An interview with Lifeline’s Shereena Aruldason about what makes the Lifeline Response Centre tick

    Every day, Lifeline takes thousands of alarm calls at its two Canadian Response Centre locations. Lifeline subscribers rely on the company’s Personal Response Associates (PRAs) to quickly understand the nature of their emergency, determine the level of response required and summon appropriate help without delay.

    To understand the ingredients that go into making Lifeline’s Response Centre what has been called “the heart and soul of Lifeline”, we spoke with Shereena Aruldason of Lifeline Subscriber Services.

    The quality of the people who staff the Response Centre is no doubt very important to you. What do you look for?

    Shereena: You’re absolutely right. Our hiring process is quite rigorous because we want more than just people with telephony and computer skills. We want caring, dedicated PRAs with excellent interpersonal skills, people who have experience working with seniors and people with medical conditions. We have an exceptional training program but we want to be sure we have high quality people to begin with so that the training just makes them even better.

    Tell us more about your training program.

    Shereena: We’re very proud of our training program and we believe it really sets us apart. When we hire a new Personal Response Associate, they go through a rigorous six week program consisting of three weeks of classroom instruction and another three weeks on the phones working closely with a trainer. There are tests throughout the program and a final exam at the end, and trainees need at least a 90% mark to pass. Even after the initial training, PRAs are able to take advantage of ongoing training and recertification to achieve higher levels of expertise.

    What about the technology the Response Centre uses — how does it help PRAs?

    Shereena: Our communications system was custom-designed for our needs so that when calls come in they are prioritized accurately and our PRAs have all the information they need at their fingertips. Every subscriber has their own Care Plan so that we know their medical history, who to contact in an emergency and so on. It’s a closed-loop system, which means calls are not released until we know help has arrived and our subscriber is in good hands.

    Canada is a very multicultural country. How many languages can the Response Centre work in?

    Shereena: Many of our Personal Response Associates are multilingual. In addition to English and French, we are able to work in 170 languages, including Mandarin, Cantonese, Tagalog and Farsi.

    Are all of the calls the Response Centre receives medical emergencies?

    Shereena: No, not all of them. Some are accidental calls or subscribers calling to make sure their equipment is working as it should. Sometimes people are just lonely and want to hear a friendly voice, which is fine. But we have to be ready for whatever comes in because it could be a life or death emergency.

    Any final words for us, Shereena?

    Shereena: We’re very aware that people have put their trust in us to keep them safe and help them if they have a medical emergency. Our subscribers are not just numbers to us; they’re someone’s mother or father or spouse, people with friends and interests who just want to be able to live independently with peace of mind, knowing they can get help if they run into trouble. That’s why we take such care in our hiring process and make sure our Personal Response Associates have the training, technology and knowledge they need to give our subscribers the absolute best possible service.

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