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Evolution of Skype Customer Support

When I joined almost two years ago, I came to Skype with the goal of helping it become a best-in-class brand. The expectation of what support is at Skype is unique, given that we are a brand about connecting people and making it possible to have meaningful relationships over chat, voice, and video calls. We have been working hard to reinvent how we provide customer support at Skype as it’s important to stay true to what costumers inherently expect support to feel like.

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We’re on a journey
It’s fair to say that Skype has been on a journey with the way it has been supporting its customers over the past three or four years. Currently, we have more than 35 million users concurrently using Skype at peak times, and we have 200 million connected users per month who are doing more than 300 minutes of voice and video calls annually. We have a support model where we are touching millions of customers per month. Many of those customers are looking for one-on-one support through e-mails and chats with our support agents. Sending an e-mail, when you are inherently using Skype, can be slightly at odds with what you might expect, so we are working harder to push chat as a primary direct contact channel for support.

We started 2011 with about 11% of our direct contact happening through chat, mainly for our paying subscribers or pay-as-you-go customers. As of March 2012, we stand at about 37% of our direct support happening through our chat support channel. By the end of the year, we expect it to become the dominant channel of support. Requests through chat are answered quickly, and the real-time and fluid nature of chats reduce wait times and allow our customers to talk through issues as they occur, rather than having to send e-mail after e-mail. Of course, some people may not want, or may not have the time, to chat, and so prefer to just send off an e-mail, which is just fine. No matter what channel our users reach out to us in, we continuously strive to improve the customer experience and reduce wait times.

Growing a social community
Any non-direct support happens through our online support site and our social communities, through which we receive about 15 million unique interactions with our customers every month. We aim to grow our level of interaction as we move forward with our support programs. Currently, we hook our Facebook page into the Skype community, so answers to questions posted on Facebook often come from our support website.

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We also direct those with questions to the community, so people can engage with like-minded users on like-minded topics, where we start to see people resolving issues within their social group, rather than having to wait for Skype to give an official answer. In addition, we support our community through Twitter from @SkypeSupport. Moving forward, we’ll be connecting more and more with our customers in the environments that they’re already spending time in, like Facebook and Twitter. Instead of waiting for them to come to us, we can engage customers where they like to hang out and answer any questions they might have.

There are also plenty of places where people are generating their own content about Skype that is relevant for supporting customers. It’s not always the case that big organizations have all the right answers or information that users need and we’re always excited when our users take the initiative and come up with innovative possibilities for how to use Skype. This is where we are starting to leverage channels like YouTube and Twitter to re-purpose the content our users are creating related to their favorite Skype tips and advice.

Putting richness into the hands of customers
It’s not so much about the grand vision or completely changing customer support, as it is about helping the customer through issues in whatever way we can. I’m a great believer in support being something that you are inherently receiving while you’re doing the task at hand. I don’t believe that anyone should have to stop what they are doing to be supported, so proactive support, and proactive content, being delivered into the hands of our customers when they need it is really key, and that’s where I want to go. I want to put as much richness into the hands of customers early on in their experience with Skype, so they can hit the ground running, and enjoy the very best Skype can offer without worrying whether there’s support there or not. I want people to know that Skype is a safe place for them to come to be a customer, not just a user. For me, there’s a very real difference in being a customer organization rather than just a support organization.

Here’s an example – just a few weeks ago, I was in the airport talking to somebody waiting for their plane. She just happened to mention that she was trying to use her iPad to do a Skype call with her husband for the first time, since she was about to go on a trip for a week without him. It turns out that she couldn’t make the Skype call from the iPad, and we started talking about that. I offered a few suggestions and gave her my contact details and asked her to let me know if I could help her in any way. After that, we went our separate ways.

Two days later, I got a direct message on Twitter. As it turns out, this lady I met at the airport was a manager for a major pharmaceutical company, and she’d managed to make the Skype call from California back to her husband in London, and it had been amazing. She’d tweeted out, “And talking of *early* adoption (ahem) 1st successful video #Skype w/ home from travels. Prompted by lovely @markcnichols who spurred me on.” Seeing that tweet was fantastically powerful and gratifying for me. Even though she was on the other side of the world from her husband, but she was doing exactly what our brand talks about – getting people together when they’re apart. In the space of a five minute conversation, I was able to help make her communications experience ultimately richer than it would have been if she’d had gone looking for her roaming charges on her mobile provider and made a mobile call through her carrier. It really brought the magic of Skype to life for me, and it embodies the reason why I enjoy being at Skype and the opportunity we have to connect with our customers and make their lives and experiences even better.

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