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As might be expected from the service's name, Helpouts relies on Hangouts, Google's streaming video chat and conferencing service. Using a Hangout, a participating Helpout provider can connect with customers to present guidance on just about any permissible topic.
If the advice is not free, both the Helpout provider and the customer must have a Google Wallet account for payment, and Google will collect a 20% platform fee. Google's fee includes any applicable credit card transaction and Wallet charges.
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Google says that the Helpouts platform differs from Hangouts by handling business management details — payments, scheduling, reputation management and customer acquisition.
A company spokeswoman said in an email that Google isn't ready to provide specifics about the capabilities of the Helpouts platform beyond characterizing it as a "one-stop shop in terms of scheduling and payment."
However, the fact that Google is working with Infinity Contact, Capita Customer Management and VXI suggests that it intends to assist Helpouts providers with tools for customer service, customer retention, analytics and other relevant business processes.
Opening up an assistance-oriented business is simply a matter of creating a Helpouts listing, choosing a listing category, writing a listing description, specifying any relevant qualifications, and selecting whether the Helpout is free or paid. If it is paid, it can be paid by the minute or by the session.
Possible categories include: Home & Garden, Computers & Electronics, Health & Counseling, Nutrition & Fitness, Fashion & Beauty, Art & Music, Cooking, and Education.
Helpouts providers must submit a photo and propose a listing for approval. During this test phase, at least, Google says it will review the listing, contact the provider via video, and then issue either an approval or a rejection. Listings may be rejected for lack of qualifications or for policy violations.
Those wishing to offer medical advice will be contacted by a HireRight, a background screening service, for a credential check.
Google has reason to be careful about whom it accepts as a Helpout provider: It is offering Helpout customers a 100% money-back guarantee.
Google says Helpouts will be recorded, exclusively for quality assurance, except if the Helpout falls into the Health & Counseling category or if the customer opts out. Privacy, however, comes with a price: Those who opt out are not eligible for the money-back guarantee.
Google hasn't said when Helpouts will be publicly available. The company says that those who wish to receive further information about the service may sign up to be notified on the Helpouts website.