Online support chat

For a consumer-oriented website or service, one of the hardest things to do is establish a personal connection with a customer. Typically when browsing a website, the information is static unchanging, and might be incomplete. Most customers do not want to write an E-mail and wait for a response to an inquiry. An easy way to fix that is provide a portal for instant communication between a representative and a customer. Many will have an instant “speak with a customer care specialist” feature, or something similar under another name. Regardless, the result is the same: you click the button and are instantly connected to a representative in a chat window.

XMPP fits this use-case perfectly. Website visitors are given a temporary ID or anonymous login to the server using the built-in web client. On the company side, there is a group of agents or operators waiting for potential customers to start the conversation. Typically the server will check for presence information to see who is available to assist, as some may be otherwise engaged. The server will connect an available representative and the customer in chat and they can begin their interaction. It’s a great way to provide instant service to a current or potential or current customer; instant and unobtrusive access to help. Although the chat can be initiated by the representative, a more typical case is where the user will initiate the conversation.

From the server point of view, there a number of different ways this can be accomplished. Because XMPP has not produced a specific specification or public extension to produce the result, there is about as many options as there are XMPP servers. The most popular implementation uses multi-user chat rooms which have a user limit of 2 and will place the customer randomly in a MUC with an available representative.

Tigase’s excellent Bosh and Websocket support makes it an ideal platform for this sort of use case. Tigase can automatically archive conversations to be saved for later use, and on-the-fly changes can be made to the rooms to allow for a manager of supervisor to join the conversation. One instance of Tigase server can easily handle thousands of connections from websites so a single service can handle multiple websites easily.

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