GreatCall Sees Huge Spike in Engagement

Plain language narratives from Wordsmith empower the elderly to live more safely on their own, while easing the worries of caregivers.


“We can say with confidence that narratives are very valuable. The numbers don’t lie.”

– Chris Gutierrez, GreatCall’s Director of Product Innovation

GreatCall LogoGreatCall makes it easy for older adults to stay connected with family, friends, and medical help with devices like the Jitterbug5 phone, the Splash medical alert, and the Touch3 smartphone.

The company’s ongoing challenge is making communications technology incredibly easy to use. That’s why its most advanced application, Link, has a user interface made for everyone: plain language narratives from Automated Insights.

Let There Be Link

The Link app started as a way for caregivers to locate a family member’s GreatCall device on a map. When customer research revealed that caregivers are primarily concerned with the overall well-being of the person they care for, the team shifted its focus.

Soon, the app prioritized information about whether the device was on and charged, confirming that a user of GreatCall’s 5Star Urgent Response service could get help if needed.

Leveraging user-provided data of most-frequented places, the team also added the ability to see whether a user is keeping a normal routine.

The Need for Narratives

GreatCall narrative

As app development continued, GreatCall turned to Automated Insights and its Wordsmith platform to create plain-language narratives based on Link data.

Striking the right tone was especially important. 5Star users may have health risks. Narrative updates to Link users about their lives needed to be respectful and calming, but still convey urgency when required.

The goal, as the Washington Post reported, was “to empower the elderly to live more safely on their own, while easing the worries of caregivers.”

GreatCall’s Vice President of IT and Software Development, Krijn van der Raadt, says that empowerment comes in part from the “ridiculously simple” narrative interface.

“Before we had narratives, the Link app only had a daily activity view and a dashboard,” he says, “But obviously the real power of collecting information is to see trends and improve behavior. Presenting user data as a chart or graph just didn’t feel like the right way to represent people’s lives. Our customers agreed — a narrative summary of somebody’s week is a much more natural fit.”

Wordsmith generates over 50,000 activity narratives for Link users every week.

The Numbers Don’t Lie

Ultimately, of course, it’s customer actions that matter. And those actions prove just how powerful automated stories can be.

“When we look at the analytics, we see a huge spike in engagement after we run the narratives,” says Chris Gutierrez, GreatCall’s Director of Product Innovation. “We can say with confidence that narratives are very valuable to our end users and that they really appreciate the information. The numbers don’t lie.”

Engagement is especially important given the nature of the Link app. Sending notifications only when a loved one asks for assistance or calls 911 would limit opportunities for interaction. Weekly narratives help keep user attention even as life proceeds normally.

“The users of our 5Star service are 70 to 90 years old,” Chris says, “so their children, our Link users, are between 40 and 60, at the pinnacle of their careers, with kids in high school or college. They are super busy, and so an executive summary is perfect for them. They might not see every notification, but they want to know that their parent is doing well.”

“Caregivers tell us, ‘I was worried sick about my parent. But I have more peace of mind now, and they’re happier too.’ Remember, our users want their independence – to live in their own homes, garden, have pets and get out and see their friends.”

Privacy and Purpose

Krijn says he’s proud of the way the company leverages data for the express purpose of helping users live longer and healthier lives. He also stresses that GreatCall recognizes and respects its customers’ privacy: data sharing occurs only with explicit consent.

Looking ahead, Krijn is excited to expand the partnership with Automated Insights. “We will be incorporating even more useful data into Link,” he says. “That means Wordsmith can make our narratives richer and more meaningful for our customers.”

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