Just can’t figure out how to cook a turkey? How about getting some live help on starting a diet? To answer these questions and many more, Google, Inc. (GOOG) has introduced “Helpouts,” a new service designed to connect people with purported experts via live interactive video chat. Google is branding the service as “real help from real people in real time.” A look at the new website shows that the advice can be either free or come at a cost. Google will add cash to its coffers by charging providers a fee of 20 percent of each session. For now, this is reported to exclude Helpouts for healthcare advice as it works to delineate that pricing model.
This appears to be the next progression in a constantly connect world that wants more than the millions of recorded video tutorials available on YouTube, a website owned by Google.
For now providers are reported to be by invitation only. To kick-start the program, Google has assembled more than 1,000 brands, such as make-up expert Sephora and language teacher Rosetta Stone, to give consumers something to immediately use. Other Helpout providers apparently are well-versed in several areas; for example Tony Gebely is there to provide advice on tea basics as well as show you how to run a Wordpress website in two hours.
Providers, who must be at least 18 years old and are vetted by Google before being approved, set their own prices for consults, which vary from by the minute, hour or session. It’s notable that a session is free if an expert is five minutes late for a scheduled meeting and that Google is offering a money-back guarantee that the user will be satisfied with the sessions.
Users, who sign-in through their Google+ account, can share their screen with experts for help and the program is initially compatible with Android smartphones. Google is the maker of the Android operating system, which is the most widely used operating system in mobile devices globally. This sharing option overcomes often generic video tutorials on websites such as YouTube, giving the user personalized advice and instructions. YouTube videos also lack substance when it comes to individualized situations, such as career counseling, that are available on Helpouts.
This is certainly an interesting proposition that is still in its infancy, but has vast possibilities for vertical and horizontal expansion, diversification that is going to be integral as a key to success. 1,000 providers certainly will not suffice in the future, so the search engine giant has its work cut out for it to maintain the integrity of the program, meaning that more experts doesn’t necessarily equate to a better service. It actually could be damaging, as a bad service could keep a user from ever returning. There are also technological challenges that Google has to overcome as, let’s face it, video chat can often be very quirky, especially depending on connectivity.
It’s not a brand new concept, with sites like PopExpert already online and Amazon.com’s (AMZN) launch of a live tech support service called “Mayday” two months ago. Whatever Google touches, though, reaches the masses in an unparalleled fashion, which improves the chance of success for the service. If nothing else, Helpouts validates Google’s initiatives to constantly change the digital world and the way that we use it to solve problems.
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