Google is now testing a messaging feature that allows you to chat with businesses in real time through Hangouts. When searching for a business in Search, whether it be a restaurant or a bookstore, a new link under the information section will tell you whether or not a business is currently available for a quick chat. Clicking the link opens up a Hangouts chat (on the desktop or mobile), allowing you to message the business questions about store hours, menu options, or anything else you can think of.
Chat availability will show on the same information card where you can find the company’s address, hours and contact information. If the company has an available status, the Hangouts message thread will tell you the average amount of time it takes the business to usually reply to a query. This feature could be particularly helpful if you’re wondering about a certain ingredient in a restaurant’s menu item or parking information in a crowded part of town.
TechCrunch has confirmed from Google that they are in fact testing this feature, but there’s no telling whether or not it will become mainstream. Just like we saw with Google Helpouts, no service is guaranteed to stick around.
This feature only works in Google Search results for now, but it will probably come to Google Maps in the future. While this live chat feature is still in the very early testing stages, this is a smart way to bring functionality to Search while also getting more users on the Hangouts platform.