Patagonia explores Internet chat rooms as Marketing Vehicle

An article on Internet Retailer shows how Patagonia is successfully using Internet chat forums to communicate directly with their customers (via Marketing Wonk):
Patagonia`s product experts have been participating in Internet chat rooms frequented by outdoor sports enthusiasts, where Patagonia not only learns directly about consumers` interests but also is able to display its expertise and share information about how Patagonia is developing products.

"It`s pretty powerful, because any dialogue online develops as word-of-mouth marketing," says Wilson, who compares chat room participation to meeting consumers at outdoor-gear shows. "It’s good public relations and marketing, and people seem to enjoy when we enter into a dialogue." (...)
Spamming chat rooms or instant messaging systems with undifferentiated marketing messages is certainly not a very good idea. But if they are used the right way, these channels can be great to communicate with the market - especially to establish a dialogue with customers...

Btw, does anyone know a company which is using instant messaging for their customer hotline ?