Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Improved Activity for monitoring and reviewing chats

We've packed all sorts of exciting new features into the revamped webclient for staffing, which is now out of the beta phase: canned messages, instant access to staffing info, and geocoding. And now we've also updated the Activity tab, available in both the revamped webclient and admin site. The main US server and Canadian regional server already have this update; the Europe and Singapore regional servers will receive the update soon.

Managing a chat
Following an active chat and hovering over the transfer button.

Chat management has a new look and feel with all the old goodness still intact. Click any chat to see its transcript (if you opt to store them).  You can pop any chat out into its own window/tab, e-mail the transcript, tag for followup, or block an unruly guest for 24 hours.

And for active chats, you can do even more!  Refresh transcript to follow the conversation, which comes in very handy for assisting colleagues with challenging sessions.  You can also intervene in an active chat by transferring it to a different operator or queue or by sending a file such as a hard-to-locate PDF.

Managing chats in bulk

Personalize your grid. Choose which columns you want to see.  Don't use profiles?  You can hide that column from view entirely. Drag and drop the columns to order them the way you want. Grab the column separator to change the width of the column.

Selecting metadata columns to display.

Slice and dice your data. Filter by one or more criteria. If you are working with lots of chats, multiple filters are great for finding the needle in the haystack. Click a column's header to sort the table's data by that column; click again to reverse the sort. View timestamps in your timezone and in either 12 or 24 hour formats.

Chats are filtered by queue and then sorted by duration.
Preparing a filter which will remove chats with our Ron Swanson bot from view.

Your customizations to the default settings will automatically persist between logins and across browsers.

Plus, you can download the tabular metadata in CSV format, download transcripts in ZIP format, anonymize, delete transcripts, or entirely delete the record of chats.  Transcript zip files are available in XML and HTML formats in addition to the original text format. Use the checkboxes to act on a subset of chats. If no chats are selected, all chats are assumed.

Navigating through space and time

The controls at the top of the Activity page help you navigate through time and view chats over a specific date or date range.  Single day navigation is easy using the left-most controls.

Preparing to display chats from Jan 1, 2014 through June 3, 2014.

The Calendar button opens a monthly view.  Click the year at the top of the monthly view to change to a yearly view. The calendar view shows total number of chats per day, and you can select chats by single day or by date range. Ranges can be selected by clicking the first and last days on the calendar or by providing a start and end date. After selecting a date range, you'll be returned to the tabular view now populated with chats from the desired date range.

So there you have it! A whirlwind tour of the new Activity page. Give it a try and let us know what you think.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Typing timesaver: Canned messages are here.

The revamped webclient for staffing is now out of the beta stage. Our latest update folds in all the feedback from the beta stage and brings with it an important and highly anticipated new feature: canned (pre-scripted) messages!

Type-ahead canned messages in the webclient for staffing.

How it works

Administrators create shared groups (pools) of canned messages and assign operators to them using the new Messages tab in the admin site.  Those messages are available to designated operators through our new web staffing client.

The messages are easy to use and show up as type-ahead suggestions when composing replies to guests during a chat. Individual operators can browse their assigned shared messages and optionally create their own private messages via the Messages tab in the webclient.  If desired, operators can also opt out of canned messages in their Settings.

Into the pool!

Canned message pool management in the admin site.

A single set of shared canned messages available to all staff might be all you need. But since LibraryH3lp can be used across departments and even beyond libraries, different groups of operators might benefit from different pools of shared messages.  For example, someone in Admissions will probably need access to a different message pool than a librarian.

Flexibility is the name of the game. Administrators can set up unlimited pools of messages and then assign operators to one or more of these message pools.

Give it a whirl and let us know what you think!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

More webclient beta improvements... thanks to your feedback

A little over a month ago, we released a completely revamped webclient for staffing as a beta. It continues to be a big hit and it's getting better every week thanks to your feedback. We've already made one round of improvements on our main US server (regionals will get this update by next week) and wanted to share the latest enhancements.

Chats page

  • Hover over a queue's availability dot icon to see who's currently staffing and their status. You'll also be able to see the number of active chats and text messaging number for queues with an SMS gateway.
  • Compact or chat bubble view of main chat area controlled via Settings.
  • Geocoding! Guest IP addresses are links so you can quickly see where your guest is located.
  • Tag for follow-up shows you where the follow-up e-mails will be sent. 

Activity page

  • Clicking a chat gives access to full chat management functionality including transfer, send file, e-mail transcript, tag for followup, and block.
Tagging a chat for followup via Activity

  • Columns in the activity page are sortable and filterable.
Filter referring URLs to show only those containing "blog."
  • Calendar view allows for ranges by clicking on days or start/end date inputs. The start/end inputs are particularly handy for specifying ranges that span months or years.

A big thank you to everyone who provided feedback. Please keep your suggestions coming! Haven't had a chance to try it yet? Give it a spin - Main US serverCanadian serverEuropean serverSingapore server

Monday, April 14, 2014

Get proactive with your virtual reference

You've probably been on a website that not only includes a chat option on the page but also proactively invites you to chat after you've spent some time on the page. Love it or hate it, this technique can increase patron engagement (Zhang and Mayer, 2014). We've created a guide for anyone interested in exploring the technique with patrons on their website.

Broken down, the three main components are:
  1. A presence (availability) check to make sure that your chat queue is online before prompting the user to chat.  After all, we don't want to risk annoying the user if we're not online to help.
  2. A timer to control the amount of time that will elapse before the chat invitation is presented. Zhang and Mayer's paper reports success using three minutes - substantially longer than many commercial websites.
  3. A graphical dialog to control the appearance of the chat invitation.  This part can be heavily customized, and we've made three different styles for starting places.

Three examples, from left to right:
floating embedded widget, custom "chat now" button image, "click to chat" dialog box button.

Want to give it a spin? Start with the examples on our documentation page. You'll find heavily commented code that you can tweak and extend to suit your own purposes. We've even cooked up some working demo pages so that you can try it out. The chat widget on these pages connects to a simple bot that replies with Ron Swanson quotes so that it will always be online for testing.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Webchat client beta improvements. Keep that feedback coming!

Last week, we released a completely revamped webclient for staffing as a beta. So far it has been a big hit! We've received many positive comments and suggestions for improvement, which we've folded into the beta:

  • Most recent message is included as part of the page title.
  • Alternating favicons in browser tab provide a subtle visual alerting for new messages.
  • Block unruly patrons even after the guest closes the chat widget.
  • Chat metadata includes indicator when patron is text messaging. And a character countdown appears to the right of the chat management toolbar to help you compose shorter responses to texting patrons. 
  • Added guard against empty buddy nicknames in your contacts list.
  • Added an erase message history button for chats sent directly to you, via colleagues on your buddy list or via widgets that contact you personally instead of a queue.  Reminder: these direct IMs are never logged in Activity. The erase message history button lets you instantly clear your current chat window of the prior conversation.

Thanks to everyone who has provided feedback thus far. Please keep your suggestions coming. 

Haven't had a chance to try it yet? Give it a spin - Main US serverCanadian serverEuropean serverSingapore server

Monday, March 31, 2014

Completely revamped webclient - Now in Beta!

Recently we helped you freshen up the look and feel of your virtual service with a chat widget makeover. Now its time for us to follow our own advice. Today, we are excited to announce the beta release of a completely revamped webclient for staff!

Beta webclient. One chat in main chat workspace and two pinned in sidebar. New chat flagged in contacts list on left.

Give it a spin!

Summary of features

The revamped webclient has all the bells and whistles to which you are already accustomed in our
original webchat client as well as exciting new features (with more to come!) and a fresh look and feel. Here are some highlights:

  • Customizable settings 
    • Configurable sound notifications (oh yes, we did!)
    • Chat font size controls
    • Nicknames
    • Avatars
    • Desktop notifications in Chrome and Firefox (FF no longer requires a plugin)
  • Improved workflow
    • Large main area for your current chat
    • Right sidebar to pin other chats you wish to keep visible
    • Minimize inactive chats to hide from view
    • New chats are clearly marked as such in contacts list
    • New message indicators in contacts list, navigation menu, and page title
    • Short, anonymous guest IDs by default (operator can re-name guests)
  • Integrated profiles.  You can browse profile content even without an active chat.

The revamped webclient workflow aims to save chat operators time. The main, central workspace represents a single chat and the focus of your attention in that particular moment. Additional new chats arrive minimized, but with plenty of visual and audible notification, and are available for pinning with a single click. Your time and energy are spent on the guest rather than re-arranging your workspace and fiddling with overlapping chat windows. But the new layout goes beyond window arrangement: it imparts a sense of prioritization, supported and automated by the software.

Please give the new webclient a try and let us know how we can improve it! We'll fold your feedback into the final version.  Both the new and old clients will operate in parallel through the end of the year to allow ample time for transition and staff training.

And of course, with LibraryH3lp, you're not locked into staffing through a web browser.  XMPP-based chat clients like Pidgin and Adium continue to be excellent tools for staffing your VR service.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Does your chat widget need makeover?

Is your old chat widget starting to look old and worn out? Well, we're taking away any excuse not to update your look! We've created over 20 sharp-looking example chat widgets that you can easily copy and extend. Or maybe your widget just needs a touch of polish? Then consider one of the new presence themes, adding a watermark, or even including a survey.

Copy one of our schnazzy example widgets

Do any of these pique your interest? Then head on over to the Widgets tab of the admin site to grab a copy. Once copied, you can use the widget editor to change the colors and pretty much anything else about the widget to make it your own. Skip to the end of this post for a quick how-to on copying example widgets.

Have a super-awesome chat widget you'd like to share? Contact us to include it as an example!

Schnazzier widgets by default

When you create a new chat widget (as opposed to copying one of the examples), you'll get a light-colored widget with a modern flat look and dark icons.  And of course via the widget designer, you can further change colors, add branding, presence themes, and more.

LibraryH3lp support widget, from left to right: original icon set, new dark icon set, new light icon set.

Updated presence themes

We've updated the library of presence themes.  Remember, presence themes provide a dynamic indicator to your guests of your virtual service's availability. Updating your presence theme is a great way to freshen up your widget's look while leaving your current styling untouched.

LibraryH3lp support chat widget sporting the text-english-large theme.

Background images

Background images are slick way to provide visual effects or to introduce branding associated with your library, school, or non-profit organization.

Background images, from left to right: branding in widget header area, large watermark image for decoration, small watermark logo for branding, repeating color image at top of header for two-toned overhang effect.

Links for surveys or other pages

Awhile back, we partnered with librarians from University of Minnesota Duluth to share their great technique for embedding a link to a survey in their chat widgets. You can use this same technique to link off to any other page: maybe for service policies, a FAQ, or important announcements.

Survey link is available to the guest at all times and opens in new window or tab.

How to copy the example widgets

In the LibraryH3lp admin site, go to the Widgets tab.  Create a New Widget and look for the Copy from example widget field. Pick your favorite and you're all set!

Want to change the colors, provide your own images, or otherwise tweak it to suit your web page? All of that's a snap using our widget editor.  Many of the exciting customizations we've covered in this blog post will be tweaked in the Wicked CSS Hacks field.

You can also review our more detailed documentation on using background images and providing clickable links or images in widget titles.

Browse over 20 widgets to get started!