live chat best pratices

11 Jan 2008 - 10:16am
6 years ago
2 replies
714 reads
Jeff Stevenson
2007

Is anyone here aware of any research regarding best practices for
implementing live chat on the web? I'm also interested in hearing
well-reasoned opinions and seeing examples.

For example, I've visited several sites that automatically open a live chat
window if the user has been inactive on a page for over a certain length of
time. To me, this seems like a poor experience for a couple of reasons. I
think most users like to research online because it offers time, privacy,
and quietness. On the web, there are no sales people popping up to ask if
you need any help. Also, popping up automatically, without the user taking
any action seems like a jarring experience.

Here are the kinds of live chat questions I'm thinking about:
- When should it be available? All the time, or only during certain tasks?
- Is there a way it can "recommend itself" without being obnoxious?
- What kind of delay is acceptable between requesting help and being
connected with a person?
- What's the best way to handle the chat window? Should it go inside the web
page as an AJAX pop-up, or should it open in a new window?
- Does "click-to-callback" (user enters her phone number to have support
call her) make more sense than live web chat?

What other considerations for live chat are there?

Thanks for the help!

Jeff Stevenson

Comments

11 Jan 2008 - 5:26pm
M S
2006

Jeff,

May I ask you not do one thing that annoys me very much when I use
live chat of my hosting provider:

When I click on "Live Chat" on the homepage it opens new window and
then resize it as needed. However I use FF and all new windows
(target="_blank") are opened as tabs. So after I click there it resize
my whole browser with all my tabs opened. It's not a big deal, but it
annoys me a lot.

Also if live chat is offline tell me about it immediately (not after I
filled out form with question and waited for 5 minutes for somebody to
respond to me).

Showing that someone is typing is a good thing as well.

When I type I'm trying to separate paragraphs. Also I use several IM
clients simultaneously, so sometimes it's hard to remember which key
combination will submit my response (ctrl+enter, enter, tab -> enter).

If you decide to autosubmit response on "enter", then let me (user)
know about it, as well as provide key combination for going to the new
line.

Also you might want to look at different IM clients -- they have many
common things with live chat.
--
Maxim

11 Jan 2008 - 3:34pm
John Pritchard
2008

Hi Jeff,
some barely reasoned opinion from an IX programmer..

> For example, I've visited several sites that automatically open a live
> chat
> window if the user has been inactive on a page for over a certain length
> of
> time. To me, this seems like a poor experience for a couple of reasons. I
> think most users like to research online because it offers time, privacy,
> and quietness. On the web, there are no sales people popping up to ask if
> you need any help. Also, popping up automatically, without the user taking
> any action seems like a jarring experience.

I think a good analytical approach could be based on expectation and quality
of experience. if the site is purely commercial, aggressive behavior is
unexpected in a (commercial or similar / associated) quality oriented user
experience. Aggressive behavior immediately "makes" the experience. It's
good for very few things because it's only expected in very few cases.

Here are the kinds of live chat questions I'm thinking about:
> - When should it be available? All the time, or only during certain tasks?

the subjects for which live-chat supporters (staff) are prepared to discuss
should include access to live chat. also this raises the question of
continuity, enabling the chat (frame) to continue across page views. (and a
nice feature would permit the support staff to nav the user's browser with
an 'accept action?' dialog).

- Is there a way it can "recommend itself" without being obnoxious?

I would think that any such interactive feature should be animated in its
visual representation. i'm thinking in the context of an otherwise static
visual presentation, so the difference is clear. otherwise a "tool icon"
type visual related to the visual representation of the chat session (see
more below).

- What kind of delay is acceptable between requesting help and being
> connected with a person?

definitely needs an immediate response (< 2s) and then progress / updates
(3-5s?).. (i'm thinking that 5s is a very long time)

clicking on the web creates the expectation of instant gratification.
managing that expectation in the case of non-machine (human) interaction is
important.

- What's the best way to handle the chat window? Should it go inside the web
>
> page as an AJAX pop-up, or should it open in a new window?

never a new window.. should be contained like an ajax layer.. using some
frames so it can travel across page views would be very good.

- Does "click-to-callback" (user enters her phone number to have support
> call her) make more sense than live web chat?

not likely.. big privacy issue.. good web makes no assumption of trust.
(unless there is trust, have an account..)

What other considerations for live chat are there?

the visual representation of the support function (staff person? company?
support department?) is important. it wants to be visually differentiated
from social chat or personal chat for good results. it wants to be
"support chat" as in a kind of "professional chat". think, trust or
confidence building (as realistically appropriate) plus a margin of
protective insulation for both parties.. (and the backend should be the
same visual)..

Thanks for the help!
>
> Jeff Stevenson
>

is that interesting?

john

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