Online dating site eHarmony.com announced a new service that might seem counterintuitive for an online dating site: human matchmaking. It’s called eH+, and offers a one-year contract with a “personal counselor” for $5,000.
Among online dating sites, this move seems unexpected from eHarmony, best known for its elaborate computerized enrollment process. The site evaluates singles along 29 “dimensions” of compatibility using a 400 question evaluation and a secret—if not scientific—algorithm.
“It’s too hard for a computer to take two people and understand what they want from a physical standpoint in a way that really elicits chemistry between them. We think it’s much more likely that a human being can do that sort of thing, and of course, that’s what the counselor’s going to be asking,” Grant Langston, eHarmony’s vice president for customer experience told Quartz.
Slated to launch Dec. 1, the eH+ service was developed for clients making over $250,000 per year, and the site reportedly consulted with 15,000 such customers in designing the service, hoping to sign up 1,000 eH+ customers by the end of 2014.
The counselors will be psychologists or certified marriage counselors and will interview eH+ clients over Skype, or via phone. They’ll then search the site on behalf of the customer. The client must complete a questionnaire, but doesn’t have to bother with filling out or maintaining a profile, making the initial contact with a potential date, or suffering the embarrassment of managing rejections or unanswered queries.
eHarmony already controls nearly 14% of the market for US dating sites and claims responsibility for 4.7% of new marriages in the US. A recent study found that a total of one-third of US marriages between 2005 and 2012 began online, and 45% of those marriages began on an online dating site.
Dating sites like eHarmony (which derives 10% of its business from English-speakers abroad), Shaadi in South Asia and ElitePartner.de in Germany have faced increasing pressure from critics who claim their services are superficial. Users complain about dead accounts, misleading profiles, low response rates and misleading advertising.
The eH+ launch is part of a raft of changes founder Neil Clark Warren has announced since he returned to the company as CEO last year. Warren plans to expand the site, which initially catered to straight, Christian singles and moved on to target a general audience. The goal is to become a new kind of “relationship site” with features to help customers finds jobs, cope with aging and make friends. Langston said he was “cautiously optimistic” that by next summer eHarmony will launch a job “compatibility matching” site for employers and job seekers.