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Can Google Voice Serve an Enterprise? (Part 2 of 2)
If you haven’t read part one of my article on Google Voice for Workspace, I encourage you to take a look to gain a better understanding of Google’s voice offering for the enterprise. Google’s VoIP service for Google Workspace (formerly known as GSuite) is cosmopolitan, mobile, elegant, yet simple. At the same time, it’s capable. Here I would like to share my experience with it as both an end user and as an administrator.
My porting experience is limited and anecdotal at the moment, but so far, I’m impressed. Typically, a port order goes through the local number portability (LNP) department of the winning carrier and sits there for two to three weeks before they send the port request to the losing carrier.
Google seems to automate number porting almost entirely and shortens the traditional process. From my perspective, it appears they take my web-based order and send it directly to the losing carrier via an application programming interface (API). The Google online number-porting form requests a billing telephone number (BTN) and PIN if applicable. As soon as the BTN is entered, it performs a lookup of the carrier performing automated, on-the-fly quality control. My last few port orders took only 10 days. (Seasoned telecom veterans are reading this in disbelief, I’m sure.) Finally, a telecom company that knows how to automate and streamline. Now if only the losing carrier would follow suit.
I did learn (the hard way) that limitations still exist. A few of my rejected port orders remained mysteries until I probed Google with a handful of questions. Google techs had to reach out to the losing carrier to obtain the reason for rejection. The standard rule of one order at a time per account remains, but that bottleneck is the policy of the losing carrier and not Google. All of the painful industry-standard formalities remain in place, but Google takes the sting out of some of the processes.
I was disappointed to find out that I couldn’t pre-assign phone numbers via a batch process that is pending port. Instead, I had to assign each phone number manually. However, the batch process works after a port completes. I prefer the ability to batch process phone number assignments before the port is complete to eliminate downtime for my users. For now, I take the extra time to manually assign each number to each user prior to the port date. I’m sure that Google will address this in future Google Voice for Google Workspace iterations.
Setting up a new office is a breeze. Assign voice licenses to the users and initiate the email invitation. The users click on Google’s email and complete the setup process. I appreciate the fact that the user is prompted to validate their physical address for e911 purposes – another administrative burden is lightened from my load. Google then assigns a local phone number based on their address. The entire process can be completed in minutes – a welcome respite to the traditional giant carrier’s solutions and even some of the non-traditional tech companies that provide cloud-based voice solutions.
Google’s approach to voicemail is very different from other platforms. It’s not another appliance to support. Think of voicemail as a function. It’s a transaction that converts and emails a recording and transcription. After that, it’s done. These voicemail messages are retrievable by on softphone or email. The other side of that coin is that, if you decide to use a physical phone, there’s no voicemail message waiting light. Also, there’s no way to check voicemail without a PC or the mobile app. Simplicity comes at a cost. But if you wear a finance hat, you might say that simplicity brings savings.
The End User Experience
Whether you’re using the browser-based softphone or the mobile app, Google’s approach to dialing is very directory-oriented and oh-so-convenient. It almost requires a little bit of detox to get away from the old way of dialing and thinking. Do you address me as my phone number or do you call me, “Darin?” Naturally, you call me by my name. Likewise, Google’s philosophy is to remove the burden of phone numbers. Parish the idea of calling your neighbor’s extension – those aren’t supported. Google Voice for Google Workspace utilizes your company’s directory and local contacts, to call by name. Of course, you can still manually dial a full 10-digit phone number via keyboard or mouse as needed. Overall, I found the Google Voice for Google Workspace softphone to be extremely intuitive.
So how has voicemail transcription worked for me? So far, it’s been nearly 100% accurate. Thespeach interpretation has been almost perfect. Capitalization, punctuation, possessive, or plurality identification (company’s vs. companies), etc., have all been spot-on. The only time transcription has been a little off is when the person leaving the voicemail isn’t audible. But the overall intent of the voicemail has always been clear. I found that I much prefer to read my voicemails than listen to them, and it’s now my ‘modus operandi.’
I was initially amused at the fact that my Google Voice for Google Workspace office phone number supports short message service (SMS) text. Is there a place in the office for texting, or is it a silly distraction to productivity? I had a flashback to a previous employer whose IT director was adamantly opposed to chat messaging. He thought it was a toy and had no place in the office. I was new and had just come from an office that used it as a support tool, and I found myself extremely frustrated without it. Perhaps Google’s SMS service can be used as a productivity, convenience, or customer enhancing tool. After all, my doctor’s office confirms my appointments via text. And since Google exposes so many APIs, why not take advantage of that? Perhaps we can find ways to adopt an improved communication mindset, streamline a process, and enhance the customer experience.
It's Not for Everyone
Google Voice for Google Workspace isn’t intended for everyone. It’s a natural progression for those who already use Google Workspace. For example, the Google Voice mobile application affords mobile workers the ability to carry a personal cell phone and a virtual business cell phone in one. Since people appreciate privacy, they can share their “office” phone number and answer it on their personal cell phones within the application. The app is as intuitive and stable as the native dialer for Android and the iPhone.
We’ve all been conditioned by traditional PBX manufacturers who box out the competition and make proprietary hardware. Google has shattered this ideology. Because Google Voice for Google Workspace is nestled into Google Workspace with Gmail, Chat, and Calendar, hardware support is reduced. The most popular question I answer now is, “Which headsets are compatible with Google Voice?”
I still need physical phones in common areas. A bonus that excites me is the fact that these phones work with Wi-Fi. It’s easy to set up, and the clarity has been stunning. Between the user adoption of soft and physical phones on Wi-Fi, now I can roll out an office with zero or minimal network cabling costs.
While planning next year’s budget, I’m anxious to capitalize on the many benefits of Google Voice for Google Workspace. My legacy maintenance costs are falling along with the department’s physical moving average convergence/divergence (MACD) orders. E911 management shifts to the end-user, which makes working from home a breeze, and provides relief to my team.
As our company continues to roll out Google Voice for Google Workspace to all sites, I eagerly await the day our help desk tickets to reset voicemail passwords disappear. There’s no need to program a voicemail button, change a name, reassign a phone to a different user, or reset the time on a voicemail server. Google Voice for Google Workspace isn’t only a huge leap forward in technology. I It’s also a philosophical shift in the approach we take toward business communications.
One silver lining to COVID-19, if I can make the stretch, is end-user adoption. The timing of my company’s migration to Google Voice for Google Workspace, after several months of quarantine, absolutely made my job easier. A year ago, most users would have pushed back on giving up their physical phones. After several months of using cell phones and meeting software, the softphone is a welcome convenience and just another routine tool at their disposal.
While I do find Google Voice for Google Workspace to be simple when compared to an aging industry player such as Avaya, I find simplicity to be elegant. After all, when was the last time I cared about my class of service table or needed to change a route pattern? I can tell you that I won’t miss scheduling a vendor meeting between my carrier and a CPE tech to troubleshoot a local primary rate interface or those voice circuits that fell out of contract and are now at tariff rates. I also won’t miss the finger-pointing between my carrier and CPE vendor, my 2,000+ page long-distance bill, and the stress of new security vulnerabilities or the old dial-up modems. I’ll let you know if I do find something to miss.
I’ve been playing in time-division multiplexing (TDM) and VoIP space for nearly 20 years, and cloud services for about 12. Google Voice for Google Workspace certainly isn’t the first cloud-based PBX service I’ve used, but in terms of manageability, it might be the easiest-to-manage enterprise-class service I’ve come across.