Google announced their latest new tool this past Tuesday, October 5th: a tool that intends to give customers instant gratification for any question or issue they may have. This seemingly too-good-to-be-true tool is called Helpouts. A recent blog on Mashable says that Google is expanding its empire from online help to personal help. Instead of seeking answers via a search engine, customers can now talk to an actual person online and over a web camera. But is this anything new?
What is Google Helpouts?
Google Helpouts is a new tool developed to provide on-call experts for almost any question users may have. These users pay for these services as well. The service can be anything from video-chatting with a makeup artist for smoky-eye assistance to asking a doctor what that weird rash on your neck is. The professionals offer their services and time at varying prices.
How does Google gain access to an endless market of professionals?
Technically, they don’t. Professionals can’t be on call at all times. The idea is that the experts will leave their computers up and answer notifications if they have time. This isn’t exactly the “right at your fingertips” service many people imagine. But it would be irrational to assume that experts or professionals in a certain field would sit around waiting all day for the chance of a paid Skype call. Google Helpouts hopes that one day, select professionals will work entirely online. So far only 1,000 companies have been invited to participate in what Mashable refers to as an “invitation-only” marketplace.
The first of its kind?
Not exactly. This is essentially a freelance style information source – video help chats have been around almost as long as Skype or even webcams have been around. Odesk, Elance and similar freelancer marketplaces have been offering similar services for a while now. However, they are more geared for professional customers. This is typically software developers or consulting companies, as opposed to fitting any sort of need a customer might come across.
How does Google Helpouts affect the market?
While an International Business Times article refers to Google as trying to “help people help people,” the company will be rolling in the cash if this endeavor is successful. Many experts on Helpouts are able to set their own price – with Google taking 20 percent of the profit. Helpouts doesn’t, however, take any piece of the profit in the medical advice field. Some Helpouts are also offered for free.
Brands are also part of Google Helpouts for those who prefer to use companies they already know. Helpouts can help small businesses extend their area of knowledge, causing more small businesses to sign up for general Google services. Users must develop a Google+ Account to use Helpouts. Overall, this was a rather savvy marketing move on Google’s part. It’s likely that websites such as WikiHow and About.com will be losing major traffic and advertising reach. In addition to all this, the rating system (also offered by other similar platforms, like Odesk), creates a rather democratic global marketplace. Businesses or individuals who provide excellent service will be graced with a high rating (four or five stars), while those who do not will receive a low score. This helps weed out the poor offerings and encourages high standards of service: something we can all benefit from.
Is Helpouts any different from the other customer services available on the web?
Video chat help is usually a service offered by individual companies. Google Helpouts concentrates a high level of expertise. It’s a one-stop shop for those with several questions requiring several expert opinions. However, these services usually hit customers where it hurts – in the wallet (Google Wallet, of course)
A recent blog on TechCrunch lists Youtube How-Tos, Yahoo Answers, Facebook Friends, and real friends in-person and over the phone as Helpout’s competition. Their advantage is their price: free.
So, what’s our verdict? Google’s become very good at reinventing the wheel, and we expect that despite the fact that the online giant wasn’t first-to-market with this tool, its sleek design and easy-to-use interface will garner the service a popular following. Who knows, maybe you’ll see us on there soon. Until then, you know where to find us.
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