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 .