know what the needs are in different regions and what content to put on the website.

Safeguarding

It’s difficult to know how to support someone in urgent need when you don’t have their contact details. Although they don’t have contact details, We Are With You record a person’s IP address when they initiate a chat. If they suspect someone is in need of urgent help they try to help people work through a safety plan if they can or they move a conversation offline if it suits the client better. If they have a serious concern about safety, they can share the IP address with emergency services who can track the address to a client's location and follow up as necessary.

We Are With You has created an online policy for safeguarding procedures which web chat staff can refer to in urgent situations.

Risks

Here's some things that might be missed when delivering remotely.

Where child safeguarding concerns arise, We Are With You can only go off the information that they know, so they must inquire about how the child is staying safe.

Web chat may not be a localised service, so it can be difficult to find out quickly what support is available in their local area during a conversation.

Information you share might not always be up to date - Especially during this COVID-19 period. NHS/government pages might not be up to date and can be constantly changing. This is something to be aware of.

Think about how you manage returning clients. This is something you won’t know about before you go live, but should consider what kind of management plan you will put in place. With this service you’re able to offer continuous support online (reducing use), but keeping the interaction structured to stop clients staying online 24/7.

It can take time to get the service delivery right. When We Are With You launched their web chat service their complaints increased rapidly, but it was useful feedback which steered the service to be as useful as possible.

Points of contact

For further information about this recipe, you can contact:

Steph Keenan,
Contract Manager Digital Operations at We Are With You.

Thanks

Many thanks to We Are With You for contributing this recipe.

Recipe published on April 23rd, 2020. Last updated May 28th, 2020