There’s a lot of confusion and misinformation out there about how to get a toll-free 1-800 number for business use on Google Voice. At this time, Google Voice does not offer toll-free numbers. The only way to get a toll free number for your Google Voice account is via a third-party phone company like UniTel Voice.
UniTel Voice makes the process super easy and affordable. You simply sign up for service in three steps:
1. Pick Your Plan
2. Pick Your Toll Free Number
3. Create Your Account
Once your UniTel Voice account is set up you enter your Google Voice number as your forwarding number. When your customers call your toll free number you receive the call on your Google Voice number. It’s that simple.
But before you make any moves you should know that there are better Google Voice alternatives to use as your business phone system. You see, Google Voice is not designed to be used as a business phone solution.
Not only does Google Voice not offer toll-free numbers, it doesn’t offer a true auto attendant – the mechanism that professionally greets callers and allows them to choose which employee or department extension they’d like to be routed to.
This guide to virtual office phone systems does a job of comparing business phone solutions (including Google Voice) on cost, features, and benefits.
There are many reasons why Google Voice is a better choice for individuals than for businesses. Let’s take a look at some of the things you should know before signing up for Google Voice.
Why Google Voice May Not Be Right For Business Use
Although Google Voice might be an enticing choice due to its free price tag, there are some serious concerns that come with using it for business. To start, Google does not actually offer 1-800 numbers to Google Voice users.
Although there has been some discussion about that potentially changing in the future, no announcements have been made as of yet. For now, businesses will have to settle for a local area code phone number that Google Voice currently offers and use a separate service provider to get a toll free number.
Why not just use your local Google Voice number as your business phone number? While this might be an alright idea for personal use, there are some reasons why you might want to avoid using Google Voice numbers as your primary business phone number.
Chief among these reasons is that when you are assigned a phone number by Google Voice, you do not actually own the phone number that you are assigned. Instead, you are given a phone number that Google actually owns and essentially leases to you. This can be an issue because if you were to lose that phone number, your customers that reach you through it would no longer be able to access your business and this would result in lost revenue.
The fact that you don’t own your phone number is another serious concern. While losing your Google Voice number seems to be pretty rare, if it did happen it could be catastrophic. Many of your customers would lose their primary channel of communication with your business, and disseminating a new phone number would almost surely result in losing touch with a few of your hard-earned customers.
If you run into problems with your Google Voice account, another big issue is that Google isn’t exactly known for their excellent customer service. In fact, they don’t even have a dedicated team that you can call to get someone on the phone to talk about the issue. At best, you’d be lucky to get an email response from the Google support team, and even then it is more likely to be a canned response.
Additionally, Google Voice doesn’t provide any of the advanced features that other paid platforms will provide to your business. As a business, you probably want features like:
- Auto Attendants: Auto attendants greet your callers and direct them toward the proper extensions, phones, and voicemails depending on the purpose of their call.
- Unlimited Call Handling: Google Voice does not include a system that allows for concurrent calls or directs them to the appropriate voicemail line when the line is busy.
- Department and Employee Extensions: If you want your employees each to have their own separate line, that is simply not possible in Google Voice, which provides you with one single line. Some have tried to string together several Google Voice accounts to make it work, but that is more trouble than it is worth.
- Custom Hold Messages: Sometimes, you have to put customers on hold. That’s just the nature of the business. But while they are on hold, you want to make sure that you have something to play to inform them about your company and keep them on the line. This is not possible with Google Voice.
In short, Google Voice might be a good option for single users that are in a pinch and need a phone line immediately, but it is not recommended for business users.
So while it is possible to add an 800 number that you procured from another provider to your Google Voice account, there really isn’t much of a reason to do so.
If you were to use the 800 number that you receive by signing up for UniTel Voice, you would be able to use the toll-free number with your Google Voice account, but on the business phone system features that make your business look, sound, and operate like a professional business using cell phones.
UniTel Voice is a virtual phone system designed for startups and small business owners. It’s like Google Voice but for businesses.
Porting Your Google Voice Number to A Different Business Phone Service
If you’ve been using Google Voice for a while now and your Google Voice number is the one that customers contact you through, it can put you in a tough position. You may want to sign up for another service and make use of all of the advanced features that they offer, but find yourself unable to ditch your Google Voice phone number with negatively impacting your business. While it’s not an ideal situation, it is definitely one that we have seen happen quite often.
The good news is that if you do want to use your Google Voice number with another service, it is definitely possible. If you want to learn more about how to port your Google Voice number, here is a Google Voice Help Forum topic that goes through the process.
Here’s a quick explanation of how you can use your Google Voice phone number with another service:
- Follow the instruction for unlocking your Google Voice phone number. Essentially this means that you are letting Google know that you are giving permission to another phone service provider to gain access to the number. Once you’ve done this, the “Porting” section within your settings will change to “Unlocked.”
- Ask your new phone service provider to get the number from Google Voice. This is an official request to port the number to your current cell phone carrier.
- Your new phone provider will submit a part request through the national phone porting system, NPAC.
- Google then approves the request. Once they have done so, the porting status in your account will change to reflect that it has been approved.
- Once your new carrier gains access to the phone number, it is up to them to process the request. At this point, Google is uninvolved with the transferring of the number to a new carrier.
There is a chance that your new carrier may tell you that Google is not releasing the number to them. If that is the case, you should start the process over again from the beginning and make sure to follow the steps in order.
Google Voice Has Concerning Limitations for Businesses
There is no doubt that Google Voice is a really cool service. But, it isn’t one that I would trust with my business. Google has a history of shutting down their side projects unexpectedly and as a free service, Google Voice can’t be high on their list of priorities. If the service disappeared overnight, your business might be out of luck.
Additionally, the fact that they don’t offer anything that resembles comprehensive customer service makes it a bad fit for business use. You don’t have any numbers that you can call and receive guaranteed help when something goes wrong. When that does happen, you’re losing revenue every minute that your phone system is offline. If you were to completely lose access to your phone number, you could potentially seriously damage your business in the process.
The lack of a way to secure a toll-free 800 number through Google Voice is another concern that should give business owners pause. Yes, you can add an 800 number from another service to your Google Voice account, but in most cases, you would be better off using the service that was specifically built for business use.
If you want your business to have access to a toll-free 800 number with all of the bells and whistles that a business needs to convey professionalism, sign up for UniTel Voice. You’ll receive access to your own vanity number or toll-free 800 number as soon as you sign up, along with a host of other business features that make us a better choice for your business than Google Voice.
- Why UniTel Voice is the Best Google Voice Alternative for Businesses
- The ultimate entrepreneur’s guide to virtual office phone systems
- The startup founder’s complete to getting a toll free number
- The ultimate small business owners guide to virtual local numbers
Editor’s Note: The article is part of the startup tools blog series Run Your Business brought to you by the marketing team at UniTel Voice, the virtual phone system priced and designed for startups and small business owners.