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Spotlight: Live Chats Triple As Patrons Telework During Pandemic
Demonstration of the library's patron-initiated Live Chat tool.
In April library staffers found themselves logged in from home offices (along with most VDOT office personnel). We decided to encourage a newer channel of communication by modifying the "chat widget" on our Web site to activate and invite patrons to chat when they are on a page for 20 seconds without moving. Patrons quickly took us up on the offer!
Live Chat is only active when library staff are logged in and ready to respond, and after hours it routes questions via online form to the LibAnswers dashboard. We received 52 patron chat requests during the quarter (three times what we normally get since implementing the system in 2016). We answered 50 chats (96%) with one dropped and then reconnected, and a second chat where the patron submitted their question online (where it was later answered by another staffer) after waiting just 8 seconds in the chat tool. This is not atypical behavior where chat is concerned.
Chats were received by all four library staffers, lead by Becky Earnest, who responded to 44% of all chats. Chats were initiated by patrons in 7of 9 VDOT districts, led by Central Office, Richmond district and Hampton Roads. In addition, about 22% of all chats came from outside the agency, but most were questions related to work being done by VDOT contractors and partners at other state and local government agencies. Total time staff spent chatting was a surprising 11 hours 23 minutes, with 556 back-and-forth messages. Here's a breakdown of chats by time of day and day of week: