CallJoy, Google’s virtual phone agent for SMBs, gets an upgrade

Six months ago, Google’s Area 120 group launched CallJoy, a “virtual phone agent” for small businesses (SMBs) built on the same technology that’s behind Duplex and the Google Assistant. Now, based on customer feedback, it’s offering an upgraded version with new capabilities and customization options.

New customization options. SMBs can provision the agent to handle certain types of inquiries (e.g., hours, location, service area), determine when the phone is answered and customize its “personality” beyond male or female. The agent will also provide responses to certain specific questions and can route calls it cannot answer to a human being.

The example Google provides in its post is someone calling a restaurant to ask about vegetarian menu options. If the SMB has “trained” the agent to respond to that type of question — by adding keywords and FAQs — it might hypothetically respond, “Yes! Our menu has vegetarian and vegan-friendly choices. Can I text you the link to our online menu?”

Seeking to make SMBs more productive. Google says that CallJoy can also “book appointments, get quotes, make table reservations, and more.” The idea is that business owners can 1) avoid common calls that would distract them and 2) ensure that their customers get answers to their questions.

All calls are recorded and transcribed. SMBs receive daily emails showing call activity but can visit a dashboard anytime if they become more interested in analytics. More sophisticated businesses will start to see these transcripts as a potential source of insight into their customers and their needs.

Why we should care. Google cites its own internal research, which is consistent with third party studies, showing that “nearly half of calls to local businesses go unanswered.” Some of these are routine (i.e., “what are your hours?”) but many are high-intent leads that would be lost if someone doesn’t pick up the phone. Another benefit, CallJoy will intercept sales and spam calls so the business owner doesn’t have to deal with them.

CallJoy is an enterprise-grade system made accessible to the SMB market, for $39 per month. Although this isn’t an explicit part of the pitch, the service is intended to more than pay for itself by boosting business owner productivity, capturing leads and substituting for higher-cost human receptionists.

CallJoy is also Google’s first major step into SaaS for the SMB market, something it conceptually explored in a survey earlier this year. Finally, we can probably expect some sort of (local services) ads integration down the road, although that’s just speculation at this point.


 

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