Daily Dose of iQ: Google's 'Helpouts' a New Way for Companies to Connect with (and Help) Customers?

Jul 26, 2013 — Joan Gurney

Imagine you're a chef that wants to host a live, online cooking class in streaming video. How do you go about organizing such a class, attracting an audience and most importantly: accepting payment from attendees? Enter Google "Helpouts," a new extension of Hangouts that, as TechCrunch reported on Wednesday (July 24),  could "turn Hangouts into a commerce platform."

TechCrunch's screenshot (above) shows the different Helpouts categories Google has in mind. They might be onto something here.

Helpouts appears to be a great way to connect company/product experts with a wide consumer audience.

This new platform would offer a great way for consumers to connect with a variety of service providers while providing one-on-one personalized support. It also provides a convenience factor, as consumers can receive technical support or instruction in the comfort of their own homes at a scheduled time.

  • One of the images in the TechCrunch article shows a list of appliance assistance options from Sears Experts. It would be great to speak with an expert to solve a small problem rather than fork out a hefty fee for a repairman.
  • A downside could be time restraints. If you walked into a store, you could speak with a salesperson until the cows come home (or the store closes), but again, based on the images in the article, it appears as though certain services may require purchasing time blocks.
  • It would be interesting to see how this is handled (i.e. whether the video cuts off after exactly 30 minutes or if it is still up to the host to end the call). From a service stand point, it also means the host is unable to control the entire customer experience from walking into a store to perhaps doing a demo.

There is of course a monetization opportunity for both Google and Helpout hosts here. Hosts would presumably be able to offer services either for free or for a fee. There are a number of ways Google could generate revenue here.

Ad revenue seems like a fairly standard starting point. Google could also take a percentage cut of the services being offered by businesses. Offering a model where businesses are allowed to offer Helpouts for free but take a cut when they charge for the services could be quite lucrative.

No matter Google's business model for Helpouts, it needs to be easy to use.

Either way, if consumers are going to pay for these digital services it needs to be really simple and easy to use. Customers should be able to make payments easily and hosts should be able to receive them just as easily. If the process is seamless and Google can handle all of the transactions it would certainly be appealing to businesses and customers alike.

For wireless retail: This really could be a great opportunity to provide custom support for products like smartphones, for example. Companies could gain reach directly into people’s homes to help educate customers about the products they already own or begin working on an upsell to showcase why a product is worth purchasing.

Just think of all those customers browsing online with unanswered questions. Give them the opportunity to speak with someone one-on-one with the convenient click of a button and you could really expand your audience.

Topics: Retail Operations, Wireless Trends, Mobile Industry, Customer Experience, e-Commerce

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