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There’s always something to howl about

Various thoughts on small business tools

1. Google Voice

I know there’s been some sporadic discussion here about Google Voice: whether it’s useful/wise to use as a business phone number, and about the quality of its transcriptions.

I’ve been very pleased with it in terms of the call routing functionality, and the integration with my Droid and Google Contacts.

The transcriptions, true, are sometimes hit or miss. Lately they’ve been more “hits”. I practice in Raleigh, NC, with its share of both southern and other accents. Yes, certain voicemails turn out to be gibberish when transcribed. Frankly, I don’t know that I’d be much better if I were personally transcribing the voicemail myself, let alone leaving it to the warm embrace of Google’s computer systems!

But here are four of the most recent voicemails I’ve gotten, unedited except for the removal of certain identifying information:

Voicemail 1: My name is [name]. My number is [accurate!]. Once I have a question regarding a limited driving privilege. If you can give me a call back. I’d appreciate it. Thank you.

Voicemail 2: Hey, This Is [name]. I’ll talk to my probation officer and he wants me to give you the number is that you can call him as name is [name]. His number is [accurate!] thanks bye.

Voicemail 3: Hi Damon, Damon, this is [NAME] I was just calling to get a confirmation that you had indeed received my [BADLY TRANSCRIBED NAME OF A FORM] from my insurance agent. If you could please return my call. At [NAME]. Thank you.

Obviously the names are not even transcribed properly, but the rest of it is pretty good. These are short voicemails. Longer voicemails where the subject matter is more complicated tend to be less accurate. But usually Google is able to accurately transcribe the name of the offense/crime the person is calling about. This is a big help in my line of work when you’re sitting in court and wondering whether you need to run out to return the call! A speeding ticket can probably wait. A drug trafficking case… that requires an immediately reply.

2. 1-800 numbers and local businesses

On the one hand, I’ve read and been told that 800 numbers can signal to potential clients that your business is “established” etc. etc.

But I guess I’m torn. First, I’ve been using one online service – Grasshopper – that lets you pick 888/877 etc. numbers and route them to your office/cell etc. My experiences have been decidedly mixed. Set-up was easy. Cost is low. But it takes, in my view, too long for the phone call from the potential client to actually ring to my phone – time during which the client could give up and call someone else. In addition, Grasshopper’s web interface is slow, complicated, and not intuitive for me to use.

Any thoughts out there about whether having a TOLL FREE number for a local business in this day and age where many people are calling from cell phones and being charged minutes anyway is worthwhile? I operate almost exclusively in the 919 area code.

3. Blogging Software

A while back I recommended Ecto for Mac OS, a desktop blogging publisher/editor. It is pretty good, and I can see why some people here use it.

I did want to put in a plug for MarsEdit. I believe I had tried an earlier version and found it buggy. But the current version is very stable, and there are are only a few annoyances.

On the plus side, I like the editing and preview functions much better on MarsEdit than on Ecto. It also seems to use fewer resources, and not hang up as frequently when sending the post to the actual blog. It’s a cleaner, more “Mac” kind of software.

On the downside, it seems to have trouble handling future posts. For Raleigh Criminal law blog and my Raleigh Bankruptcy law blog I generally make a week’s or month’s worth of posts at a time, and set them to publish one at a time each day over the period.

MarsEdit’s “set date” function is imperfect, and sometimes messes up the future dates.

I have no relationship with the folks who make MarsEdit or Ecto, so this is purely my opinion regarding the usefulness of either software package.

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