TMCnet Feature
September 02, 2021

Making a Difference One Call at a Time: Tips to Starting a Crisis Call Center Hotline

Now more than ever, people are reaching out for help and support amid a slew of challenges in their lives. In fact, suicide hotlines in the US saw an 890% increase in calls during the height of the pandemic. With this burgeoning and increasing cry from society for assistance in tough times, more people are making strides to aid those in need via support call centers. If you're thinking about making a difference by starting a crisis call center or distress hotline, here are a few tips to get you started.

What is a Hotline?: Crisis call centers or helplines are known by many different names and can address many topics. However, at the core of distress call centers is an altruistic mission to help people through specific challenges and do so at no cost to the caller. A call center agent offers empathy to callers in times of stress or confusion.   Some shining examples of a distress hotline include help for individuals struggling with addiction or people contemplating suicide.  The objective of a properly functioning support call center is to provide compassion, a listening ear, and helpful resources to callers who are in distress.

Knowing Who to Target (News - Alert): The simplest response to this query is targeting a demographic in your wheelhouse on a subject matter in which you have intimate experience. And don't shy away from a genre just because there are national or international hotlines already in place. For example, there are global suicide call centers, but that doesn't exclude you from pursuing a local hotline for those in your community.  Furthermore, don't exclude a narrow niche for fear it's too exclusive.  If you identify a problem in society, odds are there are folks who need guidance and encouragement about it. To illustrate, there is a growing need for support and awareness regarding sexually transmitted infections. These much-needed helplines educate callers about safe-sex practices, at-home STD test kits, or just provide an outlet so people can talk about delicate issues surrounding this sensitive topic. Look around, draw from your own life experience, and allow the need of the public to guide you to your target audience.

Getting Support for Your Call Center Goals: As mentioned, hotline proprietors provide much-needed services to the public. People who feel alone, isolated, and in deep turmoil call helplines as a means to gain stability and help. Given that intense level of social responsibility, it's important to have a solid support system in place before launching a call center. This entails seeking resources in your community, having conscientious volunteers to assist with incoming phone calls, getting responsible about fundraising, and recruiting concerned members of society who have your back when it comes to providing aid to others in crisis.

Know the Requirements: As a pillar in a community, crisis hotlines and support call centers have tremendous responsibilities and must adhere to strict guidelines. Before a helpline takes its first phone call, all operators must have a complete understanding of procedures, ethical guidelines, human rights, and should comprehend suicide risk assessments as well as domestic abuse assessments. All helpline operators must attend crisis training, and the organization must be compliant with local, state, and governmental regulations. If you're thinking about starting a support call center, know what is required by your local governing factions to legally operate, and get proper training for yourself and volunteers to avoid mishaps along the way.

Setting Up: As with any mission, it's a good idea to have all the tools and accommodations in place before launching. While a crisis call center doesn't require a lot of startup equipment, there are necessities to get the support network rolling. For example, a decent work area will be needed, preferably with plenty of space for qualified phone operators, and ideally, this space should be WiFi (News - Alert) (or high-speed internet) capable.  The most favored technology for helplines is an established VoIP (voice over internet protocol). This is a service that allows call centers to take calls over the internet rather than analog phones. It is usually less expensive, and far more efficient than old-school phone lines. A reliable call center software is also a must. Some cloud-based call center software services for hotlines include ZenDesk, Five9, TalkDesk, Nextiva, or RingCentral (News - Alert). Think about the objectives of your support call center and research the best software and equipment to meet your requirements.

Building a Crisis Hotline to Help Others Help Themselves

The world is filled with people who feel excluded, alone, or tormented by struggles in life. If you're thinking about starting a crisis hotline or support call center, you are in a position to help and make positive changes in the lives of others. Whether you decide to go local or global, offer support to cancer survivors or people embroiled in substance abuse, one thing is clear. Pre-planning to see your vision through and preparing for success is key.  Your mission has enormous potential to improve society. Give it a fair chance to thrive by taking preliminary steps to ensure success.

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