Finnaly got the invite tonight from Google Voice, Googles completly free phone forwarding and voice mail service. Google voice is the new version of what was fromerly known as grand central. The servcie lets you choose a phone number and all calls made to that number are forwarded to a number of your choice, be it cell phone, home phone or work. There are a good deal of options and setting that come with this service and overall it seems to be a pretty cool evolution in phone messaging. Phone VM transcription services and magaement systems have been around for years but as usual Google has made this service free now so other small businesses will be hard pressed to beat that bottom line.
One great feature is the transcription service for all voice mails. When a user calls and leaves a voicemail message Google takes the voice stream and converts it to text. You can then read the voice mail via email, text message, through the Google Voice portal or through the downloaded phone application for Android or Blackberry. The transcription works well pretty well most of the time, although it’s not perfect just yet. Phone numbers were deciphered 100% accuratly, so far at least, and you can always play the voice mail along with the text if you have any problems with the transcription. Also, on the phone app the text is higlighted as the voicemail is read to you. If you want multiple numbers going to and from a single number check out vumber.com for multinumber. Note: There is one place that Google Voice charges, international calls.
As far as anyother charges that one could inccur from the phone network, I called T-Mobile and the representative said that many companies in the VM business have worked payments sytems with phone carriers out to make sure although you aren’t chareged for these services you dont abuse the carriers lines either. Of course rates will vary between plans and carriers so make sure you check your plan for details but in my plan I get 500 forwarding minutes during peak time. If thise minutes get used up then forwarding gets counted against my regular minutes, once again only during peak hours. All in all it would take alot of long messsages to go over those limits so I am happy with both sides of the system so far. I will see at the end of this month if what I was told ends up what i see on my bill..
Also, Daniel tunred me on to some cool settings for GSM phones. You can force your carrier to use a third party VM service so all your calls either through Google Voice or through your own personal exsisting number uses the Google Voice VM service. You can find out how to set that up here (http://go.danielodio.com/voice). Bassically dial *004*1[yourVMservicenumber]# (i.e. *004*15551234#) and all future VM calls will be sent to the VM service phone number provided.
Below are some screen shots of the dash board and settings provided by the Google Voice service.
Dashboard inbox diplsay VM messags and their transcriptions. You can send SMS messages and call from your dashboard as well. If you use gmail all your contacts come along with the dashboard so who is calling is not just a phone number but a name and picture could be associated with each entry.
This cool feature below lets you create VM greetings that change depending on who is calling you. Have a professional greeting for unkown and work contact and a fun one for friends.
Send transcriptions to email or via SMS, screen callers or keep calls from ringing your phoen and going straighth to VM with do not disturb option.
Google also has a widget that lets you put a contact me area on yor page so people can call yo without having to know your direct number.