Case study: Using SMS to keep staff and communities safe during COVID-19


Search Inc. is a community-based nonprofit on a mission to empower individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to achieve their full potential, accept a valued role in their community and lead rich, rewarding lives. They’ve been operating in Chicago and surrounding areas since 1968, providing high-quality services such as supported living arrangements, adult learning and employment programs, as well as medical, behavioral, therapy and home-based services.

According to Nick Larson, the Director of Adult Learning and Career Services at Search, the COVID-19 pandemic had a major impact in their operations. His team had to quickly adjust in order to continue to provide their services in the safest way possible - in their case, it meant transitioning most of their services to an in-home care model. Today, they have over 250 employees working 3 daily shifts to provide 24-hour care to their community.

The main priority for Larson and his team has always been to keep both their staff and the individuals they serve safe. To that end, every Search employee is required to verify their temperature and confirm they are not experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms before checking into their shifts.

“We’ve been very pleased with Avochato, mostly because it’s very reliable. Knowing that messages are being delivered and read instills a lot of confidence in my team.”
Nick Larson, Director of Adult Learning and Career Services, Search Inc.

Initially, he was sending individual text messages to every employee prior to each shift. Though he could definitely see that messages had really high open and reply rates, the manual process was simply too time consuming. He then tried using a business SMS solution, but quickly found out that their system did not work as intended and that many of his messages were not being sent or received.

With Avochato, Larson got the best of both worlds - he can save time by automating the outgoing messages, 100% of which are delivered on time. “Unlike other tools I’ve used in the past, Avochato simply works the way it’s supposed to. I don’t have to waste any of my time troubleshooting”, says Larson. The messages are pre-scheduled the night before. One and a half hours before each shift, every Search employee receives an SMS prompt asking them to send a picture of a thermometer showing their temperature and to answer a few screening questions to confirm they have not shown symptoms or been exposed to COVID-19. This is a mandatory step before clocking in. 

“We’ve been very pleased with Avochato, mostly because it’s very reliable. Knowing that messages are being delivered and read instills a lot of confidence in my team”, says Larson.  “Plus, everyone knows how to text, making it a much better channel for mass communication than other messaging apps.”

The Search team is looking forward to reopening all of their facilities when it’s safe to do so, and they will continue to count on Avochato to keep communication with staff effective and streamlined moving forward.