How charities are using apps to engage with service users

By Ron Moody

 

At Connect Assist, we understand that service users are often vulnerable and find it difficult to ask for help using traditional channels such as telephone and face-to-face conversations.

 

By making our services available across a wide range of communication platforms, service users feel reassured that support is always on hand, whenever or wherever they need it. This could be in the form of a text message, an email or even a private conversation over social media.

 

Communication, in its essence, is all about opening up a conversation in some way or another. But with so many devices offering constant connectivity and instant communication, how can charities make sure they are available and ready to engage with service users when they need them?

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With apps increasingly becoming a hot topic for businesses looking to reach out to customers in a more personal and engaging way than ever before, how are charities using this innovation to their advantage?

 

WhatsApp, the instant messaging app, was once reserved just for a consumer audience looking to send and receive secure messages with friends and family, but is quickly making a name for itself as a legitimate communications platform for brands.

 

Unlock is a UK charity that runs a confidential peer-run helpline for people with criminal convictions. While the charity offers advocacy and advice via a number of communications platforms, including email and a helpline, it has also recently launched a WhatsApp service for users who want quick and free way of getting confidential help when they need it.

 

TellMAMA, a support service for victims of anti-Islamic hate in the UK, has also introduced WhatsApp as a line of contact, allowing service users to send audio, video and images as well as text.

Parenting and family support charity Family Lives has recently started offering service users the option of getting in touch via video calling app Skype, allowing callers to connect with a real person at the organisation at their convenience.

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Be My Eyes is an app for the blind and visually impaired that operates worldwide and relies on donations and volunteers. The app connects people in need of visual aid with sighted users through live video. The idea of the app is to offer guidance to individuals in need of visual support for everyday tasks, ranging from reading cooking instructions to offering health and safety advice in a hazardous environment.

 

While apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger don’t currently allow developers to access their functioning systems or data, we look forward to a time when such communication platforms can be integrated into service delivery systems like CRM. We understand that several software vendors are lobbying for access for integration so we hope it may not be too far away.

 

By creating a joined up, multi-channel approach to communication, charities will be able to connect with service users in a smarter and more engaging way than ever before.

 

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