Shifting power back to survivors

The National Domestic Violence Hotline provides 24/7 support and safety planning, quickly connecting survivors to the providers and resources they need — helping them on their journey to a safer future. It’s vital that as many contacts as possible are answered quickly. The Hotline transitioned its direct service workforce to remote working in three days with the Genesys Cloud™ platform. They maintained 24/7 service with their required contact anonymity, while improving shift coverage and reducing IT management time. Finally, the selective use of voicebots and chatbots now provides a better experience, while reducing call times and ensuring limited funding goes further.

100% home working

in just three days


dropped calls

Reduced handle time

by over a minute with AI

Better work-life balance

for advocates

Complete contact anonymity

always maintained

IT spends less time

on contact center management

Genesys Cloud offered the best interface, the most transparent pricing and the greatest options for integration. The last point was key as we wanted to escape the hassle of managing bolt-on solutions.

— Marty Hand, CTO, The Hotline

Effective crisis intervention

The National Domestic Violence Hotline (The Hotline) is a vital service: its mission is to answer the call to support and shift power back to those affected by relationship abuse — 24/7/365. Established in 1996 and headquartered in Austin, Texas, it is the only national 24-hour domestic violence hotline providing compassionate support, life-saving resources and personalized safety planning via phone, online chat and text.

To date, The Hotline has answered more than 6 million calls, chats and texts. Services are provided in English and Spanish through bilingual advocates and in more than 200 other languages through the Language Line. The Hotline is a frontline resource for survivors, often the first source to validate that abuse is being experienced, and a trusted provider of resources, referrals and safety planning. Those core services are delivered through highly trained advocate staff who provide high-quality, trauma-informed education, validation and connection to services that empower victims and survivors to make life-changing decisions with dignity and respect.

Previously delivered via phone, chat and SMS from a central contact center in Austin, these services ran on standalone on-premises solutions, including an aging Cisco infrastructure. This increased the risk of system failures and placed growing time demands on a lean internal IT team. Like many nonprofits, The Hotline seeks to maximize the reach of limited funding.

“Because we are a nonprofit, we have to multitask and don’t have the luxury of a large team of IT specialists to manage our contact center,” said Marty Hand, CTO for The Hotline.

Making funding go further

The Hotline is constantly looking for ways to innovate, expand and improve support. “We are always asking ourselves how we can leverage technology to better help survivors,” said Hand. “For instance, we are developing systems that would provide information on shelter availability, so our advocates can get help faster to those in need.”

Also, The Hotline wants to innovate in the most cost-effective way so limited funding is used to maximize impact. “We’re acutely aware every dollar spent on IT is a precious investment given the increased need for support services for survivors,” said Hand. “So, consolidating on a single cloud platform was hugely attractive. Not only to reduce IT cost and effort, but also to transform through greater resourcing agility, system resilience and the ability to expand our services to neighboring cities and towns.”

The Hotline considered six proposals before shortlisting three contact center providers to demo their solutions. “In our final evaluation, Genesys came to the top in pretty much every category,” said Hand. “Genesys Cloud offered the best interface, the most transparent pricing and the greatest options for integration. The last point was key as we wanted to escape the hassle of managing bolt-on solutions.”

Zero margin for error

Confidence in business continuity was another important factor. “Missing a contact because service platforms are down is simply not an option,” said Hand. “So, knowing our Genesys solution had built-in redundancy with Amazon Web Services was very reassuring. We get automatic failover without carrying the cost of running our own DR infrastructure. AWS was absolutely a factor in selecting Genesys Cloud.”

Enlisting Genesys Professional Services to assist with the build process, The Hotline quickly switched from 100% on-premises technology to full cloud-enabled homeworking. “Against a 9% rise in contacts during the first COVID-19 lockdown, we mobilized all 160 home-based advocates with laptops in just three days and never lost a single call,” said Hand. “Now, it’s easier to cover demand and offer micro-shifts if they’re free for an hour or two.” The Hotline now employs 215 total staff — all working remotely.

The Hotline took advantage of the Genesys AppFoundry® Marketplace, including the PureInsights tool for its flexibility to customize dashboards.

“We provide the overall dashboard framework and real-time metrics that our advocates can adjust in the way that’s personally best for them,” said Hand. “PureInsights has also helped automate reporting, which is helpful for securing grants, influencing policy and legislation.”

Keeping contacts safe

External factors that add stress, financial strain and/or isolation can negatively affect survivors of domestic violence and further compromise their safety. The Hotline has been hearing regular reports from survivors that the COVID-19 pandemic is increasing the dangers they face, while limiting their sources of support. For many, digital options like chat and text were safer than phone.

“The pandemic increased the need for 24/7 support, as well as the complexity in serving survivors safely,” added Hand. “Genesys helps us to meet these growing needs and expand the flexibility in how we engage with them.”

The language used on the phone and in messages becomes paramount. The Hotline advocates receive specialized training to develop the skills needed to quickly build trust and recognize physical, emotional/verbal, sexual, digital or economic/financial abuse. All services are provided with the best practices of a trauma-informed model.

Last year, webchat and SMS accounted for 43% and 9% of interactions, respectively. SMS was only available part of the year and is growing fast. Both digital channels have become essential for victims — especially younger individuals — as it can be safer for them to send a message via their mobile device than make a phone call.

Selective, survivor-centric AI support

The Hotline continues to make a real difference by connecting survivors to the right resources as quickly as possible. Set up internally without needing to hire developers, it implemented Genesys Digital Bot Flows (for digital bots) and Genesys Dialog Engine Bot Flows (for voicebots) to keep pace with a threefold increase in daily calls, chats and text.

We went from 92 advocates to 160 within two years and, with limited funding, we’re now using AI to make that capacity stretch even further.

— Marty Hand, CTO, The Hotline

Now, survivors phoning in have the option of providing a voicebot with non-identifiable demographic data and the outcomes they want to get out of the conversation, taking care to use their words and language. That information is then presented on screen when the call is routed to help prepare the advocate.

Similarly, a bot can identify if a person engaging via messaging is under 13 and request they call to speak with an advocate, or redirect them to appropriate child support. Genesys bots are able to recognize when a conversation has stalled. After a set time, they can automatically disconnect and remove the chat or SMS from the queue. This frees up capacity and protects the survivor if they get interrupted or are unable to continue the conversation.

“We went from 92 advocates to 160 within two years and, with limited funding, we’re now using AI to make that capacity stretch even further,” said Hand. “Removing the need for our advocates to ask initial questions provides a better experience. AI has also reduced average call time by over a minute, so we’re able to help more survivors.”

Innovating for hope and positive change

The Hotline is always innovating. Aside from plans to develop a fast-search tool for identifying shelter availability, it is also increasing abuse awareness among high school students by integrating partner training materials and apps.

AI is enabling The Hotline to serve a wider audience by selectively guiding those people who aren’t in crisis but are looking for preventative support or specific resources such as legal advice, shelter details and child counseling.

“The time taken for us to answer one million contacts is getting shorter and shorter,” concluded Hand. “It took seven-and-a-half years to answer our first million calls and just two-and-a-half years to answer the next million.”

At a glance

Industry: Nonprofit

Location: US

Contact center: Around 160 agents


  • Move to remote work without loss of service
  • Ensure complete confidentiality
  • Simplify IT management and time to innovation
  • Stretch funding by selectively introducing AI