Google has been busy rebranding Google Apps for Business and folding in new features. Now called Google Apps for Work, they also announced to little notice in recent weeks that they’ve incorporated Google Hangouts as a formal feature. This is interesting to us on several levels for financial services that we will explore.
Most importantly, nearly every financial advisor we work with has suggested they are holding at least some of their client meetings virtually. This is a growing trend as we have seen a number of reports via industry media suggesting many financial advisors factor virtual meetings as at least a part of their regular operations.
If you are not familiar with Google Hangouts – it is Google’s solution for the combination of messaging (IM), video calls (think Skype) as well as capabilities for SMS on Android devices. Google also added in Hangouts On Air, offering the ability to host public videos a la webinar-style. This is all built in to Gmail as well as Google+. Now it is also a core component of Google Apps.
Why are we intrigued? It is a combination of three things:
- There are more than 550 million Gmail users – meaning most of your audience has an account – which is the easy ticket into a Hangout.
- You may be paying for multiple tools to accommodate virtual meetings and events – a webinar application, something for more informal screen sharing and perhaps even an app for video calls. If you use Google Apps – Hangouts could perform all of those functions.
- Google’s addition of Hangouts to Google Apps means you can now enjoy their business class of services levels for the tool as well as having all Hangouts encrypted.
How Many of Your Clients (and Prospects) have a free Gmail account?
Exactly – a majority of them. A Gmail account means easy access into a Hangout without any complexity obstacles. How did Google do this? They integrated it into Google Calendar. Thus in each invite – there is a link to start a video hangout. A client can join with a single click from their computer and any number of devices, including iPhones, iPads and Android devices.
Business Friendly Features
There are a handful of capabilities using Hangouts in Google Apps.
- You can determine, by user, who can host Hangouts and if they can be with external participants (folks who are not users in your Google Apps account),
- Hangouts instant messaging history is archived into your email (though local settings can override this – an item to educate users about),
- As we mentioned earlier, the integration into Calendar means no extra information or PINs are needed to launch and/or attend a meeting. Simplicity wins on this feature.
- You can host a decent group in a private Hangout, up to 15, using instant messaging, audio and video.
We like the convenience for any firm using Google Apps, from more efficient internal meetings to simplified virtual client meetings.