Google Maps now offers a free click-to-call service. When you see a phone number, you can click a “call” link, enter your phone number and Google will call you and the business.
The feature worked flawlessly; my phone rang almost the instant I entered my phone number. The number of the business showed up on my caller ID, making it easy to make another call. (Like when I get lost on the way.) Google Maps displays live session information on your call.
It’s unclear what number shows up on the business’ caller ID, but Google says “We do not share your phone number with the business you are trying to reach.” A special privacy notice applies to this feature.
Given that the percentage of times I call a business I look up online is in the low single digits, I don’t see making much use of it. With domestic long distance free on most calling plans, the biggest benefit is saving you the effort of entering 10 numbers on your phone.
But it is another distinguishing feature that puts Google even further ahead in the local search space. If Google can get users to adopt the behavior, it opens up a new stream of advertising revenue from local businesses.
Some enhancements I’d like to see:
- Ability to store multiple phone numbers with 1-click to call work, home, cell.
- A toolbar plug in that would scrape a Web page for phone numbers and let me call any number on the page.
- A call log that shows businesses I have called (with the requisite options to not store any numbers, to clear the log and to delete individual entries).
- Seamless calling of multiple businesses. As I disconnect from one business, let me queue up a call to the next one. This is especially useful when doing research. It pretty much only saves you the trouble of hanging up and picking up again, but as long as we’re optimizing…
Google needs to address the opportunities for mischief that this application raises. Lauren Weinstein proposes a solution (http://lauren.vortex.com/archive/000201.html), but I don’t think it addresses the problem sufficiently. Maybe Google needs to verify a phone number before allowing access to the feature to registered users.
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