Monday, April 14, 2014

Get proactive with your virtual reference

Update December 11, 2014: We've made proactive chat invitations easier than ever; take a look at our newer blog post for the details.

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.

Head over to the admin site, Services tab.  When editing any service level, look for the Proactive tab, and you'll be able to craft your own proactive service without any additional hand coding.  Everything will be handled in the standard LibraryH3lp code snippet.



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