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Sticks n Stones

I just left a comment on Om's honeymoon blog post. What's required are creative solutions, not 100's of new call center operators. That would be yesterday's model and entirely the wrong way to handle these issues. Instead engage you and me in reporting SkypeOut call quality by simplifying feedback collection and then sharing the statistics. Just one little thing to ask of Skypers. Concurrently, recognize Skype is breaking new ground in the "payments" department. That doesn't say give them slack!

Skype identifies a set of SkypeOut problem codes clearly in their FAQ Some of these relate to the volume of traffic, and it's quite possible that scaling up the PSTN interconnects isn't as easy as 123. However a more troubling type of complaint exists. These are the ones where the call fails for sound, or latency. It's connected but you can't hear each other. Is it Skype, is it PSTN, is it who? I don't know. It may have cost you a couple of cents. If I get a few it is not a problem when I make many many calls that work. If it is my first experience with Skype then I'd be very annoyed. The statistic that Skype needs to add is --- was "SkypeOut" a "plus" experience or a "minus" experience for this call. The rest of the data they have (and apparently some automated stuff too). The number called, the country info etc. Now for the few failures I am activitated to report on it and I don't have to write e-mails, say X failed etc. It's just like sending an error report. This info could also be sent to my account. It would be very clear then whether the call quality was positive or negative. Call longer than a minute are assumed to be "plus" at any time. Technically we only need to record "minus". With users share that bridging the old and new world is not yet "perfect".

Separately, an "account" story I observed in the Forums relates to a code #9403 which means your account has been blocked and you may not be able to make SkypeOut calls. One example (not confirmed) was that if you purchase minutes for more than two people on the same credit card in the same day then Skype locks the accounts. It may take three days to get it fixed. That's an expensive override to engage customer service on. It looks like they have a backlog too and in one example I looked at it took seven days to get a response. This is really a systems approval problem and could easily be solved by enabling multiple profiles off the same account. Plus providing a "gift vouchers" solution which many of us have been asking for from the beginning. Then creating favored status for returning buyers. At the moment I suspect each purchase may be unique, with no reference to past history. If so that creates an unecessary problem.

As Om notes, on fine margins there is no room for error. The banking system is also incredibly complex. PayPal is not yet all around the world. Visa is a fragmented organization. Skype trys to put minutes in your account immediately. That's quite a challenge. Can someone point out to me what other business anywhere has this same type of payment requirement? What other truly global payment businesses like this exist? Then Skype could simplify it by simply stating when you buy minutes that in x countries the approval process is this and takes this time. Eg US and Europe I think could be immediate, whereas a customer purchasing from some other countries may simply have to wait for 3 days for the credit to be activated. When it is done correctly it will be quite an asset. With future changes to the Skype API you could potentially pay for many services via Skype. Just like mobile operators sell ring tones.

Other Links.
Silicon Today
Neville Hobson
ZDNet

Net net it's wrong to think add call center help for these types of problems. It's simply too expensive and it means the "simplicity" and "it just works" philosophy that launched with Skype is lost. The real learning may be that the backend work in the design phase for both SkypeOut and the accounts system was simply "rushed" by VC pressure. It's not clear that all the number and error codes are meaningful to management at the current time. Having made a mess of it, now is the time to become more transparent. In the end what the Skype community wants is Skype to have a bigger stick so PSTN and other VoIP suppliers don't stiff the Skype community. Concurrently I want to know that this problem is fixed!

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Comments (3)

Rick:

I'm not sure what the statistical ratio of problems are for Skype. In other words, is the problem an overblown frustrated few or a pervasive many. Either scenario isn't an excuse, but brings it into light.

Also, let's put it into perspective amongst their long-lived competitors in the US, the Bell companies. I have time and time again been charged false and frivolous fees and charges that were intentionally and probably illegally placed on my bills by my local Bell carrier. The Bells have padded their coffers from millions of us and I am one for change and hope a Skype can disrupt this astrocity and bring needed competition to save the general public from being gouged.

I only hope Skype will be ethical and diligent in providing a public service to millions.

craig:

Stuart

take it from a guy that worked is customer service. and a guy who is also an all around customer...just like you.

u can give all the self help options you want and even have the answers for someone RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEM...but, THEY DONT CARE.

They want what they feel is service
They want it now and they want it done right

Unless skype has other plans to make money other than selling features,,,they better comply, because unhappy people have a way of duplicating. Repeat business is the lifeblood as you know, NO company can afford to be pissing people off.

or maybe its as i wrote on Om's site. Skype will make their money when they sell their proprietary model to someone who has (as well), fallen for the hype.

craig

Lex Ein:

Things to be addressed about Skype:
- Needs better voice quality to/between users on dialup lines. iVisit beats Skype hands down for voice quality here: crisp, clear, low lag, because iVisit _lets you choose the codec_ easily.
- Needs a "low qual" option for reduced bandwidth usage anyways - this will help get calls through nearly full pipes, for those who need it.
- Needs contact-list save/export/import.

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