Even though Helpouts didn't last, Google is apparently committed to exploring new uses for its Hangouts chat infrastructure. For example, go search for a restaurant. You might see a new item in the info box alongside review snippets and the location. Google is testing live chat with businesses from search results. If you launch this feature, you'll be taken to a new Hangouts conversation on the web or mobile so you can ask questions or get clarification.

google-places-chat

The feature is still in the early testing phase, so only a few businesses list this option. The chat will include a note at the top that tells you how long it usually takes to get a reply. For example, one business might get back to you in an hour on average, while others will do so within a day. When your query is answered, the chat takes place in real time. It doesn't have to be a restaurant, though. Any business that deals with the public could benefit.

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This could be quite useful for asking about parking in a busy area, menu options at a restaurant, or holiday hours. The fact that Google has integrated this in search and not in Maps probably illustrates how early in the process we are. I have to assume that will be the next step, but there's no guarantee Google will move forward.