On December 21st and 22nd, Skype experienced a massive global blackout which left millions of users without a way to, well, “Skype” with colleagues and loved ones right before some major holidays.
What happened next is something that will go down in the wireless/global telecom history.
Skype did the most reasonable thing anyone could have imagined…they credited the accounts of paying customers who were left without service. And they did so through a blog post.
If you handle wireless billing and invoices as much as we do, you’d know that each month, there can be an incredible amount of billing errors on behalf of the wireless carrier. What’s more interesting is that if these errors are not caught, you or your organization ends up paying them. Sadly, this is a very typical occurrence.
Now, if you were to consider Skype a wireless carrier, with its 521 million subscribers, it would be the largest in the world, with Vodafone coming up second with 303 million subscribers. Obviously, with over half a billion subscribers, Skype’s refund was an expensive move for the privately held company.
Nevertheless, they were able to diffuse a critical situation by simply doing the right thing and communicating they’ve done so in a humble, transparent way.
So what wireless carriers can learn from Skype’s blackout?
We hope that the big wireless providers can take note of this simple act of decency towards their loyal subscribers. By simply charging for services prodived, and crediting accounts when services are not available, even if you have less than stellar connectivity for a period of time, goodwill and trust is still held towards the communications provider. Notice there were no lawsuits, no FCC intervention, and no shady government-influencing tactics. They simply did what was right and credited back paying accounts.
As we’ve seen with other carriers’ recent, and rather arbitrary data overcharge refunds, most wireless carriers are more concerned with their shareholders, than being reasonable and transparent with their subscribers.
What’s Next for Skype?
Some industry experts say this is bad news for Skype’s effort to continue growing its corporate subscriber base. With everyone from startups to enterprise relying on Skype for their daily workflow, the productivity cost of a blackout is exponential. If Skype’s wants to really prove itself as an enterprise productivity tool, its stability is critical.
Plus, with Skype’s highly anticipated IPO now pushed back until the second half of 2011, perhaps this is a sign of increased infrastructure and reliability of their VOIP and videoconferencing service. With Skype’s investors already concerned of it’s ability to turn a profit from its enormous user base, we’ll just have wait to see what the future holds for this next generation of communication companies.