With the recent takeover of Skype by Ebay, Danny Wirken asks if Skype has forgotten to pack its parachute.
With the internet booming in sales of products such as the Skype phone or free Skype download, the company is enjoying more publicity than ever before. Since inception in 2003, Skype now claims well over 55 million registered customers thanks to the way it allows users to call other users for free. It has also done a lot to advertise its low cost ‘real’ telephone calls service.
I’ve enjoyed using the Skype phone service myself – calling other friends who share the software has previously been useful. However I’ve noticed one thing as a result of the Ebay takeover of Skype. The customer service has plummeted. Some ask if it was ever there at all – and they are right to question this. With so many users enjoying the service there is now a real problem with bugs, glitches and general technical problems. What’s worse is that these bugs seem to be centred around the new billing system Skype uses.
There have been wide reports of these skype-billing glitches. Large sites such as CNET have reported that there is a growing dissatisfaction with the way the company is choosing to take itself. By entering into the paid market fully, Skype might risk neglecting its grassroots customers who brought it such success in the first place.
The common complaints sound dangerously fatal – accounts taking days to go active, or to be credited from purchases even on credit cards. One user said he would simply chargeback the purchase if he didn’t get the credit by the next day. Given that Skype marketed itself on instant-download software and fast access, this flaw seems crucial.
“It just makes it useless” commented one anonymous poster on SLASHDOT. “I send an email and get no response – yet they are happy to take the money from my card!”
Spokespeople from Skype have recently gone public by saying that there are some ‘teething problems’ with the service. The bigger clue, so they claim, is to look at the ever-increasing customer numbers. Critics would point out that it is retaining these customers that should concern Skype.
But why is it such a problem? The issue is that Skype customer service uses an ad-hoc arrangement only suited to smaller internet outfits. They have not grown their customer service with the other areas of their company. The company relies heavily on proactive clients to let them know when a problem arises. Relying on reports in this way is suitable only for the most amateurish start-up firms or non-profit organisations where the user base has additional motivation for being a client.
One Skype employee recently admitted to searching online internet forums to look for potential issues to fix or repair. With the ranting of an irate user base growing ever louder, Skype is now looking to do their best to instigate solutions for their customer service. With comments now getting heated – “I’ve been stolen from. I’m absolutely furious. The advertising was misleading and I’ve had no help!” – and many competitors now on the scene, it may be prudent to ask if it is already too late for Skype.
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