Jun 29, 2010

Google Voice: Quality of Service, so far

Google Voice started out as a Silicon Valley startup (GrandCentral) whose value proposition was 'one number for all your phone access lines, for life.' News articles say that Google has improved the original GrandCentral service. Good (that's a 'd' on the end, not a 'g'), but not good enough.

A free service deserves a lot of forgiveness because it is FREE, but every product manager knows about market requirements that are check-box items, ones that the target audience thinks are 'givens,' that if not delivered, the whole product or service gets bad-mouthed. One such check-box item for any voice-based product is voice quality.

Ideally, one spends resources to cover the minimum set of check-box items to a 'no objections' level, but really invests in honing the differentiating features to make them better than customers expected. A successful marketing slogan that some vendor has promoted was "delight the customer".

Google Voice's voice quality is not good. There are drop-outs, echos... probably those packets were assigned low priority in the network. That is not good for a voice-based product.

On the positive side of the balance sheet, what differentiating factors does Google Voice have that might compensate for poor voice quality?
  • FREE service. That pricing structure is becoming a check-box item. Google has made 'free' an intrinsic part of their brand and have driven most B2C web application to follow.
  • Users can choose their own phone number from a set of numbers. Google doesn't make it easy but it's worth the effort.  Most people use a monthly flat fee for national calls so 'local area codes' are less of a differentiating benefit than they used to be.
  • Integration with other Google services such as delivery of message notices to your mail box, not only your Gmail mail box. This is a win-win for the user and for Google. It's called cross-marketing where products help each other.
  • Voice to text -- The accuracy is not great but the benefit is users can access voicemails with email. If I miss a crucial word or two, I don't have to linearly hear the whole audio message from the beginning to try to catch the words I missed. The added benefit is I have a written version that is editable and shareable.
  • An unusual feature is Google Voice announces callers and users must click a key to accept the call.  Not very effective in screening spam calls, but they must consider users with no visual caller ID capability.
  • The feature I like best is the ability to put the "Call Me" icon on any web presence where I can add HTML. That feature increases my customer intimacy. My readers can interact with my content by adding text comments or talk to me for free by using Google Voice.
Other features such as making free calls or sending text messages within the US, ringing all specified devices at the same time, creating custom greetings for different incoming callers are nice but not "delightful."

No comments:

Post a Comment