Google is testing a new feature for businesses, which would enable them to live chat with prospective customers when the user finds them in search results.
The feature appears to have been first spotted by Matt Gibstein, who pointed it out on Twitter. He shows a screenshot of it showing for Dizengoff:
— Matt Gibstein (@MattGibstein) February 24, 2015
This appears for me as well if I search specifically for “Dizengoff”.
Unlike Gibstein’s screenshot, I’m actually getting an error message from Google when I click the chat link:
The feature is supposed to launch a chat window using Google Hangouts when the business is available. TechCrunch says it confirmed with Google that business chat is an experimental feature that it’s testing. Darrell Etherington reports:
The new experimental chat feature offers a direct text-based line of communication, in this case with a restaurant, so that you could theoretically ask if it’s currently busy, if there’s a reservation available, or menu-specific queries, for example, and receive an answer in real-time.
Etherington adds that the feature includes an estimated time for response.
This could be a major feature for businesses, and could hurt other services (like Path or even Yelp) with similar offerings.
Businesses would no doubt be happy for the chance to interact with people who are actively searching for them. It’s unclear whether or not the feature would be free to businesses or only available for a fee. In response to Gibstein’s tweet, one person suggested that it could be “free until your business relies on it”.
At this point in time, it’s just a test, and it may never see the light of day as a real feature. If it does, it could go a long way in adding value to Google searches both for businesses and for consumers.
Images via Google