Those of you who read this website might not know that I worked at AT&T for 10 years. In fact, after my first year of graduate school I started as an intern at an internal consulting group called Business Operations Analysis - kind of a nerd factory of nerds that was even part of Bell Labs for a short while. After about 4 years in BOA I joined the consumer marketing groups and stayed there for about 6 years progressing up the ranks to Division Manager of a 25 person group called eAT&T or OneRate Online. I dropped a lot of direct mail (probably about 100 million) and made millions of outbound telemarketing calls over those 6 years of marketing.
One of those campaigns was for a product called TrueConnections. TrueConnections is/was a follow-me 500# so that your callers called one number and you could program the number to ring at various numbers you owned. Of course AT&T charged you for it and back in the mid 90s it seemed pretty cool, but as I recall it was too niche of a product targeted at Road Warriors and we didn't sell many plans. Personally I didn't really use mine and didn't have much use for a product like that until last week. That's when I got my Google Voice invite.
Now some of my AT&T brothers and sisters will turn their noses up at this product and when it first came out I didn't care for it either. However, after setting it up last week I'm hooked. Here's my experience with it so far:
- Domestic calls are free. I get that - no big deal, but if you don't make international calls, what's better than free?
- Yes there's some issues with making calls on its network using your iPhone but I don't care. I have one of those all you can eat plans with AT&T and have some rollover minutes. I want Google Voice for the inbound calling features, not the outbound so the iPhone fight doesn't impact me.
- It took me about an hour to pick out my number. You can try coming up with a vanity number but I couldn't come up with one I liked, besides I'm not convinced a vanity number isn't a pain for dialers. In the end I chose a local number that I think is easy to remember - 908.867.8001.
- Setting up which numbers ring when you dial my Google Voice # was a piece of cake as is the user interface.
- Ok - then came the time consuming part which took me about 2 hours. In order to really get some use out of Google Voice you need to organize your contacts and put them into groups. Each one of these groups can have different ring options and different voice mail greetings. For example:
- Vendors that you don't want to hear from go straight to voice mail
- Friends and Family ring my three numbers, but the home phone only rings after 6 PM
- Connell Donatelli and Campaign Solutions co-workers get a special greeting
So after a few hours of organizing my contacts and then a few minutes setting up my voice mail greetings I experienced the last really cool part (so far) of Google Voice. After someone leaves you a message you get an email or a text message notification that you have a new voice mail. And, if that isn't cool enough Google does an ok job of transcribing the voice mail into text. My experience with it so far is that this feature isn't something to rely on but cool none the less.
A single number for people to call you on for free? Email notifications, transcription of voice mails to text, and individual greetings and call routings by group - those are a lot of cool features.
I like Google Voice and so will my AT&T brothers and sisters.