2 page Case Study - Posted 6/26/2013
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Nonprofit Helpline Uses IM Counselling to Serve More Youth Facing Serious Issues
When youth across Canada asked Kids Help Phone (KHP) for live chat counselling, it used communication technology donated by Microsoft and a solution from ComputerTalk to create the new platform. Surveys of the pilot service reveal reductions
in distress and improvement in clarity and confidence among children and teens, tangible evidence that KHP’s live chat can answer a desperate need. The nonprofit is now fundraising to make live chat a national counselling service.
In 2011, 50 full-time and part-time Kids Help Phone (KHP) counsellors handled more than 225,000 counselling contacts—more than 5,000 a week—with young people from almost 2,500 communities across Canada. A community-based, national organization, KHP provides
confidential, anonymous professional counselling and mental health support by phone and through its award-winning, bilingual website and online resources. Kids can access counselling services by using the 24-hour helpline, or pose questions through a web post,
which gets routed to a counsellor who provides a detailed response.
“We let the kids define what they want out of our services, which together with our research, keeps us focused on the issues that are most important to them,” says Sharon Wood, President and CEO of Kids Help Phone. “Using the phone or web posts provides
different, but equally successful, counselling experiences. However, our surveys showed that 71 percent of respondents wanted us to offer an additional option: live chat. This would provide a more discreet way of connecting with us. We were determined to find
a way to accommodate those kids who might be too shy or nervous to phone, or who lack a private place to talk.”
||Our partnership with Microsoft has helped kids facing very serious problems to reach us and get help.
| Sharon Wood
President and CEO, Kids Help Phone
Being able to offer a new counselling service modality to children and youth depended in part on sourcing the right technology at the right price. “Cost is critical, because we don’t have core government funding,” says Ted Kaiser, Head of IT at Kids Help Phone.
“At the same time, we look for market-leading, quality solutions that fit our existing skill set and work within our IT environment.”
Kids Help Phone used Microsoft Lync Server 2010 communications software and ice Contact Center from ComputerTalk, a Microsoft Partner Network member with Gold competencies in Communications, to deliver a pilot live chat service. The Lync Server 2010
software was included in a strategic donation from Microsoft and KHP had been using ice Contact Center to manage and deliver its phone and web post counselling services. “In 2006 and 2009, we were very fortunate to receive two large software grants from Microsoft,”
says Wood. “Today, we rely on Microsoft software and Microsoft partners such as ComputerTalk to support our service delivery.”
According to David Thomson, Vice President, Partner Sales, at ComputerTalk, the natural synergy between the two products created an ideal solution for a live chat counselling service at KHP. “Microsoft and ComputerTalk products meet KHP criteria for robustness
and interoperability to minimize training and deployment costs,” says Thomson. “KHP deployed two Lync Server 2010 servers onsite and we used the ice IM [instant messaging] chat module so that kids could start an anonymous live chat session with a KHP counsellor
by clicking a button on the website.”
In January 2012, live chat launched, with no publicity, as a pilot program and is available from a still limited number of counsellors, Thursday through Sunday, from 6 P.M. to 11 P.M. Eastern Time. “We expected high demand, and we got it,” says Kaiser. “Fifteen
minutes after opening every day, our queue is full and it stays full. In the first seven months of our pilot program, we’ve had approximately 5,600 chat sessions. Requests for our other counselling services remain constant.”
Chat sessions take 50 minutes on average, compared to the average phone session of 15 minutes. “We anticipated longer sessions, but we didn’t expect that the majority of live chat interactions would be more serious in nature,” says Todd Solomon, Clinical
Director of English Language Services at Kids Help Phone. “As soon as we began the pilot program, we realized the service was badly needed. We are now working on a funding plan to expand and sustain live chat counselling as a free service available to young
people in distress anywhere in Canada.”
Children and youth across Canada asked Kids Help Phone for a new way to access anonymous, confidential counselling services. By using Lync Server 2010, KHP is equipped to deliver. “With live chat, we believe we are on to something fundamentally important,”
says Wood. “Our partnership with Microsoft has helped kids facing very serious problems to reach us and get help. We look forward to being able to provide the technology-enabled live chat counselling as a full service.”
Helped More Youth with Serious Problems
Helpline and web post usage remains constant, implying that during the pilot program the new service modality attracted a demographic of youth that hadn’t previously used KHP services. “Kids are choosing live chat to connect with us for help with serious
mental health issues, suicidal feelings, self-harm, violence, and abuse,” says Wood. “It’s especially poignant that these kids didn’t have a way to connect with us until the pilot program.”
Improved Service Outcomes
Not only is KHP helping more needy youth, but thanks to pre- and post-surveys, the organization is collecting evidence that its pilot live chat program is making a difference—and kids helplines around the world are noticing.
“Seventy-five percent of youth are reporting a reduction in distress; 73 percent say the counselling helped them develop a plan for what to do next, and 68 percent report becoming more aware of their strengths and abilities,” says Solomon. “These statistics
show us that the chat sessions have a significant therapeutic value.”
“I honestly feel that we’ve done the best we could to deliver a service to kids that they need, the way they need it, and Microsoft Lync Server has made it possible to do that,” says Kaiser.
Increased Counsellors Expertise, Job Satisfaction
KHP counsellors received extensive training to provide counselling via live chat sessions and they are reporting a greater sense of job satisfaction since they have had the opportunity to improve their skill set. “Our counsellors all want to work with
live chat because these pilot sessions offer a challenging, but deeply satisfying level of work,” says Solomon. “It is no small thing that Microsoft has helped us prepare to help these kids who, in many cases, are facing life-threatening situations. We are
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