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A Fountain of WebRTC-based Help

May 29, 2015

It has become commonplace for many websites to have an “Ask the Experts” section. Typically this involves interactions with enterprise customer care people which is done via chat or even the good old fashion way of email.  Of course that is when you are not directed to the self-help section where for some reason your FQAs don’t seem to be on the list. 

It was for this very reason that Fountain, a WebRTC-based start-up, which debuted its help service in March of this year, was created by Founder & CEO, serial entrepreneur Aaron Patzer.  He was like the rest of us frustrated by not having real-time access to true experts and decided to do something about it and started by offering advice from experts in the fields of home improvement and beauty through text, voice, and video handled in iOS.  In just a short period of time the company now offers expert advice in the aforementioned areas and that home improvement one now covers a growing list of specialized areas such appliances, electrical & security, flooring, etc.

Expansion is not just on subjects covered but also on capabilities offered as witnessed by the fact that Fountain now through the wonders of WebRTC is offering video chat through supported browsers.  Uusers will also begin to have access to a whole new range of help topics through the introduction of personalized expert pages in which experts -- vetted by Fountain -- can set their own rates and offer advice for any topic.

A review of the new features at FastCompany.com shows that, in the past, Fountain worked entirely by using a search engine to match clients with their own experts. A user could use the iOS app to ask a question about home improvement or beauty and expect to reach someone who could help them with their specific issues. Those experts get a 70 percent cut of the normal rate of $7 per 15 minutes.

The experts who host their own pages are at somewhat of a disadvantage because that matching service does not connect users to those help pages. However, when users search for their own experts, they can accept the rates the experts set and then allow those individuals to make a 90 percent cut of their rate.

Aside from the rates themselves, Fountain appears to have a jump on other competitive services because of its matching algorithm and manner in which users are charged. The rate of $7 per 15 minutes is unique because it takes the pressure away from clients who may otherwise feel the need to ask questions quickly or provide a mountain of details in one go. It allows conversations between customers and experts to form naturally because there is no pressure to get everything done in just a couple of minutes. Furthermore, the base time span allows for questions to flow as customers explain their issues with their own voices and show their problems through advanced features of the app and Web chat.

Users can turn around their phones to show, for instance, the exact issue they are have with their deck's railing or interview outfit. The app also has a feature that provides a drawing board for photos so users can show problems rather than have to verbally describe them.

The Fountain vetting process takes about half an hour. After that, experts can set up their pages in about three minutes with a listing of their services, available hours, rates, and links to social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Fountain handles all the tracking of time spent during calls so experts are paid correctly and customers can get everything they hope.

The ingenuity at work here thanks to WebRTC makes sense.  Experts have a new channel for the monetization of their wisdom while we get the benefit of having literally and figuratively a fountain of knowledge about what is challenging us now at our fingertips.  Plus, now we will be able to put a face to that expert and let the expert see what we are dealing with. 

If have an area of expertise you might wish to give Fountain a ping.  It may not be currently on their list of knowledge areas, but as noted at the top the list is expanding and like the lottery you have to be in it to win it. 

Edited by Peter Bernstein

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