One irritating thing about Google Voice is their voicemail – they must be really proud of it, because they give you no way to turn it off (at least not that I can find), and worse yet, they don’t even let you pick the timeout before your Google Voice calls go to voicemail. If people actually had to pay for their service I’m sure they’d get boatloads of complaints, but since it’s free and since Google doesn’t seem to care much what users think, we are stuck with their voicemail whether we want it or not. However, there are some situations where you really don’t want to have to check Google’s voicemail, so how do you discourage people from leaving a message?
The answer is simple, and probably 99.9% effective: Change your greeting to a busy signal! Most people, and even most automated calling equipment, will hang up after receiving a busy signal, and will not leave a message (and if anyone does, it’s probably a stupid robo-caller that you can safely ignore).
So how do you change your greeting in Google Voice? Glad you asked…
To start with, download this audio file (right-click on the link and save it to your hard drive). It is 24 seconds of North American busy signal, followed by the DTMF # button (the latter is needed to signal the end of the greeting).
Now, what you have to do is go to your Google Voice settings, Voicemail & Text tab, and in the Voicemail Greeting section click on “Use phone to record a new greeting.” I suggest you try this once or twice just to get the hang of how it works (you can delete any recording you make on the same page). Note that once you’ve recorded your first greeting, the button will change to say just “Record new.”
Now, the obvious thing to do here is to hold the phone up to your computer’s speaker and play the audio file after Google calls you to record the greeting. If you’re careful about your volume levels it might work, but I don’t recommend it.
A better method is to temporarily redirect your Google Voice callback so that it comes to a softphone on your computer, preferably one that has the ability to select audio inputs and outputs. How to do that is left as an exercise for the reader, but I can tell you that the free version of Zopier will allow you to select inputs. You’ll also need an audio program that can play back .wav files and allows you to select outputs (an example for the Mac would be Vox), and depending on your computer, you may need a third piece of software that allows you to redirect the output of one program to the input of another (for example, on a Mac you can use Soundflower). On a Mac you’d go into the audio player preferences, set the output to go to the redirection software, then set the softphone to get its audio input from the redirection software.
After doing this, get Google Voice to call your softphone, answer the call and immediately click “play” on the audio player software (into which you will have pre-loaded the audio file) and if all goes well it will play the file and at the end, after the DTMF # tone is played, Google Voice should play back the file, and ask you to accept it or try again. If you hear some ringing tone in the playback prior to the busy signal, just click “2” on Zoiper’s touch-tone keypad to try again (when you are given that option) and then as soon as you hear the beep, click “play” again. When it’s right, click the “1” on Zopier’s touch tone keypad when given the option. You can confirm that this is set as the default from the Google Voice page mentioned above. Also, note that by using the Google Voice “Groups” feature, you can play this “greeting” only to certain callers, if for some reason you want some people to actually be able to leave you voicemail in your Google Voice voicemail box.
I know that Zoiper is cross-platform and can be used under all major operating systems, and I’m pretty sure there are audio redirection programs available for Windows and Linux, though I don’t know what they are called offhand (if you do, please feel free to leave a comment, provided the software you suggest is free to use — I’m not going to promote any commercial software for this purpose because I’m pretty sure there is free software available, and in any case, it may even be possible to achieve this function from the Windows sound control panel, but it’s been so long since I’ve tried to do anything like this in Windows that I don’t remember how it’s done, I just know it’s possible).