In 2009 Google launched Google Voice, which provides free PC-to-PC voice and video calling to users worldwide, as well as free PC-to-phone service to users located in the US. Because Google Voice’s interface is very similar to Gmail, many users are instantly comfortable with using the service. Google Voice provides a single forwarding number from Google to all of the user’s phones at no cost. Because Google Voice is so simple and low cost, many small business persons have wondered whether Google Voice could work as a business-level phone system and how it compares to a paid virtual PBX service, such as Phone.com, RingCentral, or eVoice, which connects multiple phone lines under one number. After careful analysis, we found that Google Voice cannot completely replace your small business phone solution.
Where Google Voice Excels
Google has made strides in adding PBX functionality to their free service and can be expected to continue adding additional features. While calls from your PC to other PCs and U.S.-based phones are free, calls to international numbers start at only $0.02 per minute. Their international rates may be significantly lower than those of your current service provider; so, for the user who occasionally needs to make an international call, Google Voice can be an excellent solution.
Google Voice users can take advantage of Google’s expectedly user-friendly interface when checking and storing call logs, text messages and voicemail-to-text transcriptions (which is included as a free service). The ability to check voicemails online, as opposed to sifting through a queue on your phone, has given users much more functionality and flexibility when managing their calls and messages.
Where Google Voice Falls Short for Small Business Functionality
While Google Voice is a fantastic product for organizing a person’s private communications, it does not currently offer many features that can meet the telecommunications demands of a small business. Unlike a virtual PBX service, Google Voice does not currently provide 800 numbers. Many small businesses desire the professional appeal of an 800 number and do not want to be confined to a single local area code. Also, Google Voice does not provide live customer support. Conversely, many virtual PBX providers, such as Phone.com and RingCentral, provide 24/7 phone, email and live chat support so that if you experience difficulty or disruption of service, you will be put in contact with a company representative right away.
Most importantly, Google Voice cannot support multiple users under one account. Different employees in a business must log in to the same account if they want to access call records, logs, voicemails, or texts to your particular phone number. Thus, a user is unable to set permissions for who sees which particular communications. Additionally, Google Voice cannot set up an auto-attendant feature to let a caller decide which extension they would like to be forwarded to. With a virtual PBX service, you can set up an auto-attendant, which directs a caller to the appropriate extension (e.g. Sales, Billing, Customer support, etc.) However, with Google Voice, all selected extensions will ring at once.
Porting Your Number
Whether you choose Google Voice or another solution for your small business phone needs, always look for the ability to take your number with you should you choose to change service providers. FCC law does not currently mandate that Google Voice allow you to port a number that they provide you to another service. Therefore, if you use Google Voice for your business, make sure that you obtain an original number from another provider beforehand.