We’re in the middle of a big transition here at Virtual. This past weekend we moved from a very large home, into a smaller condo one third of the size. Downsizing is our new “buzzword” and we’re doing everything we can to simplify our lives.
Part of it is a new direction we are heading – we want to take our “virtual” business even more “virtual”, allowing us to travel anywhere in the world at any time – and still be in the office.
Up until Friday, we still had a landline phone for our business. But that’s all changed. Now we rely on VoIP and mobile, and on Google Voice.
Google Voice was introduced in 2009, and we signed up for our first account as soon as it was available. We played with it, but for the most part ignored it. A few weeks ago, we took another look at as a solution to our new needs, and what we found can be of benefit to any small business, no matter where you are in the world. So here are a few things you can do with Google Voice.
When you first sign up for Google Voice, you can choose a virtual phone number in any area code. You can use that number to make calls over the Internet, send and receive text messages, and record voicemails. And because you are using a phone number in your area code, your prospects and clients will call a local phone number to reach you – yet you can be anywhere in the world. You can even transfer to a mobile or to a landline phone, making it easy on you, and “masking” where you really are to those calling in.
In addition to the normal features of any voice system, Google Voice offers a variety of other services perfect for the small business owner. It can
- Forward your calls to any physical line,
- Transcribe voicemails
- Share voicemails with other contacts
- Block callers
- Apply special rules for individual or group callers
- Receive email notifications of calls and text messages
- Make free domestic calls
- Very cheap international calls
- Listen in on voicemails as they are being recorded, giving you the option of picking up the phone mid-call
Here are the 5 features I love the most:
I talk a lot on this blog on life balance and prioritization. Google Voice can take the guesswork out of when you receive business calls. You can tell Google Voice the times of the day you will accept phone calls, and direct calls to automatic voicemail when you determine business hours to be over. You can also change the rules for specific contact or groups – which helps if you are dealing with an immediate client issue that you want to handle no matter what time of the day, while putting everyone else into business cue.
Set Up Shop Anywhere
The great thing about Google Voice is you can let your customers know you have a presence in their area by selecting a US area code in that area – yet reside anywhere you choose. If your goal is to be available in multiple cities – maybe shoot weddings in Denver and Phoenix like we’ve done – have a phone number with 303 for Denver, and 602 for Phoenix – and of course have the phone transferred to whatever place you are calling home for the day.
Track and Share
All calls you receive are sent to you via email, so you will always have record of what conversations you’ve had over time. You can also embed audio voicemails and share them vial email or other communication media with partners, assistants, or simply store them in a place you choose. This is great when someone leaves a message for you, yet your assistant is the one handling the case. No more relaying the message – just forward it and let them handle it.
Different Rules and Greetings For Different Contacts
Don’t you wish you could leave different voice messages for different people? Now you can. In Google’s Voice settings menu, you can assign contacts to different groups, and record messages unique to an individual group. That way you can say one thing to a new person calling in, and something completely different to an existing client that has used you for years.
Prioritize and Search Your Calls
Google will record all of your voicemails, and make transcripts of every voicemail you receive. While the robots aren’t perfect at transcribing, they are usually clear enough to understand the importance of the message. And what’s more exciting is they are searchable. So if you get a high volume of voicemail, and remember a call you’d like to find again, simply do a search.
Keep in mind that you have to use your Google Voicemail number to have access to all of these tools – you can’t use your old business number forwarded to a Google Voicemail account. So if you want to start building a truly virtual business, start today and get your Google Voicemail account. Then phase in your new number on all of your marketing materials over time.
You’ll love it!