What I Like About Google Voice

When I started my practice, I had a business landline installed in my house.  (If you’re reading these out of order, I started my practice working from home.)  I was astonished when the tech handed me the order form and I saw the phone number they’d given me. (702) 485-1200.  Knowing it’s incredibly difficult to get a number that ends in 00 these days, I said “do I have to pay extra for this?”  “Nope.”  I danced a little jig.

Well, if I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t even bother with the landline.  Why?  Because my landline calls are constantly forwarded to my cell phone.  Technically, my calls are forwarded to my Google Voice number because I like giving out that number instead of my personal cell number I’ve had since I was 15.  Not sure why I’m so connected with that number, but there it is.

So what’s so great about Google Voice?

1.  It’s FREE.  You can enter your desired area code and choose from a list of available numbers.  Then, download the Google Voice app onto your phone.  It’s all free.  Google is taking over the world.  May as well get on board.

2. Caller Announce. Two sets of calls are coming through my cell – my personal calls to my personal cell number and my office landline calls forwarded to my Google Voice number.  How do I distinguish between the two so I don’t answer client calls with, “Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color?”  (I only do that during Christmas.)  The Google Voice app announces the caller.  So, when I swipe to answer a call coming through Google Voice, and say “hello?” I will be interrupted by the Google Voice voice that says “Call from [pause to let caller announce his/her name]. To accept, press 1.  To send to voice mail, press 2.”  If I press 2, I have the option of rejoining the call in progress at any time.  So, I can screen the call, listen to the person’s message as they’re leaving it and if it’s an emergency I can answer.

3.  Display Your GV Number on Caller ID.  Another way to distinguish your Google Voice calls from personal cell calls is to set your Google Voice number to appear as the Caller ID when someone calls through Google Voice.  That way, you know how to answer the phone.

4.  Voice Mail to E-mail.  When someone calling through my Google Voice leaves a voice mail message, I get an e-mail notification with a link to the audio file of the message and a transcription of the message.  In the Google Voice settings, I can choose to get a text alert too.  This came in particularly handy the other day when a woman called after hours and left me a detailed message saying she was being abused by her daughter.  I called back the next morning and the man who answered was highly suspicious of who I was and refused to let me speak to the woman who had called. I called the Youth and Family Services section of the police department who was very grateful to get an e-mail from me with the audio file and the transcription.  This also is a great way to keep track of your billable time, what calls you have to return, and what your clients did and did not say.

5.  Message Transcription.  As I mentioned, the e-mail notification you receive with the audio file comes with a transcription of the voice mail message.  The transcription is not very accurate and can lead to some pretty funny results, but you can get the gist of the message.

6.  Use Multiple Devices. I went to a conference and needed someone to field my calls while I was in the seminars.  In the Google Voice settings, I simply added a friend’s phone to the list of devices.  That way, when a call came in, it would ring my cell and hers and whoever got to the call first could answer.  That way I’m not forwarding ALL calls to someone else and then having to worry about un-forwarding them when I become available again.  You can also opt to have your text messages show up on each of those devices.

7.  Call from Computer.  I use Gmail to manage all six of my e-mail accounts.  In Gmail, under the Chat feature, I can choose to call a phone which uses my Google Voice number as the outgoing number.  That way I can stay off my cell and return calls as I sit at my computer.  I’m still in the market for a headset, but using the built-in mic on my Mac works just fine for now.

8.  Android App.  I have a Mac desktop, a MacBook, an iPad, and an Android phone.  Don’t judge me.  The combo works just fine.  I’m not sure how the Google Voice app works on the iPhone, but on the Android, you can place a widget on your home screen which shows the caller and the message transcription right there.  You can also call from those transcriptions or you can call using Google Voice right from the call log.  You can also use Google Voice to make all outgoing calls if you want.

9.  Use Google Voice for your Voicemail.  Instead of using your carrier’s voicemail function, you can choose to have Google Voice do that.  That’s handy because if you are calling into your voicemail through traditional methods, you don’t have a record of the call and I know Verizon insists on deleting messages after 28 days.  Even sweet renditions of “You Are My Sunshine” that I want to keep forever. I know, what a bunch of crap.

10.  Call Widget.  You can easily place a call widget on your firm’s website so that people can click and immediately be connected with your Google Voice number.  I have this on bongiovilaw.com. Works really well.

11. Do Not Disturb. With this feature you can have all the calls coming through Google Voice go directly to voicemail.

12.  Caller Categories.  Google Voice pulls in your Google Contact groups and your Google+ circles and allows you to customize by group which devices to ring, what greetings each group hears, and whether or not you want to screen them.

13.  Cheap International Calling.  The ease with which you can load up your account and make cheap international calls is pretty cool.  You can even check to see how much it will cost to call a certain number.

14. Enable Recording, Switch, Conference Calls.  These are features I haven’t even tried, but will now!

I’m discovering all sorts of new stuff I didn’t even know Google Voice did as I write this.  I will update as I test new features.