Uses for Google Voice

Update: 11.26.09 – I have added an update to the original post. It is found at the end and notated by gray font.

I signed-up for Google Voice thinking that it was intended as a tool for consumers to consolidate multiple phone lines into a single number. I was also lured by concept of having Google Voice serve as a conduit for mobile phone calls to avoid the rules and restrictions that mobile phone carriers place on ‘out of network’ calls. After spending some time with Google Voice, I’ve come to the conclusion that the best use of this application is for business and not personal use. Some individuals may still find good utility with Google Voice, but I think it’s real value-add is for business.

For individuals, the idea of consolidating multiple phone lines is becoming a problem of the past. Many from the Gen Y or Millennial generations will never pay for a home phone line. A mobile device may become their only number. With the FCC’s Local Number Portability rules, many people may never need to change numbers either. For the Boomers and Gen X individuals,  Google Voice may be either too geeky or just not worth the time to bother. Who wants to tell others they have a new phone number unless they have to. While it’s not overly difficult, it just creates a “to-do” that you can avoid. It recently took me three tries to get my mom and dad to update their cell phone address book with a new number I gave them. Giving them a new number and trying to explain Google Voice to them would require a lot explaining.

It could lead also lead to phone number confusion. Think about this scenario: You give your Google Voice number to your mom. She updates it in her mobile device address book. Then you call her from mobile device, not using the Google Voice dialer. She doesn’t answer the phone because now the number on her caller ID is unknown to her. I know that mobile devices can store multiple phone numbers for each entry. But I’m not sure I want to take 10 minutes to explain it to my mom. Besides, I know she’d end the conversation with ‘Why did you do this again?’.


Not all is lost with Google Voice. In fact, I think this service has tremendous potential for a few business processes:

  1. Customer service organizations for businesses that use a remote work force. Setup a Google Voice number that will ring the customer service agent that is actively on duty. As a shift changes, update the profile of downstream numbers that Google Voice will ring.
  2. Business users that split time between the field and office. In this case, the field personnel could list both their mobile and office direct line behind the Google Voice number. The clients then only need to call one number to find their assigned agent. This could have application in the construction, insurance, or real-estate industries.
  3. On-call staff such as IT support or medical professionals. If each on-call team member has their own mobile device then you can manage where a central numbers forwards to by managing the downstream Google Voice call list.  This process removes the requirement to rotate an on-call device or for a central call center to look-up a phone number for the person on call. They can always use the same number.

What would be a great new feature for Google Voice? To control the order in which downstream numbers are dialed. In the current setup, all downstream numbers are tried simultaneously. If you could control the order of ringing, then this would allow for further business process features related to on-call or customer service numbers.

I did check the Google Voice terms of service related to commercial use and did not see that commercial use, such as the ideas I listed above, is prohibited. It should be open to help some organizations with call management as-is. So if you’re in a line of work that requires you splitting time between the office and field or if you operate in an on-call group, think about getting a Google Voice number.

I’m still playing with this application, thinking it might have application for me. I may even give my number to my mom. Maybe she’ll like the idea of dialing a single number to locate me.

Do you see application in other ways than what I have listed?

Update 11.26.09 – After I wrote this article,  I setup my Google Voice account in the following arrangement:

– A business group for my co-workers and office numbers.

– All other groups for personal contacts.

Google Voice allows you to setup a distinct voice mail and ring sequence for each of the groups. This worked really well for me because I defined three phone numbers within my main setup (Home, Mobile, Office). So my the numbers in my address book associated to business will ring the mobile and office numbers while other numbers will ring the mobile and home numbers. This is an extremely useful feature because it allows me to segment calls based on the source.

The other nice surprise was that my mom liked it.  She liked the concept because she no longer has to dial multiple numbers looking for me. That’s a good thing. When mamma’s happy, everyone is happy.  Smile…..