Posted August 20, 2007 9:46 am by with 11 comments

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Om Malik rightly asks where was eBay’s management during the recent Skype outage? For a company that supposedly understands the value of web communities, it failed to ease the concerns of Skype users who went 30+ hours without service.

Ebay CEO Meg Whitman, Skype co-founder Niklas Zennstrom, and other Skype management made no statement, gave no assurances to their community, leaving their PR agency and the blog to keep people informed. Of course, this led to even more speculation, rumors and innuendoes.

Sure their words wouldn?t have brought the service online faster, but it would have made it clear to Skypers that eBay?s management cared. Skype President Henry Gomez has background in corporate communications, so he should know a thing or two about crisis management communications.

I’m a heavy Skype user and was appalled that I didn’t get a single update from Skype. In fact, if it weren’t for the blogstorm, I wouldn’t have had a clue as to what was going on. It’s only today that we learn the outage was due to an update and resulting re-boot by Windows users.

So, should we expect more from Skype? Most people get Skype for free, so are we asking for too much? That’s the question Mark Evans asks

If, for example, you?ve never paid a penny to use Skype can you really complain too much when it goes down for awhile? Sure you?ve become dependent on it as an everyday communications tool but what do you expect for nothing?

Well, I happen to use Skype for my main business number and I pay them for a SkypeIn number and SkypeOut credits. So, yes, I expect the service to work. At the very least, I expect to be notified of why I’m losing $XXXX an hour due to clients not being able to reach me.

So, what could have Skype done differently?

  • Email all users – at least those that have spent money with them – and let them know what is going on.
  • Public apologies and updates from someone senior at eBay/Skype, not just vague blog updates.
  • How about some token of apology? Maybe some free credits? I ended up having to take client calls via my cell phone – any idea how expensive that is?
  • What exactly has been fixed, how can I be sure this won’t happen again, and why shouldn’t I switch to a competing service?

What do you thing? Do you think Skype handled this well?

  • Good suggestions Andy.

    Skype definitely needs to do something. I think if they took a little time just to send an email to all their users like you said that would have muffled a lot of the noise.

  • It still surprises me that eBay bought Skype in the first place. They’re just not a customer service company at heart. That’s not to say that they don’t have that capability, but it’s certainly not what they’re known for.

    eBay seems to do a good job of managing systems that work on their own, but Skype is a whole new ballgame for them.

    A friend of mine just moved to the Dominican Republic and is relying totally on Skype and email. I wonder how that’ll work out for her. I’m not a Skype user myself, so it’s especially interesting to read your comments, Andy. I’ll pass it along…

  • Isn’t it amazing how just a little effort would earn companies so much in good will? I mean seriously, how tough would it have been to send out an email or two letting people what’s going on? And yet, they couldn’t seem to be bothered and now they get this… simply amazing.

  • Yeah, if they need a consultant, I’m available. 😉

  • If they took a little time just to send an email … you say.
    Well, I’ve noticed that these large companies don’t care any longer. They are focusing on money exclusively and good service has stopped being important: if you, little and unimportant comsumer, don’t like it, go somewhere else … where you’ll get the same treatment.
    That’s the point.

  • @Valerie – so glad you have a positive take on this. 😉

  • Definitely paying users should get appology and something for free now. I had problems too and I was thinking that I have just problems with my provider again.

  • Andy, I just don’t think they get it. Even with today’s response, it’s just not genuine.

    Your point, “In fact, if it weren’t for the blogstorm, I wouldn’t have had a clue as to what was going on…” resonates and is indicitive of how poorly this crises comm was orchestrated.

    I just wrote a a huge post on what they did wrong and how they could have done this better. At this point, it’s less about the service being back online, and more about credibility and service.

  • I was hurt with this outage too.

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  • Great blog, found this very interesting, thanks