Skype’s Lesson in Awful Crisis PR


Skype’s outage last week did irreparable harm to the company–not just because of the outage but because of the way the company’s PR people handled it

First, there was the non-reaction.  Hours of silence, followed by a brief note on the company blog explaining that service might be out for 12-24 hours–with the latter accompanied by a boilerplate, “We apologise for the inconvenience.”  We apologise for the inconvenience!  That’s what you say when you make customers take a flight of stairs instead of the elevator–not when your entire service vaporizes.

Then, hours later, there was a follow-up note saying “Thanks for your support.  We’d like to thank everyone who has taken the time to send us their thoughts, concerns and good wishes. It means the world to those working so hard to resolve this thing.”  So we’re supposed to believe that millions of outraged users sent “support”?  Give us a break.  Want your customers to think well of you?  Don’t treat them like morons.

Then there was the next note, in which the company apologized for its silence–but not the service crash itself…

The purpose of this update, apparently, was to dispel some “concerns.”  Specifically, “The Skype system has not crashed or been victim of a cyber attack. We love our customers too much to let that happen.”  Oh, thank goodness.  As if we cared about what caused the crash.  And we can assume from this wording, presumably, that Skype loves us enough to protect us from cyber-attackers but doesn’t love us enough to protect us from its own incompetence.  (And can we dispense with the word “love,” please?  You don’t “love” us.  You’re just terrified that we might up and quit the service.  Which, after this ghastly display, we might).   

Then, after several other updates–in which Skype 1) never apologized, 2) reassured us again that the service wasn’t down from some attack, and 3) bemoaned the long hours they were having to put in to fix their own mistakes–came, at last, the happy announcement that service had been restored.   How did the company handle that one?

“Take a deep breath.  Skype is back to normal. On Monday, we’ll provide a more detailed explanation of what happened. Until then, we’d like to apologise and thank you.

Finally, at last, an apology.  But only after the incomprehensibly breezy “take a deep breath.”  Monday’s explanation was better–a clinical explanation of what happened, including one “regrettably”–but even this was weakened by excuse-making.

So here’s a suggestion for Skype: Want to keep your customers happy? Fix the network…and get some new PR people.