When Woopra was first launched to the public in 2008, one of the coolest features it had was the ability to chat to visitors that were browsing your site. To be honest, once the Woopra effect died off, I rarely if ever initiated conversations with my visitors. I always thought it would be cool if instead, the conversations could be initiated by the visitor. I think that’s on the way but until then, Live Chat by Zopim should fit the bill.
Installing is a breeze and can be accomplished from the back-end of WordPress. Activation is equally as easy. However, there are a few more steps that have to be performed before you can configure the way it works. In order to use Zopim, you need to have an account with them. Thankfully, they have made it easy to register an account as the process can be accomplished without leaving the back-end of WordPress. Once you have your account activated, you’ll be able to configure the plugin.
There are a bunch of bells and whistles that can be played with. The first is the widget. This is the chat screen that will show up on the front page of your site. You can configure the colors of various elements as well as the language and position. You can also hide the chatbox when you’re offline. The help bubble is automatically displayed by default but Zopim gives you the ability to customize the text that’s in the bubble as well as the bubble help message. Here is what the chat box looks like by default.
Now here is an interesting feature. Instead of using the web client to chat with visitors on your site, you can setup an IM bot that will forward messages from the site to Google Talk, MSN, Yahoo! Messenger, or AIM accounts. I’ve intentionally removed the invitation code.
However, the true power of the Zopim service becomes evident once you browse to the dashboard. The advanced dashboard basically takes the Zopim service and puts it right into the back-end of WordPress. From here, you can see visitors browsing around the site in real-time, chat with them, take messages from them, and all sorts of other stuff. This is the bread and butter portion of the plugin/service. From here, you can see visitor IP addresses, email address of the user if they are registered and logged into the site, tracking details, etc. Pretty much the same stuff when compared to Woopra but from within the WordPress back-end.
When I asked for help on Twitter to test the chat functionality, I didn’t expect the large response but it gave me a taste of what it was like to handle multiple conversations at once. Each time a new message was entered by a visitor, I was notified thanks to an audible tone. Also, multiple chat sessions are tabbed. Each time a new message is received, that tab starts blinking. Each conversation is recorded and can be accessed through the Previous Conversations tab. Alternatively, you can copy the entire conversation to your clipboard and paste it into a text editor of your choice for editing or archiving. If you find yourself saying the same thing over and over again, you can create a shortcut. Shortcuts allow you to quickly respond with standard phrases. For example, your site may use a standard greeting message for all visitors, or you have a standard response to frequently asked questions.
If you’re wondering what happens when someone sends a message while you’re offline, not to worry as Zopim will email the owner of the account via the email address on record. You won’t lose a message this way. Alternatively, you can opt to hide the chat box when all agents are offline.
Zopim has more to it than what I covered in this review but since new accounts can try a 14 day trial period, you can sign up and dig deeper into the service. While Woopra is built around real-time stats with the live chat as part of the feature set, Zopim appears to have been built AROUND live chat while providing roughly the same statistics. From my trial run, everything worked without any hassles. The only downside I discovered while using Zopim is the user interface within the dashboard. There are so many areas with a scroll bar that I constantly found myself scrolling my mouse wheel only to find out the page would not scroll because the mouse cursor was on top of some other scroll bar. This really frustrated me and I’m not sure what they can do to solve that problem. Other than that, I think those looking for an easy way to add chat capabilities to their website will be pleased with Zopim. Other than the 14 day trial period, they also have a Free Lite account for those that don’t need more than 2 concurrent chats.
If you have any questions regarding Zopim, feel free to post them here in the comments as representatives of the service will be monitoring the post.