Google Voice Review for Commercial Real Estate

Google voice review for commercial real estate

Google Voice offers some great ways to better manage your telephone communication for commercial real estate. But how effective is it for the mobile commercial real estate professional? At ClientLook our focus is delivering efficiency gains to our clients. To figure out if Google Voice could make me more efficient I committed to using it for all my calls. I’ve been testing the service for about 9 months now as my primary business line. My experience has been positive, and I’ve learned some valuable lessons along the way. Read on to learn about my results and discover if Google Voice is right for you.

What is Google Voice?

Google Voice allows you to create a single phone number that rings up to six phones simultaneously when called. These could include your office phone, mobile phone, home, etc. Your voicemail is consolidated into one place, and you receive alerts via email when new messages arrive. It offers message transcription, custom greetings, conference calling and more. All of these features, including outbound calling to any U.S. number, are free.

Receiving Calls

If I’m at work and you call my Google Voice number, I’ll hear all my assigned numbers ring. In my office these assigned numbers include the phone at my desk and my Blackberry. Your call connects to whichever phone I pickup. If I don’t answer, your call goes to voicemail in which you hear my standard greeting, or one that has been customized for you. After you leave your message I’m emailed your caller ID information (name and phone number), a transcript of the message and a link to play the recording. If you don’t leave a message your caller ID information still appears in my “Missed” call log online, which is handy because my standard office line doesn’t otherwise have this capability.

Making Calls

Let’s say I want to call you back. If I’m in the office I typically have Google Voice open in a browser, which allows me to click on the phone number contained in your message. I could do the same thing from your record in the Contacts list in my account, or enter your phone number manually. Either way initiating a call displays a popup box asking me which of my phones I would like to ring. I choose “office”. The phone at my desk rings and I answer it. At the other end of the line I hear the phone ringing as a connection is being made to you.

This always reminded me of speed dialing, although with a couple of more clicks. One of the main benefits is that no matter which one of my phones I use to call you, the caller ID displayed is always my Google Voice number. This proved handy during a recent vacation in a remote area in which I had no mobile phone reception. I was able to login online to add the rental home’s land line so I could use that for calls. It was all seamless to my clients because my caller ID didn’t change.

Top 10 Google Voice Features

You’re a busy commercial real estate professional who spends a lot of time on the phone. You’re often in the field, and staying in communication with your team and clients is essential. Below are a list of ten features of Google Voice that a commercial real estate professional would probably find most impactful.

One number

Imagine having one phone number that never changes no matter where you work or live. Use it to simultaneously ring any U.S. based land lines or any mobile phone with any provider. Upside: This could be the last number you ever need. You’ll miss fewer calls and be more accesible by having multiple phones ring at once. It’s more convenient for your callers. Downside: An existing number may not be used (ported). You must pick a new one. You then have to distribute this new number to the world, and get people to use it.

One voicemail box

Your voicemails are stored in one consolidated voicemail box that is accessible anytime, anywhere through the Internet or by calling your Google Voice number and following the prompts. Upside: You don’t have to check multiple voicemail systems separately. Everything is saved in one place. Downside: If for some reason you like to keep your messages separate then this might not be a big advantage.

Message notification

Receive transcriptions and message links via email or SMS for new voicemails. Upside: Notifications are good reminders to check your messages. The transcription can be useful if someone leaves their phone number or an address. Downside: Accessing a message by clicking the email link on a mobile phone can be slow. It’s quicker to call your voicemail box directly. Transcription ranges from somewhat understandable to downright laughable. It seems like shorter messages are more accurate although less amusing.

Share voicemails

Your voicemails are now as portable as emails. You can embed messages online or download a copy in MP3 format for offline archiving. The transcriptions of your messages are searchable. Upside: Forwarding notifications is great for sending voicemails to an assistant or an associate. Embed voicemails online as a new way to showcase recorded client testimonials. Searching transcriptions provides a whole new level of efficiency. Who left you that message mentioning sewer permits? Your voicemails are saved online in your Google Voice account forever. Downside: Your voicemails are saved online in your Google Voice account forever.

Call screening

Screen incoming messages and answer calls during recording. The screening can announce the incoming caller ID, or prompt unknown users to announce themselves. You can choose to block callers. There’s even an option to specify which of your assigned phones should ring for each caller. Upside: Helpful to hear inbound caller ID information while driving. Controlling who has the ability to call you and where is easy. Downside: Screening may be a convenience to you, but could irritate callers. Individual setup can take time. Interrupting a recording suggests you can’t break free of your old answering machine

Custom greetings

Assign a specific voicemail greeting to a group of contacts you setup in your Gmail account. So, everyone in a “Business” group for example could hear one greeting. Create an individual greeting so a client could hear “Hi Bob, we’re busy marketing your property so leave a message…” Upside: Great way to offer more personalized service. Further reduces the need to maintain separate business and personal lines. Combine with the call screening feature to hear people have a conversation with your recorded message. Downside: You have to create and maintain a contact list and call groups in your Google Account. Considering setting up wireless synchronization between your mobile phone address book and Google contacts using Google Sync, which is not as hard as it sounds.

International calling

Your domestic outbound calling in the U.S. is free. You can call international numbers for as little as $.02 per minute. Credits are purchased in your account in $10 increments with a credit card. Upside: Gives you the flexibility to more cost-effectively do business anywhere. Downside: To dial out you need to login to Google Voice online or call into your account. At $.02 per minute you’ll wonder why this isn’t just free too.

Conference calling

Enjoy conference calling with up to 4 people at a time. Upside: Have conversations with multiple people at once. Downside: Your participants have to call your Google Voice number and be added sequentially as you receive the calls. There’s no feature yet that allows you to initiate an outbound call to more than one party.

Record calls

Click a button on your phone to begin recording of a call. Click the same button again to stop. Upside: Useful for recording directions, phone numbers or other information that you can’t write down. You could even record entire conversations and download an MP3 file of the audio. Downside: Only works with incoming calls. There’s nothing covert about this since an automated “operator” voice announces when recording begins and ends to everyone on the call.

Free SMS

Send and receive text messages for free. Upside: Cost savings for those without unlimited text messaging plans. Text messages sent to your number can be redirected to you via email. Downside: You have to send text messages from your online Google Voice account, or through a downloaded app for your mobile phone. On my Blackberry I have to initiate new text messages and reply to incoming messages through a Google Voice application that I installed (for free) on my phone. There is a similar app for Android phones, but not for iPhones. iPhone users must login to their account on their phone for this to work or install a 3rd party app.

Google Voice Signup

If Google Voice is right for you, then you’ll want to setup an account. Google Voice is available by invitation only however. You should request an invitation, although there is often a lag in response ranging from one week to three months. There are a couple of ways to short circuit this process. The first is to find someone who already has a Google Voice account and obtain one of the extra invites they may have been issued. Alternatively you can now move to the top of the list with an .edu email address normally used by students. Visit the student page for more info on this newly announced promotion.

In addition to your invitation you’ll need a Google Account like Gmail. If you don’t have one you can create one for free. With your invitation and Google Account in hand you’ll then signup online, pick your new phone number and assign your phones. No matter what you’ll always need a regular phone line with a dial tone to accept and make calls. Google Voice isn’t a VOIP (voice over IP) system or other service that provides general phone capabilities. In my case I use the most basic land line phone service I could get from my phone company. I incur no long distance charges since Google calls me to connect outbound calls. As far as the phone company is concerned I’m only receiving calls.

The Bottom Line

In my case Google Voice works well. I’m more accessible, better organized and provide a higher level of service to our clients. Early on I wrestled with privacy concerns but eventually came to the conclusion that I’ve really got nothing to hide. I’m not involved in any covert activity and neither my business or personal calls would probably be meaningful to anyone but me. It was a leap of faith to abandon my previous long-term phone numbers that I thought held some kind of magical business value. They don’t. It took a couple of months to migrate everyone to my new number, but I haven’t regretted making the switch.

When I considered everything involved in switching to Google Voice, the upside outweighed the downside. Hopefully you’ll be able to use my experience to help you decide whether Google Voice is right for you.

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About the Author

Michael Griffin

Michael Griffin - ClientLook, Founder

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