Toss out your answering machine

(This may be seen as off-topic for some readers, but I’m writing about it as an example of technology simplifying my life.)

I’ve been slowing realizing over the last several months that neither Liz nor I religiously check our home answering machine. This is bad, because there may be important messages.

We both, however, check our email religiously. I was convinced there was a better way for us to manage the calls to our home that we missed. Eventually, I realized that Google Voice would work quite nicely. Here’s what I did:

In Google services:

1. Set up a new Gmail account.

2. Signed up for Google Voice and chose a number that is local for us.

3. In Settings > Phones, I turned OFF all phones (DEselected the check boxes)…so that none of the phones associated with the account would ring when this number was called. This means that all calls to this number would, by default, go straight to voicemail.

4. In Settings > Voicemail & Text, I recorded a new greeting appropriate for our home phone and set it as the default greeting for all calls.

5. In Settings > Voicemail & Text >Voicemail Notifications, I set notifications to be sent to the account’s Gmail address.

6. I also elected on this screen to have voicemails transcribed. These transcriptions are far from perfect, but they often provide enough information to let us know what should be done with the message.

With my home phone service provider:
(Our home phone provider is Time Warner Cable- they have a VoiceZone service you can sign into to manage these settings yourself. Your provider may or may not have something similar- call them and ask!)

I set calls to forward to my new Google Voice number if we did not answer after four rings:

Back to the new Gmail account:

7. Now that this new Gmail account was receiving emails from Gvoice with the date/time, number, the machine transcription of the message and a link to play the audio, it was time to make sure that Liz and I both got them.

First, I set up all emails from this account to be forwarded to my main email account. Next, I set up a filter to make sure all such emails were forwarded to Liz’s main email account.

So now we were each getting the email when someone called our home phone and left a message.

8. Lastly, I wanted to make sure that neither Liz nor I would accidentally overlook such voicemail-containing emails when we received them, so I made one more filter for each of us that slaps on a big red label:

lastfilter

So here’s what it looks like in my inbox when someone calls our home phone number and leaves a message:
inboxview

The email contains a link to a Web-based audio player through which either one of us can listen to the message if the machine-transcription is insufficient (as it often is).

Results:

1. We can’t fail to notice that we have messages (as we sometimes do now with the little blinking red light on our answering machine).

2. We no longer have to worry about whether one of us or the other has heard a particular message and wonder if it can safely be deleted. We can manage our own listening as we would our own reading. It is as if we are both “cc’d” on voicemails left on our home phone.

3. Neither of us can accidentally delete old messages.

4. We can both easily access our messages anywhere.

5. We’re throwing out our answering machine without having to pay anyone for voicemail service.

đŸ™‚

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