Skype’s non-service model

Ross is telling us about Vonage service problems he has been facing, and we’ve all been there: it sucks when it happens.

I spent two hours on my cell phone talking to Vonage support. Escalated
from one guy that couldn’t speak any language from what I could tell,
to another who said they weren’t allowed to help with the problem, to
another who ran me ragged with power cycling. The basic issue is their
records think I have two ATA boxes. Fourth tier is management and they
still don’t know how to fix it. They promised to ship a new ATA box by
Friday, who knows if it will show up Tuesday. They don’t do truck
rolls. The saga continues.

Why will Skype destroy Vonage?  The service model.

Whilst I am very sympathetic to the Vonage angst, and being a Vonage customer myself, I have had similar problems, I don’t agree with the reference to Skype’s service model.

Why ? Because IMHO there is none, or at best, I’d call it self service. When it works, it is really awesome and I am delighted to use it. As I am about to spend the bulk of July in Europe, I am actually loading up on SkypeOut credits from here and wondering as to whether I should take a SkypeIn phone number. And I am doing it from the USA, just to make sure that I will be able to use my credit cards.

But when Skype does not work, if you have the slightest problem with your credit card payment, SkypeIn number, voicemail or you want to know why you are being disconnected every 30 seconds when making a call to London, tough luck. My idea of service is not to log a complaint in a support forum.

I use and appreciate Skype very much to communicate with family, friends and colleagues who I know will accept the lack of reliability of the service. For other professional contacts (and a fax line), I am using Vonage. They aren’t great at helping out either, but at least you have a phone number to call and complain.

The question is how much would Skype need to charge to offer a minimum level of service, and wipe out Vonage. Because at $200 to $400  of customer acquisition cost, I can’t say that Vonage sounds that sustainable long term.

Any contrary views out there ?

  • Zoli Erdos

    Jeff, if you will call back to the US a lot, you may want to dowload Softphone from Vonage, then you can just use your US Vonage number anywhere you find broadband. A bluetooth hadset paired to your laptop and softphone are a perfect combo.
    Btw, although I am a faithful and happy Vonage customer from the early days (3 years or so?), in your case Lingo might be a better deal, which includes France .. etc in their $20 unlimited package.

  • Dennis Howlett

    What amazes me about companies like Vonage is they’re offering what amounts to an integrated service yet they display all the characteristics of a badly designed pantomime horse. If you don’t build integration into your organization from the get go, don’t be surprised when customers are ticked off.

  • Zoli Erdos

    You’re right, it’s ridiculous that you need a separate number with softphone.. frankly, the separate number is even more frustrating than the extra $ ..
    I only have one reference for Lingo, a family has been using it for almost a year and are quite happy. Including Western Europe in your $20 a month package is quite a deal … now if I could find a provider that included Hungary in their package.. :-)