I can’t really comment on this other than to report the facts as it is a massive conflict of interests but Lulu.com has stopped offering Live Help, their chat help system, as of today and is moving to an email ticketing only customer support system. This is big news as Live Chat has been around on the site for many years and the announcement of it going away was probably a little out of the blue for most customers.

Community Leader Carol posted this message in the forums earlier today:

At Lulu, our goal is to make the publishing process as simple as possible so our customers can publish with ease and profit from their work. After listening to user input, we decided to discontinue the option for “Live Help” customer support via text chat as of 1/15/09. Moving forward, we are placing a larger emphasis on our direct customer support via email, which we have found to be the most efficient and effective way to address our customers’ needs. Our efforts in this area include more user-friendly contact forms which will direct your query to the appropriate support specialist, shorter turn-around times, and staffing our support team with in-house experts.

We would like to assure you that Lulu is committed to offering you the highest level of user support while maintaining a free-to-publish service. Throughout 2009, we pledge to continue improving our site, making it easier than ever to use while by providing richer, more useful information in our Help section, including in-depth site tutorials.

We feel confident that this change will have minimal impact on you during the transition, and we hope it only improves the level of support you’ve come to expect from us. In the future, if you have any formatting or technical issues, then we recommend reviewing our improved Help section. If your issue deals with an order, printing, or one of the services we offer, please send your question to customer support at http://www.lulu.com/help/email_support.php We appreciate your business and thank you for choosing Lulu.com.

There is an official thread on the topic here if you want to see what Lulu and the mob are saying: http://www.lulu.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=458818 (So far, the mob has been quiet which really surprises me.)

Without saying much, all I am going to say about this is that, speaking as frequent and loyal customer, forum moderator and former chat operator, this is a very very good thing for customers.