I am looking for a chat platform, i.e. something that helps me implement those little dialog boxes one sees on many websites where the user can interact via text messaging with a customer service rep (CSR).
One wrinkle that's a little different is that chatting with a CSR is not my main use case. The system I am making connects third parties with each other. Specifically, it connects people in need of a certain service with people who can provide that service. I want these third parties to be able to initiate (subject to some business rules) chats with each other without any action by my employees, or anyone at all other than the customer and the third-party service provider.
There are some other things that are "nice to have" items, and I think they are probably pretty typical of others with needs like this. We'd like to include images. We'd like to store the communications in a database or something. My perception is that these are easier questions to answer than the "third party" issue.
My site is Microsoft ASP.NET MVC-based (and all involved parties do use it currently). Integration with Android / iOS may become desirable at some point- whether that involves SMS, push notifications, some "widget" we drop in our app, or something else.
The platforms that I've heard tossed around by my engineers include Five Nines and Twilio. I've had a hard time ascertaining whether they meet my needs, unfortunately. There's so much in their marketing materials about the more typical "call center" use case (and other things like designing campaigns and creating / targeting groups with marketing pitches) that the thing I am asking for, if it is possible, gets kind of lost in it all. Frankly I don't even know what it's called in the industry, if it even has a name!
Finally, I do have a budget for this. I don't need it to be free, and at this point I am not ruling out any paid option strictly because of price.