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More Hot Trends in I&R

This blog post is the second of two in our Hot Trends in I&R series. To read the complete series, check out our white paper 5 Hot Trends in I&R.

Hot Trend  3: Unified Telephony

The I&R industry is consolidating, and organizations who form unified-telephony networks will become more competitive for new contracts and grants.

Unified networks enable levels of service that far surpass what individual providers can achieve. Advanced call-routing strategies allow centers to take volumes of calls in multiples of what they could handle by themselves.

Further, collaborative networks ease the administrative burden of day-to-day operations, and many call-center managers who currently operate under a unified model wonder how they ever did without it. Finally, unified telephony opens up lots of options, including consolidated staffing models, shared resources, call rollover, and more.

However, unified telephony is cost prohibitive, and may not be for everyone. Many smaller centers have a hard time absorbing increases in technology and telephony bills. Still, being part of a unified network is a great benefit, especially when applying for new contracts.

Action Item: Have a Get Together

If you are interested in learning more about unified telephony or want to where to begin, follow these steps:

• Don’t make the pitch alone. If you’re ready to suggest the idea of unified telephony to potential partners, find someone knowledgeable to help you. This could be someone high-ranking in an existing unified network or a consultant.

• Assess community needs. Communities that get the most out of unified telephony are those affected by frequent disasters. A high frequency of emergencies could open the door for funding opportunities in a unified network.

Hot Trend #4: Re-Envisioning Confidentiality

Most organizations’ privacy policies aren’t as ironclad as they think. Although I&R service providers have decades of experience in confidentiality, the game completely changed with new 2009 legislation regarding HIPAA, and many providers have failed to adapt. As such, those organizations who haven’t re-visited their privacy policies are vulnerable to devastating fines and loss of community trust.

“Most organizations’ privacy policies aren’t as ironclad as they think. Although I&R service providers have decades of experience in confidentiality, the game completely changed with new 2009 legislation regarding HIPAA, and many providers have failed to adapt. As such, those organizations who haven’t re-visited their privacy policies are vulnerable to devastating fines and loss of community trust.

The penalties for violating state and federal privacy laws are severe, even for non-profits. For example Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee was fined $9 million dollars in 2009. This is an extreme case, but the cost of cleanup as well as the damage to reputation for I&R providers that breach confidentiality can be more than enough to cause dissolution of an organization.

Action item: Get Protection from “Game Over”

• Make sure your privacy policy practices are up-to-date before you launch new initiatives. Especially if you’re mining new data sources, such as through I&R chat, you need to have your data practices looked at.

• Have a privacy expert evaluate your privacy policies in addition to legal experts. You’ll pay out less for expensive legal services this way. Also, most lawyers don’t understand how I&R centers operate, and their advice might not be actionable. Instead, have a privacy expert come in on the front-end, and the lawyers can review the work afterward.

Trend #5: Disaster Mgmt. Eco-systems

State and federal agencies have identified gaps in their abilities to handle specific types of disasters, and are forming lucrative new I&R partnerships. Two main areas where the industry is receiving funding is pandemic flu – which I&R has a long history of handling – and mass fatality, a relatively new planning component to disaster response.

There are many government officials who remember how effective I&R was in addressing the H1N1 swine flu epidemic. However, the contracts are often competitive, and are typically awarded to service providers in the best-established disaster management “eco-systems,” which include:

• Large networks of I&R providers.

• Collaborative partnerships with disaster-response agencies.

• Social media presence and digital volunteers.

• Interactive websites

Action Item: Prepare for the Best

Become aware of state and federal needs in you community. Potential contracts won’t always come to you. Often times, you’ll have to go to them, and chances are your local government will have a need that your I&R center can fill. Be sure to mention pandemic flu and mass fatality – the hot items of government planning right now. 

Get a social media plan. Taking some time to develop and write out a social media strategy execution plan with goals is an inexpensive and effective way to increase your communication power.