Contact - for families with disabled children

Charlie the chatbot helping the team to support where it matters most

The charity with values driven by their families

Contact is a UK charity that focuses on supporting families who have disabled children.

There is a desperate lack of services and support for the 620,000 parents in the UK who care for a disabled child.

As a result, families face a huge range of challenges and many feel isolated and alone.  Coping with extra financial costs and practical challenges can put an enormous strain on daily life, with families more likely to face emotional issues, stress, and anxiety.

The vision of Contact is that families with disabled children feel valued and are strong, confident, and able to make the decisions that are right for them.

This takes the support of a great team at the charity, but also the resource to offer the best help and information.

More people need more help in difficult times.

During difficult times the volume of queries always increases, but with ongoing concerns around the cost of living, they spike significantly.

Flexing resources to manage this is time-consuming and can be challenging.

If a parent carer is looking for help because of a stressful or anxious event or situation, it’s key that the Contact Helpline Team is available to take these complex and sensitive calls, live chats or queries sent via email or the web form.

However, many of the queries coming into the Helpline Team were general queries with similar themes (eg Universal Credit) that could be answered via information on the website.

The Contact website has a wealth of information and is an invaluable resource for families. But invariably, people will reach out via phone or email if they cannot locate the information they need after a quick search, hence the volume of general queries noted above.

A number of inbound enquiries were also from individuals that were not within the sphere of who Contact could help – for example people based outside of the UK or with a disabled child over the age of 25, and this issue also needed to be addressed to help protect the time of the Helpline Team.

It was clear a solution was needed to guide users to information on the website that went beyond the menu or search function.

Charlie the helpbot is born

Contact wanted to provide a simple means for users to easily start a conversation with them and get straight to the information they needed. As chatbots provide immediate 24/7 responses to enquiries, this was the perfect fit for this scenario.

Charlie is deployed globally on their website, and also Facebook Messenger, Charlie is able to help users regardless of how they came to reach out.

The additional benefit we could deliver was a means to seamlessly hand over the conversation to a member of the Helpline Team for parents who needed additional support.

When the Helpline Team are offline (outside normal working hours), we developed a handy feature for parents to leave their contact details and concerns with Charlie the Chatbot, allowing a member of the team to get back to them as soon as they were able (usually the next working day).

The completion of the out-of-hours form helps alleviate some of the parents’ stress and anxiety as there is a sense of ‘I’ve done my bit, and I know Contact will come back to me with help and support’.

To ensure that the right people are getting the right assistance, Charlie the Chatbot helps Contact by going through a few quick qualifying questions with each user to qualify people in or out. Those that are qualified out (eg parents not in the UK, or someone who doesn’t have a disabled child under 25) don’t just have the door slammed, but are offered suitable alternative charities who may help, with URL links included.

Charlie is accepted as a member of the team

Although Charlie has only been working for Contact a few months now, they are super pleased with how things are working out, with over 600 families a month leaning on Charlie for useful bits of information and guidance.

There has also been a great pattern developing in the analytics – early on in Charlie’s deployment, parents were quicker to seek out support from a human, but as time has gone by, more and more parents are relying on Charlie to provide trusted information and guidance.

The acceptance of Charlie the chat bot has been really strong.

Although we help to support and look after Charlie, the onboarding and training given to the Contact team has given them the autonomy to keep Charlie up-to-date and allow extra content to be added simply and easily.

Increasing interest in supporting Contact

Finally, we are delighted to report that the analytics have shown a huge uplift in the amount of people who have looked at supporting the charity, be that donation or getting involved – so it’s warmed the heart to see these conversations turn into donor acquisitions.

Future plans may include integration into the CRM which will help considerably with smoothing the digital transformation process that Charlie is helping with.

We also expect in-line translation to be part of the solution

Charlie will be able to talk to prospective individuals in any language, to allow better inclusivity across the board. Something that is difficult to do with a human team only.

Overall, Charlie has been very well received and we are proud to have delivered a valuable member of the Contact team.

We feel that Contact do an amazing job and if you think they do too, we would love you to consider supporting them. Click on the button below to find out how.