One area of practice and operations technology that is somewhat “under-discussed” or under utilized is the phone system. Not that advisors and their teams do not leverage interesting services in conjunction with their traditional phones - think CopyTalk, Jott and other voice to text services. However - many firms are limited either by budget or by the need for more comprehensive functionality.
One service that may be intriguing to advisor practices is Google Voice. Currently - Google Voice is in beta and is free except for international calling. For international use a user can deposit funds into the Google Voice account to cover the minute rates.
For those practices utilizing Google Apps for Business - Google Voice is a natural enhancement to consider. While Google Voice and Google Apps are not directly integrated at this time - you can set your Apps email address as a recipient of voice mails and the text transcriptions of voice mails. The current missing link here is the integration of contacts from each service.
The service enables your firm to have one number that you can route through various configurations to a multitude of phones (work, mobile, home, etc.). Google enables you to import an address book and then group those contacts into various categories which can use unique ringers, route to specific numbers depending on the caller and more.
Google Voice was launched after their acquisition of Grand Central - one of the pioneers of this approach to phone call management. I was an original beta user of Grand Central and have graduated to using Google Voice full time.
One of my favorite services is I can trigger a return phone call from the web-based Google Voice dashboard without picking up my phone. When you click on a phone number in a message - Google calls your primary phone you designated - and then triggers a call to your caller from that phone.
A peer of mine is a broker dealer technology executive with a sizable organization - and he shared with his thoughts with me on his view of the service. He certainly sees it as a fantastic resource that practices can utilize - however - he does believe there are some compliance questions to be answered as far as the fact that Google hosts the voice recordings and transcripts of the voice mails. In addition - Google Voice enables you to record phone calls (great feature) - however - certainly the use of that feature would need to adhere to federal and state laws regarding recording communications.
Fortunately - Google was sensitive to this latter feature - and have built in a verbal announcement to all parties on a call when call recording is enabled. That goes a long way to satisfying any concerns.
Any concerns over the secure nature of the hosting of voice content and transcripts should always follow best practices of keeping any web-based account secure. Google has a nice refresher on how to maintain account security with Google accounts and is relevant for any web-based user.
While Google Voice may not work for every practice - it can still be a nice component in your communications arsenal. A good example is maintaining some level of privacy with your personal phone numbers - mobile and/or home. You can hand out your Google Voice number - and enable it to ring those phones as needed.