imageI spent some time today surfing around the Windows Server 2008 R2 site.  After I had been on the site for a few minutes I was surprised to see a pop up on the desktop offering a chat with a person from Microsoft who might answer some questions I might have about Windows Server 2008 R2.  I couldn't resist.  I had to try it out!  As it turns out I ended up chatting with "Karan" for a few minutes about Windows Server 2008 R2, and she recommended the following links to learn more.  She gave me this link http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2008/en/us/r2.aspx which you will note leads me back to the page I started out on, and after a few minutes a pop up asks if I would like to initiate a live chat with a Microsoft Professional who can answer my questions about Windows Server 2008 R2.  I think I know where this is going.  :)  Things like this don't really bother me unless I am trying to find real answers to a real technical problem and then the endless help loop of death is annoying.  I am very interested in advertising and sales.  This technique has some real potential.  It is always hard to get the right audience in front of the right sales people.  Here we have an audience who is obviously interested in the product.  At this point if Microsoft were to put the right salespeople armed with the skills to sell the product in front of that audience (in this case that simply means manning the chats with folks who have technical skills to provide real documented answers) imagine what could happen.  Sales could climb because potential buyers actually got real answers to their questions in real time. Actual authorities could give out valid information from the get go. We could eliminate the confusing mess of white papers, and web sites all pointing to each other as "The Place to go" to find answers to your technical questions.  Imagine if both parties on the chat actually had the same native language.  What if the representatives from Microsoft actually knew more about the products than you can learn in a 4 hour call center training class?  What if they had actually used the products?  We could destroy the endless help loop of death.

Ahhhhhhhh, I know I am dreaming a pipe dream here, but it's a good pipe dream isn't it.  All of us have our trusted advisors when it comes to matters technical.  We have a tendency to listen to them because they are tried and tested. 

So the question is how does Microsoft as a company build out a sales based chat feature and establish it as a "Trusted Advisor" to the IT community? 

What do you think?  Under what circumstances would you trust the advice you were given in an online chat?