Ever needed to do some basic interview with a group of people, but haven’t been sure if you have the capacity to carry them out? Here’s an idea: use Google Voice to set up a free number, give your respondents the number, and have them call and leave their responses on the voicemail.

For those not familiar with Google Voice, it is a free service that allows you to call to and from a computer or via an app for mobile devices and tablets (you can also set it up to forward calls to an existing number like your cell phone). A couple features make it potentially particularly useful for researchers:

Personalized Voicemail Messages

You can set up personalized voicemail greetings for individual numbers. You could set up the voicemail message to give Group A respondents a prompt to answer one set of questions and set up a second message for Group B respondents to answer a separate set of questions.

Voicemail Transcription

Google Voice promises to transcribe your voicemails, converting audio into text (yes, really).

Now, the quality of transcriptions isn’t perfect (and in the past has been downright hilarious), but recent improvements to the software have improved accuracy significantly. Even if the transcriptions aren’t 100% accurate, it may be more efficient to clean up errors than do transcriptions manually (and cheaper than paying for transcribing services for sure).

There are limits to this idea. Notably, the maximum length of a voicemail is 3 minutes so this idea would only make sense in a project with short answers. But, particularly if you are working a high number of respondents, using Google Voice to record and transcribe responses may be quite useful.

Have you ever tried using Google Voice or anything similar in this way? Let us know!