Chat Now Service

There is a new facility on the AA Great Britain (AAGB) website called Chat Now. The service went live on October 1, 2016. It can be accessed via the About AA tab –> Newcomers. When a chat responder is available, a yellow “How Can We Help?” chat box pops up, where the guest can type their name and send a chat request. Within seconds, the responder will answer. The aim here is to provide an instantaneous and live chat service for anyone inside or outside of AA. This will initially involve offering the newcomer the National Helpline number and/or a local Helpline number and may include reassurance by explaining how it works, i.e. that they will speak to a recovering alcoholic who will understand, advise and help. Sometimes we also help guests find and locate local meetings and reassure people with reservations about their first meeting.

At Conference 2015, the Electronic Communications Sub-Committee (ECSC) was tasked with carrying out a feasibility study for this service. Following a presentation to Conference 2016, the setting up of the new service, to be called Chat Now, was approved. It was meant to allow web users to contact a member of the Fellowship through an interactive web button. The service is aimed primarily at newcomers and those who feel that they may have a problem with alcohol.

Since the start of the service there have been over 12,000 chats. In the first month alone, there were 224 chats. In January of 2018 there were close to 1,200 chats. The number of visitors continues to rise, indicating more and more the need for this service.

The chats mainly originate in the UK, however there have been enquiries from the USA, Central and Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa and India. These chats are handled accordingly, often with us passing on contact information for the appropriate National AA Website.

We aim to offer coverage daily from 7am to midnight. However, given the small numbers of responders (16 at the moment) this is not always possible, resulting in a few gaps throughout the day. An ideal situation would be to have 50 responders, allowing full service with room for adequate coverage between responders – for holidays, sicknesses, work or family commitments, etc. Shifts are usually one to two hours long.

Most enquiries come from people who are asking for help, some wondering if they are ‘bad’ enough to attend AA. These we direct to our National Helpline number. Other enquiries come from family or friends asking how they can help a loved one. As this sways from our primary purpose, these guests are directed to Al Anon services. Then there are also the guests who only want meeting details. A common confusion that occurs is the one about the different types of meetings, open or closed, and the format followed. Newcomers not familiar with our jargon sometimes think that a meeting listed as “open on the first Monday of the month” only meets on the first Monday of every month. Sometimes the names of meetings are confusing, as in a Speaker Meeting or a Big Book meeting. We try to clear up any questions and explain how to find further details on their own via our site.

Details of the Chat Now service and an application form can be found on our website. As with the Online Response Service, the requirements are two years continuous sobriety, a good understanding of the AA Programme, the 12 Steps and the 12 Traditions, and an endorsement from an Intergroup or Region.
(Being able to commit to a shift, computer literacy, and a good internet connection are givens. 😉 )

Normally, a responder is able to answer an incoming chat immediately. This means he or she is sitting by the computer for the duration of the shift. (Or carrying the laptop along to make a cup of coffee!) If you feel that this service might be for you, or I’ve peeked your interest just a little bit, then please visit the Vacancies section of the Electronic Communications Sub Committee and find out more. We would love to hear from you. Alternatively, you can also write us an email at and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have.

When a new team member comes on board they are given comprehensive training. They are introduced to the site and taught how to use the software. They are then given practice chats to respond to, multiple opportunities to monitor live chats and when they feel ready, are shadowed by a trainer during their first shift or two to make sure they feel comfortable. When this process is completed they can take regular weekly shifts whenever it fits in their schedule. Team internally, we use a Skype “Chat Now” chat room for back up and support. For example, if a chat comes in that a responder has a question about or is having difficultly with, they can write in the Skype chat room – there is mostly always another responder about to help out.

My experience to date is that this is a very rewarding service and would encourage members to consider it. In this modern age, many use a chat service in everyday life. Young people seem to prefer ‘chatting’ rather than picking up the phone to talk. I would encourage all members with the required qualifications to seriously consider it. The fellowship needs to keep abreast of new developments and facilities to help the still suffering alcoholic. This is an area where we can do this. Fear of failure should not prevent us from at least considering participation. How many of us have said, ’I can’t’ when they really meant was ‘I don’t know how’?

If we don’t try, we will never know.

Yours in Service,

Jim F,