As with most new Google My Business features, the rollout can be slow and phased. The new call history data that’s now showing within the dashboard on desktop is no different. We’re now seeing what looks like a final phase before full rollout, where the feature is fully available for certain listings.

John Smith on Twitter was the first to post about this new update, which I can confirm that I’m also seeing for certain listings in my dashboard. From what I can see, the feature looks to be appearing for listings that opted in to the Beta. Colan Nielsen discussed this in more detail late last year.

In this post, I’ll detail how you can opt in (if given the option), how to access the report data, how the feature works, benefits to users of the feature, along with other details that I discovered while testing it out.

How to opt in for call history in Google My Business

Currently, it looks like you’re only able to opt in to the call history feature if given the option. As an example of this, I have some listings within my dashboard that still have the notice showing within the ‘Home’ tab.

The notice, if available, shows with the ‘Preview call history’ heading with the BETA tag attached. To opt in, you’ll need to select the ‘Try it out’ button and then follow the prompts. Here’s what this looks like:

Because you’ve just opted in, you won’t have any data showing within the report initially (which I’ll get to in a moment). But from what I’ve seen, the report updates very quickly. I did a test call on a listing that I manage and it showed my phone number in the report within a minute.

Now that you’ve opted in to being a part of the call history BETA (note: the tab isn’t actually labelled BETA in the report, like how Products was in the early stages), lets explore accessing some of the data that populates within the report.

Accessing the call history report (once data is available)

If you were given the option to try out the BETA within the previous section, you should now notice a new tab titled ‘Calls’ within your dashboard. Because you’ve just opted in, your report probably looks a little sad right now. But let me show you how it can look after data starts to roll in.

For one of my clients that’s based in the US, we opted in to this feature early on. This means that I’m now able to see up to 4 months of data being populated. And the data is a pretty awesome. It’s almost like pulling back a curtain to see something that you’re not sure if you should be looking at.

Although there are companies that allow you to add custom phone numbers to your listings and deliver this type of data (and more) under a paid subscription, this is all free data for your own use. Here’s what this section looks like in the dashboard, where you’ll need to select ‘See Call History’ to reveal the data:

After selecting the ‘See Call History’ button, you’ll be able see the report populated with your call history data. This includes the overall answered calls for the specified period, how many missed calls there’s been, along with the specifics on the calls themselves, such as phone numbers, time of call, and history (whether they’ve called in the past and if you’ve missed one of their calls).

Moving on, it’s useful to understand how the report works. There is some support documentation provided by Google My Business that details this which is good to be aware of.

How call history works in Google My Business

Within Google’s support documentation, the details relating to how call history works focus on the ‘forwarding’ component. In Google’s documentation, the following information is described:

Once call history is on, customers connect to you through a forwarding number instead of through the number on your profile. At the start of a call, you’ll get an automated message that says, “Call from Google.”

Interestingly, when I did my tests, I didn’t get the “Call from Google” message. Not entirely sure why this would be, but it didn’t come through, maybe because it’s in BETA and still being fleshed out.

The documentation also goes on to mention:

On your Business Profile, customers can find your business number. When they use the “Call” button on your profile, their call is forwarded to a unique number to reach you. This number is different from the one on your profile.

The Google forwarding number varies based on the location in which it’s dialed, which includes its area code or prefix number. When possible, the forwarding number shares the same area code or prefix number as your business. Otherwise, a local number in your geographic region is used. If these numbers aren’t available, a toll-free Google forwarding number is used. 

This is important information to keep in mind when opting in to the feature, because you may not want for your calls to be forwarded, for whatever reason. Even though the “Call from Google” message didn’t happen for me, the phone number I called was in fact different to what I’d clicked on the listing.

Benefits of opting in to the call history feature

By opting in to call history tracking, you’re able to get a whole new dataset within your Google My Business dashboard. Previously, you would need to pay for this type of data, but it’s now freely available which is great news for businesses with physical locations.

Note: if you have been opted in to the feature, and you don’t want to be (for the forwarding reason mentioned earlier), here’s how you can opt out. All you need to do is untick the box within the ‘Info’ tab for the phone number field:

Benefits and use-cases to opting in include:

  • If a customer calls and they have a successful interaction with your company, you could potentially send a follow-up request to leave a Google review to their phone. Knowing that that the call came through Google My Business, this might have a higher conversion rate than otherwise.
  • Seeing the phone numbers that come through the Google My Business listing allows for better attribution. This means matching up phone numbers with transacting customers allows you to get a better idea of the quality of calls coming through the listings that you manage.
  • Opting in allows you to see missed calls, which can show you if calls are coming through unsuccessfully for whatever reason. It could also point to the opening hours on listings being incorrect or unclear if there are calls coming through at hours when they shouldn’t be.

The above list will likely expand, but I’m sure there’s plenty of other benefits and use-cases. If you have an idea, please feel free to send through to me on Twitter and I’ll add to the list with attribution for the idea.

Other details about call history in Google My Business

There’s plenty of other details about the call history feature that are worth mentioning, which I’ll expand upon more soon. One of those, which I alluded to earlier was how quickly the report updates. This makes the report extra useful, considering how important timing can be when putting the data to best use.

Another aspect is how you can click to call back customers via the Google My Business dashboard and it goes through to FaceTime. So you could theoretically do your follow-up for missed calls directly in the dashboard. I’m not sure I’d use this, but it is interesting that they included it nonetheless.

Overall, I believe this to be a very interesting addition to the Google My Business dashboard. In my opinion, it’s probably the most interesting since they released the Query Insights report in 2018. What do you think? Is this a report that you will be putting to good use?