By Rebecca Heilweil
Online dating can be anxiety-inducing. So Match, which operates Match.com, created a new version of an old tool to help. On Tuesday, the company debuted AskMatch, a feature that connects users with human dating coaches and matchmakers.
“The real ups-and-downs of dating start once you’re off the app, once you’re on your first date or the fifth date,” Match CEO Hesam Hosseini told Cheddar. “It’s the first time that a dating app is actually helping you along the way.”
The free feature is currently available to users in New York City, and should be available nationwide by 2020.
Dating apps continue to experiment with features and products that might lure more users onto their platforms. In 2017, dating app Bumble announced it had incorporated a professional networking component into its service, and earlier this year, the company launched its own lifestyle magazine.
Two years ago, Hinge experimented with a personal assistant service. Facebook, meanwhile, began public testing of its dating app in Colombia last fall.
In January, Grindr shut down its digital publication, into which the company hoped would help bring advertisers to its millennial user base. Now, the company hopes video content might do the trick.
In this feature-rich environment where companies are looking to replace or supplement human assistants and voices with AI-powered chatbots, it’s notable that the Match.com service relies on live, human advisers.
“Automation is great at a lot of things. When it comes to love and relationships, I don’t think it’s right,” said Hosseini. “We’ve seen a trend in the last few years, in areas of our lives that really matter ー especially for millennials ー we are seeking more and more one-on-one advice. So at the same time, where automation has automated our grocery delivery or getting from point A to point B, we’re actually seeking more one-on-one experts in other areas, like health and life relationships.”
In that vein, Hosseini said that beta testing revealed that users favored an initial short phone call, followed by text messages, as the primary way to communicate with coaches.
For now, the company is currently focused on scaling the feature up, but hopes that it can soon allow users to work with the same coach repeatedly.
If the feature proves successful, it’s also possible the Match Group, now coming off of a successful quarter could roll out similar services to the rest of its dating app empire, which boasts Tinder, Hinge, Plenty of Fish, and OkCupid.