Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
One of the applications I wrote about early on involved actually selling computer web support services exclusively, using the LiveZilla chat system. LiveZilla is fantastic, but if you just want to offer a simple, free chat interface between your website visitors and your support staff, it’s a little bit overkill. Tim covered Zopim, which is a great service to use if you don’t have your own web server, or if you don’t really need your own dedicated solution all the time.
On the other hand, if you do own your own server and you’d like to have your own self-hosted online chat system where you can offer your website visitors instant, live customer service – then Mibew is exactly what you need.
Instant Self-Hosted Live Customer Service
LiveZilla was actually a little bit intimidating – the system was fairly complex and really offered way too many bells and whistles for a simple, small-scale interface with occasional customers. Mibew is nice because it is PHP/MySql based, and because of that, installation and setup is almost identical to the quick-and-easy installation you may be used to with WordPress. Just save all of the files from the Zip package to a subdirectory on your web server, set up a quick MySql database with a user that has full admin access, and then edit the config.php file in the /libs directory with those details. Finally, open the index.php file in the /install directory, and you’ll see the following screen.
Believer it or not, you’re almost done. This first step of the wizard is a quick check to make sure you have all of the proper versions of PHP and MySql installed. Once that’s confirmed, just click on “Create required tables” to move on.
If the user permissions you created were okay, then this step should complete without any issues either. Now that all of the tables are created and populated, the Mibew system is fully installed on your web server. You’ll see the log in screen – just initially log in using the “admin” ID without any password.
Once you’re logged in, you’ll find yourself in the main menu. As you can see, things are pretty straightforward with this system. There are no complicated or confusing settings – it’s simply a chat system that connects your online visitors to you whenever you’re logged into the system.
If you click on “Operators“, you’ll be able to add as many new customer support agents as you like. This is also where you can set up permissions, adding or restricting what they can do or see when they’re logged into the Mibew support system.
Another nice feature is if you click on the “Canned Messages” menu option. This is where you can stockpile a whole collection of responses that you find you have to type often during chats with clients. During the chat, these canned messages show up in a dropdown box (which I’ll show you below). This can be a real time-saver during an online chat where you’re trying to troubleshoot a problem and chat at the same time.
Finally, there is the “Settings” area, which allows you to configure things like the company title that’s displayed in the chat session, whether you want to display a pre-chat survey to customers, and of course under “Themes preview” you can select from a short list of different themes for the IM session.
Click on the button code in the main menu to obtain the webpage code which you can insert into your website to allow visitors to open up a chat window with your live agents (or you). When visitors click on that button, they’ll have to at least type in their name, or if you’ve selected to enable a pre-survey, then they’ll have to fill that out as well before they can chat with anyone.
What you see on your chat window with the visitor is a little different than what they see. For one thing, you’ll have the option at the bottom of the chat window, to choose from your list of canned messages in order to save a little time during the chat. You can also click the purple button at the top of the chat window to forward the customer to one of the other available operators.
As you can see below, what the visitor sees on their end is just a little different. There are no canned messages, and the purple button in this case allows them to forward the chat session to their email address for their own records.
Overall, I really like the Mibew open source live support system because it’s so fast to set up on your web server, and it’s so easy to use. Within less than thirty minutes, you can have a fully-functioning, stand-alone customer support system running on your website, with very little work on your part at all.
Do you want to establish a better connection with your customers or website visitors? Give Mibew a shot and let us know how it worked out. Do you like the system, or is there anything you would change? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.