Expanding your app-titude

A monthly look at apps and websites that can make the CPA’s job and life better.
By Greg LaFollette, CPA/CITP, CGMA

I hate telephone calls, and I hate voicemail even more. Over time, professional etiquette has changed, slowly but surely, regarding phone calls. Think back 25 years—we all had receptionists answering and directing calls. Now we answer our own phones. Today, it's actually surprising to have someone other than the intended party answer a call. That's resulted (thankfully) in the almost universally adopted practice of prescheduled phone calls. I honestly can't remember the last time I made or received an unscheduled business-related call. We've come a long way—but I have a few ideas to help move us a bit further.

NO MORE VOICEMAIL LIVES UP TO ITS NAME

Sorting through email is bad enough. Throw in voicemail, and catching up quickly becomes horrendous. You could just disable voicemail on your phone, but then the caller hears a message along the lines of, "The person at this number has not set up the voicemail system." In my opinion, that makes you look bad. Mercifully, an app called No More Voicemail does exactly what its name implies. Simply install it, do some quick basic setup, and voilà—anyone whose call you miss (or ignore) hears an endless ringtone and never a "please leave a message" prompt. When I first saw this, I was concerned about missing a message but upon reflection quickly decided that if it were important, the caller could email or text me.

I downloaded and installed the app and found that it performs as promised—no fuss, no muss, and nothing extraneous. The single drawback is that you hear (or feel) your phone notification on every ring while the caller gets only an unending ringtone until he or she finally figures out that nothing's going to happen—ever! It's a set-it-and-forget-it app. You open it once, and you're set. I was impressed that it didn't ask for any permissions or to access any of my personal data. As I said, I hate voicemails. They are a colossal waste of time compared with email, texting, and messaging apps. If you're not quite ready to forgo voicemail altogether, keep reading. The app featured below might suit you better.


CREATE, CONNECT, AND CONTROL PHONE NUMBERS WITH GOOGLE VOICE

Some practitioners try to avoid using their personal phone numbers to deal with clients. But a second cellphone is cumbersome and costly. Thanks to Google, there is a solution. Once you have a Google number, the fun begins. Myriad functions are available in Google Voice, all dealing with what happens when a specific number is dialed. You can choose to have calls to your Google Voice number automatically routed to all of your phones (home, office, mobile, etc.), making you very accessible. With this setup, when someone calls your Google number, it rings all of your phones simultaneously until you answer, or it transfers to voicemail. You can configure settings in many ways for day- and time-specific behavior and other variables. My favorite feature is the ability to receive speech-to-text transcripts of voicemail messages. As I stated earlier, I hate voicemail—but if it's delivered via email and reduced to text, it becomes bearable. I actually use Google Voice backward. My cellphone number is set to automatically forward to my Google Voice number after three rings. There the "voicemail" is received, translated to text, and emailed to me.

The Google number is free. You'll need a Google account, and you can choose your desired area code. Not all area codes are always available, but you'll be offered an alternative nearby area code.

Greg LaFollette (greg.lafollette@hq.cpa.com) is a strategic adviser with CPA.com, the commercial subsidiary of the AICPA.

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