Top 10 tips for setting up a helpline
When it comes to contact centres, you name it, I’ve worked in it: team management, customer relations, fundraising, digital…
And I’ve been part of so many helpline launches that I’ve lost count! So, I’d like to share my top 10 tips for you to consider when launching your own baby.
1) Get everyone on the same page
Everyone in your organisation needs to understand why you’re setting up a helpline.
If you’re outsourcing, you should also make sure every team knows who your supplier is, what their function is, and who’s who when it comes to day-to-day communications and escalation.
2) Consider your audience
Start broad: UK or international? Free phone or paid?
Then get down to the nitty gritty. For example, consider details such as age. For older audiences, you’ll want to prioritise a phone line. But for a younger audience, make sure your self-service is top notch, and that there’s a solid escalation point to a helpline. Which leads me onto my next point….
3) Consider your channels
Once you’ve established your audiences, matching them to channels should come naturally.
Boosting efficiencies through self-service is easy with the correct digital tools, reducing costs while keeping service users happy. Many people now find email slow, so look to quicker resolutions like online digital assistants or live chat. Don’t forget: for some queries, they might need to escalate to a helpline.
Have a long, hard think about your resource: is your team big enough to handle omni-channel enquiries?
4) Set expectations
When is your helpline open? What are you offering? Let supporters know! Mind is a household name when it comes to mental health, and make it exceptionally clear when marketing their helpline as an infoline, not crisis line.
So much so, that they rightly signpost anyone who’s at crisis point over to Samaritans making sure they get the right help.
5) Join up internal communications
Events, appeals and launches will create a spike in calls to your helpline, so you must communicate them to your operations team well in advance. That way you’ll have enough time to potentially look into extending your helpline over the weekend, finding more staff, or even sourcing overflow services.
6) Get the word out
So, you’ve got a sparkling new service – but how do you market it?
Your website, social media pages, and supporter newsletters are key. Press releases could help you secure a spot in newspapers, on the radio or TV. Take a look at our recent blog on boosting awareness of your helpline for more ideas.
If you’re outsourcing, get to know your partner’s marketing team, too – you’d be surprised how much they can support you.
7) Forecast call volumes
As a rule of thumb, assume that 5% of your supporter base will engage with the service, but be ready to adjust when your service goes live.
If you already have a helpline function, try to record call volumes over at least three months – ideally, twelve.
Remember point 5, you’ll have spikes during campaigns so it is important to keep everyone in the loop. For example, during the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal, their helpline receives over 25% more calls!
8) Allow it to settle
There are sure to be some bumps in the road. Things you didn’t think about at the beginning – such as teething problems with call management, retention/recruitment, or analytics.
Remember: give it time. It’s a brand new service with a lot of moving parts. Review the service at the six month mark. Then you’ll know what needs tweaking or potentially even overhauling. If you jump too quickly, you’ll be back at square one!
9) Consider your main port of call
Who’s going to steer the ship? Who can confidently feed back to senior stakeholders, understand the reporting, and manage the team?
If you’re outsourcing your helpline, then you need an internal point of contact to hold the central relationship with your helpline’s contract manager and account manager (that’s me!).
10) Futureproof your helpline
When your strategy evolves and your 5 year vision gets flipped upside down (Uh, COVID…) your contact centre must be involved. If you’re looking to widen your services, your helpline will play a central part too.
You need to be agile, ready to embrace the latest digital tools such as AI-powered chatbots. Helplines really are exciting places – I love seeing the latest tech developments!