As I have shared in previous blog posts, I believe Google Voice is a fantastic addition to the Telephony 2.0 ecosystem and will help to establish the concept of supplementing a dial tone telephone company with additional resources from a telephone application service. However, for business users I find the current Google offering lacking.
Here is why.
- Google produces outstanding services focused on collecting eye balls and in this case ears. To sustain a service they need to find a method to monetize their investment in software and infrastructure. As we have seen recently, when they fail to sufficiently monetize a service, for example news paper ads and radio ads, they drop it. The natural conclusion is that Google will need to either play voice ads before, during or after phone calls or find another way to position ads in front of Google Voice users. Many businesses will not be comfortable with ads for related services playing before a customer call is connected.
- If you give a business a choice of giving up the Internet or their phone service, the majority of non-shopping cart businesses will give up the Internet. With services contributing a significantly larger portion of the world economy, many businesses will be non-shopping cart businesses. Try putting a plumber, an auto mechanic or an accountant in a shopping cart. These business all rely on the telephone to connect the final mile to their customers. When a business is dependent on a telephone they need real people, easily accessible, supporting their needs. They want the ability to pick up the telephone and talk to a live sales or support person. The idea of live support is contrary to the DNA of Google, a company built on the Internet. Companies that provide outstanding live support will attract companies that depend on the their telephones.
- The features in Google Voice, while well implemented, are just a beginning. A business needs more than a slick parallel find me implementation. They need the ability to create custom IVR dialogs, call queuing, automated call distribution, facilitate automated out dialed customer notifications, integrate their telephone services with their business via a rich API, and dynamically adjust the behavior of in bound call routing based on employee availability.
- As a low cost service Google Voice is unlikely to offer high end, high cost features which many businesses need. For example Google Voice does not offer toll free numbers, porting of existing business numbers, or custom IVR development.
- How can a business be sure Google is going to stay in the telephone business? Many of us remember when Google offered a click-to-call solution and then dropped it. Just try pulling up the Google Click to Call FAQ: www.google.com/help/faq_clicktocall.html, it is a dead page. As a business, with telephone calls critical for success, you need to partner with a dedicated telephone service provider for key telephone applications.
So in summary. The Google Voice service is an excellent way for SOHO (Small and Home Based Businesses) and individuals to experience the power of hosted telephone applications. Established businesses dependent on their telephones for their existence need to look for a hosted telephone application company that provides: live customer support, in bound, out bound, and API based services, pre-packaged applications, and business focused services such as telephone number porting, call queuing, and custom IVR implementations.