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What Google’s ‘CallJoy’ Virtual Agent Says about Where the Market Is Going

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Earlier today Google’s Area 120 products group announced CallJoy, a virtual agent SaaS offering that will answer calls, filter spam (including inside sales) and help consumers accomplish their desired goals (store hours, food ordering, booking). If it works, many SMBs will gladly pay the $39 monthly fee.

I haven’t seen it in action nor have I spoken to Google about it. But right now the major problem I see with it is that it requires a Google-provisioned local number that the business must use as its public phone number. This raises SEO NAP consistency issues unless the SMB goes all-in on the CallJoy number.

Here’s how Google describes the system’s functionality and capabilities:

After a quick setup, you’ll receive a local phone number. CallJoy will immediately begin blocking unwanted spam calls so you receive the calls that matter—the ones from customers. Then, when the phone rings, the automated CallJoy agent answers, greets callers with a custom message and provides basic business information (like hours of operation).

If the customer calling would like to complete a task which can be done online, like place a to-go order or book an appointment, CallJoy’s virtual agent will send the customer an SMS text message containing a URL. Whether the customer speaks with you, talks to an employee, or just interacts directly with the CallJoy agent, the call will be recorded and transcribed for quality purposes. This allows small business owners to tag and search each conversation based on topic.

CallJoy

Let’s assume the system works, here are some of the implications:

  • SMBs will be able to answer 100% of phone calls, which should ultimately mean more revenue and (probably) a better customer experience (CX)
  • The customer insights should help improve service/CX and ultimately sales
  • This system could block all third-party inside sales calls — all of them
  • It’s part of a shift Google into services for local monetization (see also GMB subscription bundles).

Among the negatives and caveats:

  • The local tracking number, as mentioned, from a local SEO perspective
  • It probably doesn’t work for every SMB vertical, especially where a complex sale is involved. But it will work for a range of service businesses
  • It’s not clear whether some calls can be screened/answered by the system and selected calls by the business owner
  • From a vendor/marketing provider perspective, this system will completely shut down inside sales for those SMB prospects that adopt it — necessitating an “in-bound” or PQL approach to sales.

Of course, adoption very much remains to be seen. This is highly experimental at this point, and my discussion above is largely hypothetical.

What is not hypothetical is the fact that Google (and Facebook) will be offering more subscription (SaaS) services and enhanced capabilities to SMBs, diversifying away from pure media and ad sales. These services (again assuming they work) will be much more appealing to SMBs than paid ads because they will go to core operational efficiency, productivity and customer experience improvements.

Overall, Google’s move represents a broader shift in the industry away from pure local media and ad sales, which all SMB marketing providers will need to look at if they aren’t already.

To gain more insight into this shift and to hear directly from SMBs themselves, you can’t afford to miss LSA’s Engage conference, June 3 – 4 in Washington, D.C. Join Google, LinkedIn, Hubspot, LegalZoom, Fundbox, Nutshell, Market Hardware, Uberall, LocalIQ, Upserve (and more) at a unique event bringing SMBs and industry together for a conversation about the future of SMB SaaS and marketing services. 

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