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Support/Live Chat/Roadmap

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High level goals

Live chat is already a very useful method for giving help. In its first 1.5 years, close to 35,000 chats have been answered by up to 20 helpers per week. About half of all users who chat respond that live chat solved their problem, which is good but could be improved substantially. This is an optimistic roadmap of the features and fixes that we would like to have in 2009, based on the challenges we have faced and where we would like to be in 2010.

  • Improve metrics collection to better identify top issues and useful data to help debug new problems.
  • Improve the stability of the software, allowing people to get help without being disconnected, shown error pages, or dropped from the queue.
  • Allow more users to follow up after their chat session. This will free helpers from answering as many long chats, allow us to collect more accurate data on how many problems we are solving, and improve the experience for users by giving them the convenience of following up when they have time. Long chat sessions are frustrating for everyone.
  • Allow helpers to help from anywhere with Firefox from a web client.
  • Reduce stress on helpers and increase participation by fixing annoying bugs, allowing helpers to pick 'official hours' without having to make personal committments, and by allowing helpers to transfer chats without waiting on them to be accepted.
  • (At risk) Improve the sense of community by adding targeted social features, based on input from the commmunity.
  • (At risk) Allow full localization of live chat, including allowing questions in multiple languages. We should take advantage of the fact that we're a global community.
  • (At risk) Everyone should be able to help. Allow helpers to pick the type of questions they want to be offered.
  • (At risk) Contributor home page should offer detailed information on live chat status, with a direct link to get started taking questions.

Upcoming/recent SUMO releases

SUMO 1.0

SUMO 1.1

  • Improving stability
  • XML retrieval of queue information and live chat metrics

SUMO 1.2

  • Improve the experience of following up in the forum
  • Improve live chat metrics collection
  • Show queue status to users on Live+Chat landing page
  • Make helping easier by adding support for variables and wiki syntax in chat sessions

SUMO 1.3

  • Functional, proof-of-concept web client.
    • Groundwork needed to make the existing fastpath webclient useful as a general chat client, with basic support for accepting chats.
    • Lay down framework for widgets, ajax, configuration, data structures, and l10n.
    • Base on the existing fastpath webchat code
    • Use dwr for ajax, xml templates for page and widget layout, jquery for DOM manipulation
  • chatquery.php (live chat metrics script) updated to handle tags and produce useful reports on top UX issues


Early fall: Web client to replace Spark

    • PRD
    • Reduce stress on helpers with "cold transfers"
    • Allow more people to help more often, by allowing them to help any time
    • Session restore, to prevent lost chats


Parallel with web client development

The web client will involve overhauling the interface for users, as both helpers and users will be using the same codebase. Thus, new features for users should be developed in parallel.

  • Live chat i18n - allow localizers to translate the web client, take advantage of our international base of chat helpers
  • Streamline the "Ask a question" process. If we are closed or full, let users know how they can get help by e-mail or when to come back.
  • Remove a user from the queue if they close the browser window, to reduce the number of false chat sessions.
  • Remove false barriers between live chat and the forum. Target: 50% of unsolved chats continue in the forum.
    • Allow users to post their question to the forum without leaving the web client.
    • Allow helpers to answer questions from the forum. (Random questions when live chat closed, followups to their chats when live chat open)

Late fall - scheduling solution

This must be viewed as a tool, not as a way of making commitments.

  • Abstract requirement: An informal way for helpers to indicate times they might be available, without having to commit to specific times.
  • Times of the day should be color coded, with "stronger" colors indicating that more users signed up then.
  • Room monitors or admin should be able to add or subtract official hours, which are immediately reflected on the main live chat page.

A possible interface might be a color coded timechart, with slider bars (ranging from likely to help to not available) in each time slot. Room monitors might have a way to select between helping, monitoring, and advising for each slot. Admins might have a way to commit to a specific time, as admins would be team members or core community members comfortable making a committment.

  • Need XML output for sumobot.

Unscheduled 2009 development goals

  • Integrate unit tests into fastpath and the web client, to prevent regressions
  • Allow helpers to use any jabber client, with bot commands
  • Make live chat function better as a community (Avatars display to users,
  • Fix bugs that prevent us from using multiple queues, then transition away from using a trainees workgroup. Some SUMO team members, QA team members, developers, etc might be in a special queue to only get chat invitations when needed.
  • Live Chat support for SUMO karma
  • Chat query script accessible to helpers, to view information about tags
  • Web client support for filtering chats, to only receive chats with certain keywords or with a certain wait time. (Allow everyone to help the way they want to.)
    • Would allow less active people to only get chats that have been waiting more than 10 minutes, developers to get chats with the word "crash", or international people to get chats in their native language.
    • We might also ask users to pick from a list of problem types - some helpers might only want "challenging" types, while new helpers might want only questions about using Firefox. Marketing team members might only want "what is Firefox" type questions.
  • Live chat modules on community home page. (Show questions in the queue directly on the community home page, with a single link to begin chatting with that user)


Potential future development (2010?)

  • Integrate web client with SUMO sign-in
  • Allow attachment uploads from users and helpers
  • Integrate with Mozilla community portal, spread firefox, etc
  • Social features to improve sense of community. (User-submitted themes for webclient, sharing of canned responses)
  • Live help for mobile users?
  • Investigate other methods of live support. (Live screencasting, smart canned responses to guide helpers through series of steps)
  • Investigate ways to better use information we collect through live support.
    • More improvements to tags
    • Track which steps helped each user. If a user solved the problem by clicking on a KB link from live chat and following a certain series of steps, the user should answer a CSAT poll on the KB article. The user's final CSAT poll where the problem is resolved should be attached to the original question asked by the user.
    • Allow people reading a KB article to ask a question (in forum or chat) about the article. We might enable this for an issue we are investigating, to allow us to solve it quicker.