I’ve always held up Skype as a revolutionary tool, not for the voice over Internet thingy, although they definitely were the first to make me sound less like a frog when I talked to folk online. No, the revolutionary bit for me was that their software was simple enough for even the most technology averse of my friends, readers and relatives to install without too many pleas for help. Good stuff. And no small feat. But now they seem to be almost deliberately blowing it by making those who do request help jump through so many hoops I wouldn’t blame them for throwing out the program in disgust.
Try it: the Skype help system does everything wrong. First off, there’s no useful list of the likely problems users may encounter, bar a list of five “popular knowledgebase topics” like “what is relayed transfer”. There is no way to reach a live person — which there should be, at least for paying customers — and searching the knowledgebase is an exercise in frustration. My particular problem — trying to find out why I can no longer drag and drop text from an application into Skype — threw up weird answers that did not appear to be even tangentially related although there were about 20 of them. There’s no link on the bottom of the list along the lines of “can’t find what you’re looking for? Submit a ticket”; instead you need to look down the side, to the penultimate entry, for a link to doing that.
You then are taken to a page where you have to fill out a form, though first you’re steered away again:
Did you try searching our Knowledgebase browsing our user guides? If you didn’t find an answer then try pinpointing your problem below and send it to our Customer Support.
If you remain determined, you’re required to select from a list of topics, and then subtopics, before entering a subject for your query. You can’t skip this: the fields below will be grayed out until you do. I must confess I didn’t get this for a while and was getting a tad more frustrated than I should have been. The fields below are pretty straightforward, though I suspect a few people will be stumped by the field ‘Skype version’ without any help as to what that means or where to find the information. (It’s not a mandatory field, but I’m guessing the first supportresponse customers receive who don’t fill it out will be “What version of Skype are you using?”)
That’s not the end of the process. You’ll probably then get a page saying:
Your support request was not submitted as there are some possible answers in our knowledgebase, they are listed below. If your answer is not listed then please click the button at the bottom of this page.
How weird is that? I think most people are just going to assume their request has been sent and not read this bit. In which case they’re going to be waiting a long, long time. (Almost as long as someone successfully submitting a request, it turns out.)
What annoys me here is that the listed answers aren’t any more related to my request than the ones I tried to find earlier are. They included questions like “What types of links are available for the Skype Affiliate Program” and “What is a publisher?” I suspect these answers have very little to do with what you actually enter in your request. To confirm this I submitted another query:
I’m increasingly concerned that Skype is making me fat. Could that be the case, or have I got the settings wrong? Should I use a smaller headset?
To which I got another “not submitted” message, along with some irrelevant responses (mind you, I would have been deeply impressed if I had received something, particularly if it had been along the lines of “Sennheiser do a very a good line in svelte headsets helping even the heaviest set user appear streamlined”), none of which even mentioned headsets (Can I see list of persons whom I have authorized? etc).
To get past all this dross you need to scroll to the bottom and click on a button. Finally the support request has gone. How many steps was that? Too many. Way too many.
But that’s not the end of it. An email arrives notifying you of your request, and informing you that “Skype Paid Service and Billing-related queries will be sent usually within the next 72 hours”, whatever that means. Bug reports, comments and suggestions won’t be answered. And be warned; you may not receive an answer at all:
Not all Technical Problems will be answered if it is a known problem or if an answer is available in our Knowledgebase or you can also check our Troubleshooters for answers to common problems: http://support.skype.com/index.php?_a=troubleshooter>
Aside from the overlong sentence with the unparsable final clause, it sounds a tad Catch 22; if we know it’s a problem, we may not tell you. If it’s in the Knowledgebase we may not either. So good luck with that.
Sure, they’ve made VoIP easy. But as their client gets more complex, and they add more features, and they try to lure more paid users beyond the early adopters, they need to prepare for people who want assistance. Skype, for some reason, really doesn’t want to know.