As veterinarians, we are constantly walking a fine line between guarding our “off time” and providing clients with easy access in case of emergency.
What if you had a special number to give out? One that rings any phone you tell it to ring, but only rings when you allow it. One that can have a customized voice-mail message based on the caller or even the time of day.
Not only does this already exist—it's free, and easily available through Google. Here are some of the ways I've used it in the past.
📱 Give Out Your Cell Phone Number
Google Voice let's you get a second cell phone number that you can hand out to clients. You can determine where it rings and when.
Now, when I receive a phone call through this I can route to my cell phone or office phone (or voicemail) depending on who it is.
Google Voice allows you to listen to the voicemail as it is being recorded, so if it was an emergency, I could break into the call and handle it.
If it wasn't an emergency, I would call back when I had the time. Remember screening your calls with a tape-based answering machine? Same concept.
🏞 Answering From Anywhere
In the previous example, I mentioned that my cell phone would ring. You can actually set up the service to ring any number of phones; you can even have multiple phones ring at the same time.
When someone calls my Google Voice number, my cell phone, computer, and home phone all ring at the same time. I just answer the one that is most convenient.
You can also program it to ring certain phones during certain hours (eg, ring my office phone from 8 am to 7 pm and my home phone from 7 pm to 10 pm). This feature came in handy when I was staying at a cabin with a landline, but no cell reception. I simply routed my calls to the cabin’s landline. Anyone who dialed my number had no idea I was answering from a different phone.
🕙 Setting an Availability Window
With Google Voice, you can control who can contact you and when.
I have a rule in my settings that only allows people in my contacts list to call me after 10 pm and before 6 am. All other calls go directly to voicemail, and my phone never makes a peep.
✍ Transcribing Voicemails
When you receive a voice mail, Google Voice will transcribe it and display it visually. You can also set these to go to your email. This has allowed me to read a voicemail in the middle of a meeting without having to excuse myself to listen to a message.
A word of warning: The transcriptions are not perfect, but they do provide the main gist of the phone message.
💬 Receiving Text Messages
Text messages can be similarly filtered through your Google Voice number, both to your phone and to your email (think times when your phone is off or out of data range). This is especially handy for veterinary specialists needing to easily communicate with referring veterinarians.
And you can do it from a dashboard on the computer.
There are many ways in which you could incorporate Google Voice into your busy veterinary life. I find this service allows good communication with clients without sacrificing your personal time. Try it out (free) at voice.google.com.