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Google Voice #1: Voicemail Management

Three Things Small Businesses
Should Know About Google Voice

1. Voicemail Management

2. Call Routing

3. Smartphone-Computer Integration

Google Voice is a unique service that allows you to manage your multiple phone lines and voicemail with the sort of precision and customizability normally reserved for expensive, cumbersome corporate solutions. Google Voice is 100% free, but that isn’t to say there’s no sacrifice involved. There is. In the form of one significant limitation:

When you sign up for Google Voice, you get a Google Voice phone number. Just a regular phone number with the area code of your choosing. To utilize most of Google Voice’s features, you need to use your Google Voice phone number. This means businesses with established phone numbers would have to switch, or start slowly transitioning the new number in. Or use both.

That said, there is one big feature you can use with your pre-existing numbers, and it’s today’s “Thing You Should Know” about Google Voice.

#1 Voicemail Management

Even if you’re willing to pay a premium for services like “Visual Voicemail,” offered by your cellular provider, you simply don’t have to. Not with Google Voice offering you the same features, and more, without the pricetag.

Connect any and all of your phone numbers–cell phones or landlines–to Google Voice, and you’ll have all your Voicemail consolidated and instantly accessible to you anywhere in the world. Missed or ignored to any of your phones will now go to your Google Voicemail account. The caller won’t be able to tell the difference, but you will. That’s because Google automatically transcribes your voicemails and will email you, text you, or alert you right in your browser or smartphone that you have a new voicemail. You can then play the voicemail or just skim over the transcript, which is particularly useful when you’re in a hurry. Don’t have time to listen to that 3-minute message from your boss or coworker? Read the transcription and get the gist. At the very least, you’ll be able to tell if it’s a call you need to return immediately. It could be the difference between, “Grandma died,” and, “Just checking if you got my email.”

Furthermore, you have the ability to manage your voicemail from any computer with internet access. Just log onto Google Voice, and all of your voicemails (and text messages to your Google Voice number) are in one place. From there you can forward the voicemail, send someone a link to it, shoot the caller a text message, archive it, or just mark it as a priority.

There’s been a lot of flack given for the quality of voicemail transcripts. Personally, I’ve found it to be very hit or miss, depending on background noise as well as the caller’s enunciation and/or level of intoxication. But rarely is the transcription so garbled as to be completely useless to me.

When you log into Google Voice, the voicemail transcripts appear in varying shades of gray. The lighter the words, the “less sure” Google Voice is that they’ve correctly transcribed it. And, when you hit PLAY, the message will play, with the transcript lighting up, word by word, like a children’s sing-along.

And since your voicemails are being transcribed, they’re also searchable. And while the search is only as good as the transcriptions, being able to do a simple keyword search of all your voicemails and texts is priceless.

Like the voicemail you probably have now, Google Voice can be checked by calling a number and entering your pin number. If you have a smartphone, downloading the free Google Voice app will give you instant access to your “visual voicemail” from anywhere. You can also download a Google Voice plug-in for your browser, so even if you’re browsing the internet, but are away from your phone, you’ll be notified when you hear a new voicemail. You can look at it, forward it, share it, respond by text, or even call the person back straight from Google Talk.

Google Voice also allows you to assign custom voicemail greetings to different callers. This has an immediate array of benefits. Say you’re expecting a call from a client, but you’re going into a meeting. Record a temporary message that only they will hear when they call. “Hey Julie. I’m in a staff meeting right now, but the ABC reports are almost done. Leave a message!”

Of course, when I first discovered this feature, I was less concerned with practical applications of it, and more concerned with practical joking. “Hey Travis. What’s up? (Long, long pause) Oh! I have to tell you something- I’m not here. So leave a message.”

But you don’t need to be a comedian or have a Business MBA to see how Google’s free voicemail management tools could benefit your organization or small business. Thankfully, Google Voice doesn’t stop there. Depending on how deep down the rabbit hole you’re willing to go, there are a plethora of tools and features that can make your life and work easier.

Continue on to the #2 Thing You Should Know About Google Voice.

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