TechCrunch wrote today that they’re hearing Google might add Google Voice to their Google Apps suite of enterprise apps (link). I’m excited to hear this! (and I twittered this as a feature request just a week or two ago).
At both Snapstream and Piping (my father’s manufacturing company that I spend some time helping out at), we use Google Apps. Since I’ve been spending some time helping out at Piping, their phone system is something we’ve struggled with. The most immediate problem has been voicemail:
– their PBX has no ability up route them over email and no ability to transcribe them
– Traditional VM is a huge time sink – disrupts your workflow, requires you to pick up your phone and interact with voice prompts using buttons on your phone
– limited ability to forward or otherwise share received messages.
Their particular phone system (a Toshiba office PBX) has a module that we considered purchasing for $10k that would route voicemails over email. I was never excited about spending that money to buy something that was written 10-15 years ago, and has only a fraction of the features available in packages like Asterisk (open source PBX that we use at SnapStream).
But in the last month, the IT guys at Piping have started doing something interesting. They’ve figured out how the existing phone system can forward to a 3rd party service after x rings. So they’ve bought a bunch of Google Voice accounts (off of ebay – like $2 an invite) and are using it for voicemail! The user feedback on this has been hugely positive.
“No more stopping everything I do to check voicemails!”
“Now I get my voicemails on email as the day goes on.”
“Even though the transcription isn’t perfect it’s usually good enough to figure out what was said.”
They’ve setup 20 users with this (<10% of the users there), picking off the heaviest voicemail users first.
When they add Google Voice to Google Apps, we’ll certainly jump on it at Piping and SnapStream — at least for the VM use case described above. Replacing the entire PBX with Google Voice? As much ad I’d like out my office PBX into the cloud, call reliability and quality will have to be perfect. I’ve had this conversation with my brother in law (who is a telecom guy) many times and he’s right. Will a local small business — say a pizza joint — risk switching from their “it just works” copper phone line to an unmanaged over-the-top Internet-based phone service? Not until “it just works” too.