Google Voice Adds to Vacation Stress

by Dave Michels

For the most part, I am very pleased with Google Voice. I think the service is promising, disruptive, and immature.

I recently went out of town and had to change my settings on Google Voice. I disabled all but one of the phones in the personal ring group and changed my outgoing voice mail greeting. Then upon return, I restored my greeting and reselected my ring group.


This is a bit of Soapbox thing, because I am regularly shocked how difficult voice mail systems make routine tasks. Gmail gets it. It has a vacation Auto-Responder feature and an enhanced scheduler version in Labs. Everything about email is easier than voice mail (reading, forwarding, deleting, addressing, etc.). It will be interesting to see how Google Voice continues to shake things up in voice mail with their new approaches (someday).

The best way to manage stress is to get things out of your head. Ideally by getting it done. If you know you have a trip coming up, Get as much done before the last minute rush. I knew I had to make these changes weeks before the trip, but it had to wait due to technology limitations. Then, when I got back, despite the fires, queued-up tasks, and catch-up demands – I had to change it all back before the snippy FAIL message “oh, by the way your greeting is old.”

Google Voice has no automation around greetings or ring group changes. Even worse, the changes can only be done from a web screen. (Can’t tell you how many greeting changes I’ve performed while driving to the airport).

Google Voice needs a scheduler to switch prerecorded greetings, and a scheduler that can change the personal ring group members. This second point is actually independent of the greetings. Why not pre-select that I don’t want my home phone to ring after 10 PM? or schedule to deselect my cell phone tonight at the 9 PM movie?

Some vendors (such as Esna) offer integration between voice mail greetings (and availability) with the calendar automatically. The concept sounds great, the 9 AM meeting in my Calendar, tells voice mail system to automatically change my prerecorded greeting and puts my phone in do not disturb (DND). But, I found this painful. Yes, there were overrides – but the defaults always seemed wrong- creating extra work. I might schedule a conference call – which put the phone in DND – but then the person calling me could not reach me. Turned out my status and availability is very loosely connected with my calendar. “Meetings” could be office hours, errands, real meetings, drive time, on the phone meetings, or even a set time to just walk around the office. Plus I put in my calendar lots of backup plans – something I only attend if time permits.

Well, Google’s modus operandi appears to be “Ready, Fire, Aim.” Perhaps this blog post is my contribution to the aiming.

Click here for more thoughts on Google Voice.