Q: Someone suggested that I use Google Voice phone for my business; is this a good idea? — Terrance
A: Google Voice is probably the best kept secret in modern day Internet ‘telephony’ (the convergence of traditional voice and Internet technology) mainly because it can come across as complicated, but it’s well worth exploring.
The best part is that unless you have very complicated needs, test-driving this free service is a no-brainer.
The smaller the business, the more likely that Google Voice can provide value.
If you are like most small businesses with limited resources, you can use Google Voice to never miss a call because it can ring all of your telephones (cell, home, work, etc.) at the same time. It’s sort of like a free digital assistant that can track you down wherever you are.
You can even configure which of your phones ring based on who is calling or the time of day, so it can really come in handy if you have a small group of employees that serve different purposes in your organization.
The number is valid no matter which land line or mobile service providers you use, so it will stay consistent no matter who is providing you telephone services.
The best part is that you aren’t tied to a computer to make use of this Internet-based communication system as virtually every mobile or desk phone can be part of the system.
Remember when we used to use our old voice messaging machines to screen calls? We would let the call go to voice mail and pick it up if the caller was important. Google Voice has a feature called ‘ListenIn’ that lets you eaves drop on those leaving voice messages just like the old days!
The voicemail transcription feature is another very useful (although, far from perfect) option that allows you to read the general sentiment of voice messages that have been left for you.
Instead of having to pick up your phone during a meeting or in a very noisy environment to hear a voice message, you can simply read the attempted transcription on your mobile device, which is so much more efficient.
Another great advantage to having all your voice messages automatically transcribed is that you can actually search your voice messages by any keyword down the road.
If you want to use your Google Voice number for both personal and business contacts, you can record different greetings based on who is calling as well.
If you’re a heavy text messaging user, you will love the ability to integrate SMS with e-mail which creates a record of each text in your inbox and allows you to respond to text messages while in your e-mail screen.
Using the SMS feature in Google Voice also bypasses any texting charges your mobile carrier might assess, so it can become an unlimited text messaging option.
If you hold conference calls on a regular basis, you can easily use your GV number for conference calls by having each participant call your number at a specific time. You simply add them to the call as they call in and you are off and running.
If you are a Sprint mobile customer, you can enable Google Voice feature on your mobile phone without having the get a new number: http://goo.gl/FBmmM
If I’ve made enough of a case for you to give this great free service a shot, you can give it a try here: http://www.google.com/googlevoice/about.html.
• Ken Colburn is president of Data Doctors Computer Services and host of the Data Doctors Radio Program, noon Saturdays on KTAR 92.3 FM or at www.datadoctors.com/radio. Readers may send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.