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Skype’s apology

Nobody’s perfect, and neither is any technology. Continual growth and development is going to come with its hiccups, the important thing is how you manage the hiccups and recover from them afterwards.

Last week, Skype services went down for an extended period of time. During that period, Skype rushed to identify the reason for the service disruption and provided updates on their Twitterfeed every few hours. Although it came back online within the first day, the recovery was short-lived as service went back down the very next day. It took hours more to stablize the system again and to bring normal services back up for all users.

The culprit: a number of the support servers for offline instant messaging had become overloaded and one of the Windows versions of Skype became paralyzed. In actuality, only about 20% of all Skype users were affected, with an estimated 50% of users having that particular version of Skype, and 40% of those users unable to connect through Skype. One could argue that in the instantaneous digital world, anything over 15 minutes is considered a long time. For Skype to have been down for half the day on December 22nd and back down again on December 23rd, that downtime would be considered an inordinate amount of downtime – particularly for those individuals who run their businesses through Skype.

Since the outages, Skype has posted a detailed post-mortem on their blog about the causes of both outages, the impact, as well as what they are doing to prevent future outages. It would also appear that they are providing all users compensation – regardless of whether you were affected or not, as a gesture of goodwill. On a personal level, I have received two apology emails in the last week. The first apology included a link to activate 30 minutes of free calling, and the second added seven days to my current Skype subscription to compensate me for the inconvenience I experienced. I don’t know about everyone else, but for me, I certainly wasn’t expecting that. This small gesture served only to secure an even more favorable impression in an already long-time, loyal customer. In looking at the twitterfeeds around “skype” earlier today, it seems others share the same enthusiasm for the additional minutes.

Well done, Skype. You’ve provided a great example of what to do in the event of a technological crisis for your company. Communication was clear, fact-based, frequent, and transparent. You took responsibility for the outage that happened, and provided information around what happened, who was affected, a sense of what the scale of impact was, and what you are doing to correct the issue. Errors and service downtime are inevitable, but in my opinion, the way you handled this issue gave your customers a both reason and incentive to continue using your product.

On a completely different note, congratulations and thank you for the launch of video conferencing for iPhone users. Happy New Year!

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