Google recently announced a new service called Helpouts, a real-time, live, electronic communication that will connect people who need help with professionals that can provide solutions 24 hours a day.
Will it take away business for those in the remodeling or handyman industry? “For remodelers, this should be an opportunity to make more money,” says Google spokesperson Iska Hain. “This can enhance your offerings.”
Josh Shonkwiler, owner of Platinum Remodeling and Handyman Services in Minneapolis, says it’s a “pretty interesting concept” and that “there will be a few companies that will pop up to take advantage of the opportunity." He sees it as a "great way for a retired or maybe even a disabled tradesman to supplement their retirement or disability income,” but he doesn’t think it will either “harm or revolutionize” the industry. DiYers are not his customers anyway.
Launching to the public at the end of October, the service is in the process of finding professionals interested in becoming “providers.” (In the U.S., Canada, U.K., Ireland, Australia, New Zealand for now but Google plans future expansion into other countries.) Professionals will be able to set their own rates—charging by the minute, by the hour—with Google taking a 20% transaction fee through its Google Wallet e-commerce platform. Credit cards may charge separate usage fees.
Say you’re a consumer and it’s the middle of the night and you’ve got an overflowing toilet. You would go on Helpouts (provided you've signed up for a Google+ account) to find an available plumber who can answer your question. Assuming you can move your computer around or if you’re using your phone, you could show the plumber your problem and have him or her walk you through the process. Consumers will know upfront how much it will cost to get help and they can schedule appointments with providers. Google also will offer a 100% money back guarantee if a customer is unhappy with the service he/she is provided.
In this initial phase, Google is looking for high-quality professionals to become providers. The company is in the process of vetting those professionals in face-to-face interviews on Google Hangouts, its video platform and has partnered with HireRight to do do background verification. As the service expands, however, Hain says Google is “working toward a model in which the community will self-regulate with feedback, reviews, and ratings.” –Stacey Freed is a senior editor of Remodeling.