With tech costs on the rise, many businesses are turning to free or cheap tools to get by with as few expenses as possible. We’ve detailed the benefits of both Google Drive and Dropbox before, and both of those services offer robust free options that can certainly work for smaller businesses. In general, if free options work for you and your business, you should obviously take advantage of them. We’d have a hard time arguing against that. But if voice communication is important to your business, then Google Voice might not be your best choice.
However, there are some areas where it’s important to spend a little extra in order to get better, more business-capable solutions. One area that sticks out is your business VoIP phone system. Google Voice has long been one of the most popular choices in free VoIP services, but unfortunately, it has been plagued with problems and doesn’t really fit the standard for a reliable, business VoIP phone system.
A Rocky Road To Here
Google finally released a user interface update in January of 2017, with the promise of new features to come, along with increased integration with Google’s other voice and video calling service, Hangouts. But, time will tell if these improvements are enough to save the service and keep it from going the way of the dodo and Google Reader.
Limitations of Google Voice for Business
Let’s start at the top. First and foremost, Voice doesn’t allow calls to emergency services. This, in our eyes, should immediately disqualify it from being your sole VoIP solution. Then there are the problems with trying to port your business phone number & showing your business name on your Caller-ID. The call quality and reliability are big complaints from current users. And what if you need phone support? Well, you can’t get that either.
No 911 Emergency Calls
On May 19, 2005, The Federal Communications Commission took steps to protect consumers by mandating that all providers of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone service supply Enhanced 911 (E911) emergency calling capabilities as part of their standard service. But, for some reason, Google has gotten around this mandate. On their website Google states:
You understand and agree that Google Voice is an enhanced call management application and that Google Voice is not capable of placing or receiving emergency services calls. In addition, if you haven’t set up a Google Voice number but you’re using Google Voice to call a public-safety answering point (PSAP), then the PSAP will see a generic number or the word “unknown” on your caller ID and might not be able to call you back.
Right away, we see some problems with the lack of a feature that many would consider critical for safe working conditions. Not being able to contact emergency services can quickly make a bad situation at the office much worse, so even if you do choose Voice, it’s imperative you have a backup solution for contacting emergency services. And, it is safe to say that your employees will be very unhappy to hear that they will not get support from 911 during an emergency since Google states that Google Voice is “..not capable of placing or receiving emergency call services.”
No Business Caller ID
With Google Voice, the only caller-id you will be able to show will be your Google Voice phone number. Even worse, when you call someone back on your cell phone, the person you call will see your cell phone number! This could be one of the worst problems with Google Voice. You cannot update your caller-id to show your business name, and the caller sees your cell phone number when you call them back. Not good for business. With a true VoIP PBX system, you can update your caller-id to show your business name (much more professional), and most providers of business VoIP offer a smartphone APP that allows you to call from your cell phone but use your business caller-id or phone number.
No toll-free numbers
Toll-free numbers (1-800 numbers) are important because they show that you are an international company. Plus, toll-free numbers make your business look legit and bigger to potential clients. With a toll-free number, your clients can reach out to you without having to pay a long-distance fee.
Toll-free numbers are usually easier to port over to a different service or carrier. So if you ever move, your number can easily move with you.
Limited Number Porting
Next, there’s the problem with number porting. Voice won’t allow you to port a landline or VoIP number that you already have, and will only accept mobile numbers. This precludes you from keeping your current number and can make transferring systems a hassle. Plus, there are many horror stories of the difficulties porting a number to Voice. Meanwhile, most other VoIP phone system providers will allow you to keep your number, and even add and change numbers on the fly.
No HD Audio Support and Poor Sound Quality
In a world where callers are often a call or click away, clear, effective communication with customers, vendors, and other critical persons is vital to staying ahead of the competition. If you have a VoIP service that you can’t rely on, or that breaks up during a conversation or even worse drops your call, you may be losing customers and damaging relationships as people get frustrated and find someone else to do business with. With a powerful VoIP system or hosted PBX, your call quality will be significantly better since you have the ability to make/receive HD quality calls and there are a number of things you can do to increase your call quality.
With Google Voice, you’re at the mercy of a historically unreliable service that even after recent advancements, doesn’t support HD call quality, and can drop out at a moment’s notice. And with no live support, you’ll be up the proverbial creek trying to get your service back up and running in a timely manner.
No Live Support
Finally, there is NO immediately available live support for Google Voice. The closest you can get is this help page, which is frankly less than helpful if you’re trying to troubleshoot a problem or get support quickly. This can be disastrous for a business that relies on their phone system, which, let’s face it, is most of us. Many other VoIP systems offer immediate live support to get you up and running if you have a problem. Not so with Google Voice. This can really disrupt any business, but particularly any business that relies on their phones for taking orders, communicating with customers, or dispatching workers.
Not available in Canada
Google Voice is not available for Canadian customers. Google has been promising to bring Google Voice to Canada, but it’s not clear when / if it will happen.
A better alternative for Canadians is Press8 Telecom – a true VoIP phone system for any size business.
All of this makes a strong case for avoiding Google Voice as a business VoIP system. Anecdotally, we heard some complaints about Voice, so we had one of our freelance writers tests and play around with the system and he had this to say:
I like it for handling personal calls that aren’t critical, but I experienced too too many connection issues and poor sound quality for me to rely on it for work. It just makes a bad impression. Plus, I wouldn’t want a system I couldn’t call 911 on.
There you have it. Voice certainly has room to grow, and it’s absolutely fine for managing calls on your personal cell phone, but we’d recommend looking for a VoIP hosted PBX provider for a business phone system.