October 25, 2014

Getting Set Up With Google Voice

If you haven’t yet requested an invitation to use Google Voice, continue reading this post to learn about all the reasons why you absolutely should.

Google Voice isn’t new, but it has received a nice makeover since it’s old days as GrandCentral. Today’s version of Google Voice has been rebranded, retooled and is finally getting proper attention from the folks at Google. Which, in short, means the service absolutely rocks for small businesses.

If you’re not sure what Google Voice is all about, think of it as a central phone system for small businesses. Once in the system, SMB owners can select one number to handle all of their incoming calls, voicemails, call segmenting, etc. Essentially, it’s an entire call center for small businesses right at your very fingertips regardless of how large or small your company is. Kind of cool, especially if you’re a small business working out of your home to save some money. Sometimes you don’t want to give out that home number. Now, you don’t have to. You can just give customers and colleagues your Google Voice number instead.

How does it all work?

First, Google Voice is still invite only. So, in order to participate, you need to request an invitation from Google. Don’t worry, though, I’ve heard from many folks that Google’s been pretty good about issuing invites. Hopefully, you’ll find your wait time isn’t too bad. Once you get your invite, you’ll be asked to identify your zip code and/or area code so that Google can populate a list of available numbers in your area. If possible, try and pick one that will be easy for your customers to remember or that will have some other business significance.

Once you have your Google number, you’ll be asked to select at least one real phone number to connect with it. For example, you may want your Google Voice number to connect to your home phone number, another business line or even to your cell phone. To verify the numbers, Google Voice will send you an SMS text with a code that you’ll need to enter into the Google Voice Web site. If you’ve ever verified your address with Google Local, it’s a very similar process. You’ll repeat the process for each number you want to “connect” to your Google Voice number.

Once you’re verified, you Google Voice number will be synced to whatever other numbers you’ve connected to it. There are a number of reasons why small business owners may find value from a system like Google Voice.

  • Privacy: As I mentioned earlier, if you’re a small business owner working out of your home, you may not want to give out your home phone number. Adopting a Google Voice number and then forwarding it to your home, will give you an added sense of security and credibility. It will also allow you to answer work-related calls while you’re out of the office (and don’t necessarily want people to know you’re out of the office).
  • Call Screening: SMB owners can now easily segment their address book with Google Voice. When a call comes in, the person on the other line will be asked to identify themselves and their voice will be recorded. From there, Google will ring whichever phone line is “connected” to that person and let you hear the party’s recorded name. You’ll then be given the option to answer the call or send it directly to voicemail. Instant call screening. You can set up your filters however you want. For example, it’s possible to set up customized greetings for business colleagues vs friends or to create a list of people (perhaps family) to exclude from the initial blocking.
  • Voicemail Transcripts (!): I haven’t used this feature, but according to Steve at Blogger Lens, once someone leaves a voicemail, the Google Voice user will also be given a transcribed text message of what the voicemail says. You can also receive an email alerting you of the voicemail and the number it came from OR play the voicemail directly from your phone in Google.
  • Convenient Mobile Apps: Last week Google introduced the Google Voice mobile app, which means you can now take advantage of the service directly from your Blackberry, Android or any other mobile phone.

Google Voice is a great application for small business owners to help them more comfortably manage voice communications. Whether you’re adding some credibility to your business with a professional number or just making it so your business line forwards to your cell phone, it’s a great tool to keep SMB owners in touch with customers. If you’re interested, head over to the Web site and request an invite.

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Lisa Barone


Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

20 Reactions

  1. Lisa,

    Is this service in different countries, or only in America at the moment? I like the list of different features. I will keep this in mind when I am returning to America. Please keep me posted on these kind of communication services. It will be good to know about this way of communication due to my involvement in a future business venture.

  2. Martin: Ah, yes, looks likes its only available in the States for the time being. Hopefully they’ll change that soon. :)

  3. Lisa,

    I saw that when I clicked on the link. I sent them my email for future updates. I will tell me business contacts about this service.

    Do you know if Google is having a deal with a phone operator, or is the service through their own data center? Is it based on “voice over internet protocol” technology?

    It would be great to add a Google Voice Widget on your blog as Steve at Blogger Lens is talking about in his post.

  4. Hi. I’m a longtime grand central user, but I have intentionally not converted over because Google voice does _not_ work with Google Apps. To be a true SMB tool, it has to work with my installation. Currently it connects only to the contacts of a regular Gmail account.

  5. It looks like Google voice has a lot of nice features to consider. I’m wondering if there is a charge for this service? I’m drawn to the idea of not having to give out my personal home number. I’m going to consider giving this a try. Thank you for keeping us updated. This site is where I find out about new cool tools and software, so keep up the good work.

  6. Martin: They’re using VOIP technology to run it. Back to the international discussion, too, you just need to set it up in the US. Once you get it activated and going, I’ve heard you can use it outside of the States. So that may be an option for you (and others), as well.

    Rush: That’s been a big complaint from a lot of people I’ve spoken with. I have to imagine it’s not going to be like that forever. Once it gets out of invite mode and is mainstream, I can’t imagine they’re not going to add on App integration.

    Amanda: It’s totally free. :)

  7. Well, I guess I’ll head over and request an invite. I’m one of those people that likes to have the option of using something even if 90% of the time I don’t get around to using it fully.

  8. Lisa,

    Thanks for the information. I will wait for Google’s invitation…

  9. I’m from Canada so it looks like I’ll have to wait for Google Voice to broaden its reach. Hopefully by then they will also have added on the connectivity to Google apps.

  10. Hey Lisa
    Any ideas around how this impacts Skype? Probably not by much, for now. Skype will now have to add similar features, I think, to keep Gvoice from taking users. I’m a big Skype fan and Google, too. There are some great features in here. Thanks for the update.
    TJ

  11. TJ: BusinessWeek actually just wrote an article on this today. I won’t ruin it by trying to paraphrase it.

    http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/jul2009/tc20090717_582966.htm

    :)

  12. I’m so excited about google voice.

  13. James Cookinham

    Anita,

    I have used Google Voice for years since Grand Central days. One of the most useful features for me has been when traveling out of the country you can have your voice mails forwarded to email or text and get it that way. That means you don’t have to call the US to get your messages.

    The Voice to Text works but not great. It does transcribe the Voice Mail to text and will send you a text message if you select that option. I like it.

    Thanks for your great work.

    Jim C.

  14. The problem with the Google voice number, is the initial challenge of getting it out to all your contacts so they start using it… all the acquaintances and business contacts who still have your old business cards… and the all the friends and relatives who insist on still calling you on your mobile number or skype account. Something that helped a lot with that is http://www.avakit.com, highly recommend it.

  15. Great article on how to apply Google Voice in a business. For what it’s worth, Google is getting pretty quick with their invite turnarounds for Voice, so the delay is nowhere close to what it once was. OnState recently announced (http://www.on-state.com/google-voice-call-center.html) that we fully support Google Voice as part of our virtual call center and PBX applications. This also applies Google Voice in a business sense, and lets business people extend their presence to ensure customers can find the right employee, no matter where, when, or how.

  16. I really question the validity of Google Voice. I have heard good reviews and bad reviews and that makes me worried to switch over. For now, I am going to stick with RingCentral.com.

  17. Google voice is a great for solo entrepreneurs who work at home!

    Dr. Letitia Wright
    The Wright Place TV Show
    http://wrightplacetv.com
    http://www.twitter.com/drwright1

  18. Thanks for sharing Lisa. I haven’t heard of Google Voice and found this article very interesting and informative.

  19. I think I have to agree with Kimberly I am not sure about Google Voice just yet. Think I will wait and see for now but was very interesting and insightful to read as was previously quite unaware of the new Google venture. Thanks for sharing.

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