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Citizens Advice Manchester keeps staff connected with Google Voice

Citizens Advice Manchester is one of a network of 270 local, independently-run branches across the UK providing free, independent, confidential and impartial advice to people on a wide range of subjects.

About the project

When the UK went into lockdown in March 2020 in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Citizens Advice Manchester went from supporting 140 people in one location to supporting 140 people in 140 locations. The VOIP system it was using in its office didn’t handle home-based working as well as expected, so it needed to come up with a new solution very quickly. Because staff were already using Google Workspace running on Chromebooks, the organisation was able to quickly and easily switch to Google Voice, a browser-based softphone solution that’s available as part of Google Workspace. Within a day of speaking to Ancoris and Google and agreeing a contract, Citizens Advice Manchester had staff making and receiving calls using Google Voice. As well as solving this immediate need, Google Voice provides greater flexibility and is simpler and easier to manage.


  • With a VOIP phone system in place, the organisation was confident it could keep staff connected if they had to work from home, by simply sending them home with a VOIP handset. However when lockdown started and all 140 staff had to begin working from home, the organisation encountered a variety of issues. These ranged from being unable to plug in VOIP handsets because of the location of users’ home routers to some ISPs blocking VOIP traffic to some employees simply not wanting a desk handset in their home-working area.
  • The organisation was already dissatisfied with the lack of flexibility in its VOIP phone contracts. Whilst funding for short-term projects can last just six or twelve months, VOIP contracts typically last three years.  The organisation found itself locked into paying for VOIP licences long after a project had ended.
  • The VOIP system was also cumbersome to manage. If Citizens Advice Manchester wanted to make changes, it had to liaise with its VOIP supplier and rely on others to make the technical changes needed to go live with new numbers.

VOIP system
Woman using Google Voice on her phone


  • All 140 employees can now make and receive calls from home using their office numbers, with some staff using Google Voice and some using VOIP phones. This hybrid system works seamlessly to connect staff with each other and with the outside world, but Citizens Advice Manchester expects to migrate completely to Google Voice by the end of 2021 as its various VOIP contracts end.
  • Users strongly prefer Google Voice to the traditional VOIP handsets. They find Google Voice simple to learn and it’s quicker and easier for them to bring up a contact’s details in Workspace and start a call than to scroll through the directory on the VOIP handset to find the number.
  • The organisation benefits from a flexible pricing structure that allows it to scale up and down each month as projects start and end. This means it only ever pays for licences it’s currently using. It also benefits from a non-profit discount and doesn’t have the capital costs associated with regular refreshes of VOIP handset hardware.
  • The system is easier to manage, with the organisation able to immediately add or remove licences through the Google Workspace Admin Console. It also benefits from new features as soon as they’re added to the solution, at no additional cost, rather than having to wait until the end of its existing contract for an upgrade.

Read blog by Stuart Pearson, Chief Digital Officer, Citizens Advice Manchester

We’re all using Chromebooks here and adding Google Voice to our Google Workspace set up confirms that the Chromebook is your office, wherever you are. You’ve got your productivity tools but also your phone: with a USB headset, you’re good to go.


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