Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Take Control of Your Communications Through Google Voice

Google Voice is a tremendous product. I have been using this service prior to its public release and Google has made incremental improvements like number porting which makes Google Voice worth consideration for individuals and small businesses. I am not going into a "sales pitch" in this article. Rather, I would like to discuss some features you may not be using (but should be) to make Google Voice a  most effective part of your everyday communication arsenal....

Make Custom Greetings (Settings | Voice Mail & Text): Hopefully you have been using Groups to define your contact list. If not, you should begin doing this immediately. Groups can be helpful in many ways and building these sub-groups is extremely easy.

With a Group (or individual contact), you can record custom greetings. As just one example, you can create a greeting for your immediate family members which is personalized and uniquely different than your general greeting which unknown contacts (and anyone not defined with a custom greeting) will hear.  I am sure you can think of numerous uses. (It is possible to get "extra credit" from some individuals in your life by making  "one of a kind" messages. This can make the notion of leaving voice mail seem far less impersonal!)

You can manage the Groups and message relationships by going to Settings | Groups. Take a look at how flexible this screen and customize it to best work for you.

While you are on this screen, check the box, "Transcribe Voicemails" if you haven't done so. While Google's transcription service is far from perfect, it is improving. In almost every instance, I can discern the caller's needs through the texted and/or emailed notification. This is a real time saver!

Ask Unknown Known Callers To Leave Their Name (Calls | Call Screening): Automated sales calls typically can't react to this request and pre-screening this group of unwelcome solicitations makes this feature worthwhile in and of itself. Even if it is a new potential client or other valued call, having the individuals name starts the call off on a more personal note.....

Talk and Text From Your Computer! Google Voice allows you to answer calls (assuming you have a functional microphone and speakers) and text from your computer! Working alone, I use a Logitech Webcam Logitech 720p Webcam Pro 9000. There are of course other microphone and camera solutions (and you can answer calls without using the camera functionality), but Logitech's line of webcams are generally excellent and receive very positive reviews from real world users. Many laptops have built in microphones (and cameras) compatible with Google Voice.

I have found that to answer calls directly via Google Voice/Google Chat, that I need a browser window open to Gmail. You may, or may not, find this necessary, depending on your configuration. My default browser is Chrome (which I highly recommend trying if you haven't done so already). You can install a Google Voice extension in this (and other) browsers, which makes the process of texting very easy and minimizes distractions.

If you rely on your web site for your business, or even if you correspond with clients via email and want to add another convenient dimension to your communications, click  over and set up a customized call widget. You can embed this link on virtually any page and control how incoming calls are handled (Settings | Widgets). This adds engagement to your site and allows interested prospects another way of getting in touch with you very easily (and without leaving your site!). This is also a terrific way of making your small business just seem "a little bigger" than it may actually be.....

If you aren't using Google Voice's transfer and recording features, why not? Currently, you can only record inbound calls, but this can be a very useful feature for conference calls and important client calls which you may need to refer to at a later time. Of course recordings can be stored quickly accessed through your Google Voice Account:

To get started simply enable the call recording feature:
  1. Click the gear icon and select Settings.
  2. Click the Calls tab.
  3. Select the checkbox next to Call Options.

You can also transfer calls between phones (that is phone numbers!). This is easily accomplished by hitting the * on your keyboard during a call. First this feature must be enabled under: Settings| Calls | Call Options. This allows you to use your home or business line and then transfer the call to your mobile as you walk out the door to another meeting without missing a beat. There are lots of other reasons for wanting to shift a call from one phone and/or account to another, and this feature makes it easy.

You can also decide when a certain phone should ring (weekdays, weekends, etc.) These options can be found under Settings | Phones | Edit | Advanced Options. This is another way to take control of your communications using Google Voice. 

Perhaps the best productivity tip I can provide in terms of Google Voice can be found once again under Settings | Calls. When you need time to focus on a project, especially one with a deadline,  any calls can be an unneeded distraction. Scroll down and check the "Do Not Disturb" box and set it for XX Hours. Incoming calls will go to your voicemail and optionally be placed in your Unified Inbox and/or emailed notifications will be sent to your account. (See Settings | Calls | Missed Calls). Google Voice allows you great control as to how, who and when you can be contacted! Use these options to your advantage!

My Google Voice Number ties to my other phones and it is the only number I give out personally and professionally. In fact, my secondary office line is now a MagicJack Account and I don't even know this number by heart! I don't need to because it just works as part of my Google Voice account. While it is now possible to easily port one of your current numbers to Google Voice, there are also benefits to channeling all communications through one central number. 

So how do you use Google Voice? Do you have any tips or tricks which might be of interest to others? I invite you to comment below. Alternatively, I appreciate your spreading the word through Google+, Twitter and FaceBook!

I currently particpate in the Amazon Associates Program and certain item links included within this post may tie to this affiliate program.

I hold a long position in  $GOOG

Companies:  Google, Logitech

This commentary is not meant as an endorsement of any company or to provide financial advice.  If the author has any financial interest in any company mentioned at the time of this article’s posting, it will be explicitly noted. I welcome feedback and comments. 

All rights reserved @2012, Music Row Tech (MRT). Any reproduction without the author's consent is prohibited.

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