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ChaCha Ditches Guided Search Model. I Love To Hate This Startup

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Well it only took ChaCha fourteen months to figure out what everyone except ChaCha (and these guys) knew when it launched – search with a human guide as a business idea is ridiculously stupid.

The idea is that you do a search on ChaCha and a real person works with you via a chat interface to give you results. In theory those results would be better than Google. In reality, they weren’t (see image to right), and ChaCha still had to pay all those guides.

Today, according to an email sent to ChaCha’s guides titled “The Future Is Here,” they announced that guided search will be discontinued in favor of the one product they offer that isn’t monumentally dumb – mobile search. They claim that “new users are growing at a staggering rate every day” (most likely due to cell phone spamming).

So what happens to all the guides who worked on desktop search? Some of them, at least, can now apply for new positions on the mobile product.

The full email is below, and details of the company and their funding are here. Thanks Luke Kling for the tip.

Check out ChaCha’s Extreme Makeover! Click Here!

What you need to know:

  • Thanks to the success of our Mobile (SMS) Answers, our new users are growing at a staggering rate every day as our loyal customers spread the word about ChaCha. Repeat users are addicted to texting ChaCha, and we want to duplicate that magic on the Desktop.
  • The chat sessions of “Search with a Guide” will no longer be offered.
  • Customers on the Desktop can type their query, and as with a Mobile question, Guides will provide a concise answer with a supporting link.
  • With all our services aligned in a consistent customer experience, we can provide better training and tools. New users will know what to expect. And it will be easier to provide excellent answers!


Current Desktop Guides – join us in building the future of search!

If you haven’t had a chance to read the full communication regarding the change (sent last week), which includes next steps for becoming a Text Guide or Voice Transcriber, please read on!

ChaCha Desktop search is getting an extreme makeover!

Thanks to the success of our Mobile (SMS) Answers, our new users are growing at a staggering rate every day as our loyal customers spread the word about ChaCha. Repeat users are addicted to texting ChaCha, and we want to duplicate that magic on the Desktop.

Based on extensive customer feedback, we’ve learned that ChaCha users want fast answers they can trust. What this means is succinct answers to queries, backed up by high-quality source citations. This model has proven a big hit with our Mobile users, and the natural next step in our transformation is bringing the Answers model to Desktop search.

Our Guides, of course, continue to be the key differentiator for ChaCha, inserting a human element in every question and answer. Your search skills and dependability as Guides will, I’m sure, turn the new Desktop Answers into a popular feature that generates far more traffic than the current Search with a Guide.

Why the makeover?

While “Search with a Guide” was a key part of ChaCha’s initial growth, the time has come for a change in direction. As I mentioned, our customers have told us they want answers they can trust. The current model of guided search only gets us so far to that goal.

With the coming national launch on April 1, 2008 of our experimental Voice service, we will be able to deliver the same Answers experience by text, voice, and desktop search. Now that’s powerful! No other company delivers this killer combination – not Google, not Yahoo, not Microsoft.

Given that “Search with a Guide” represents less than 10% of our daily query volume, we want to let our loyal Desktop Guides expand their portfolio of roles. With all our services aligned in a consistent customer experience, we can provide better training and tools. New users will know what to expect. And it will be easier to provide excellent answers!

So here’s what is changing:

* The chat sessions of “Search with a Guide” will no longer be offered. Instead, customers on the Desktop can type their query, and as with a Mobile question, Guides will provide a concise answer with a supporting link. Once registered, customers will have their own personal account page where all of their questions and answers may be viewed.

* The role of Desktop Guide will be merged into the Text (SMS) Guide role. All current Desktop Guides will have the opportunity to train for the Text (SMS) role, and on successful completion of a brief test, will be able to answer all queries — text, desktop, and voice.

* Current Desktop Guides will also have the opportunity to become a Voice Transcriber by testing for the Transcriber role. This is different from the Text (SMS) role. Desktop Guides may apply for both roles.

If neither role is a good match, Desktop Guides will continue to have access to training and materials in Forum and will have opportunity to train and test for new roles (coming soon!)

Note that traditional (non-guided) web search, which we’re calling “ChaCha Classic” will still be available at ChaCha.com.

Desktop Guides have been notified via e-mail regarding the Search University resources to prepare them for the test and next steps to participate in the testing for new roles.

Thank you for your ongoing commitment to providing magical experiences for our customers. With your help, the new Desktop Answers will join our Mobile Answers as a buzzworthy service that keeps customers coming back to ChaCha every day.

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