Skype’s premium strategy: no strategy

by Adrian Zumbrunnen / May 28, 2014

Are you a Skype user? Probably. Lots of people rely on Skype today to hold meetings or call their family and friends. I use it mainly for sharing my desktop and have video chat with multiple people at the same time. About a month ago, Skype announced that they now allow video chat with multiple participants without the need of a premium subscription. How amazing I thought. Finally Skype does what Google Hangouts can do since the early days.

But when I read the announcement it made me think: “Wait a second, if these features are free now, why do I still need a premium account?”. Apparently I wasn’t alone there. A quick discussion with friends and colleagues clearly showed that others are asking themselves the same question. So, I tried to cancel my premium subscription. Apparently when it comes to Skype’s premium strategy, there is no strategy at all.

Navigating through Skype’s dashboard interface

I tried to find the right page to cancel my subscription. I selected “subscriptions” and got the following:

Subscriptions

Skype subscriptions list

Obviously, I chose Skype Premium which took me here:

Skype-Premium

Skype Premium payment details

Hmm… That’s odd. Where is that cancel button? Nowhere! So I started googling “cancel skype premium”, only to find that others also have extremely frustrating experiences:

google

Apparently, there really are other people having the same issues as I do. Interesting. People even make videos about how to cancel a subscription. I clicked on the official Skype documentation and found this:

Cancelling Skype FAQ

Skype FAQ

Skype is undergoing a refresh. Cool, except that nobody gives a shit. I left that page under the logical, but ultimately naive assumption that this company is probably going to cancel my subscription automatically.

So I went on living my life… Until the following mail showed up in my inbox:

Skype Order

Skype: order placed!

…And so the whole mess started all over again, leading directly to this post. It goes without saying that clicking on “cancel subscription” didn’t help either. I got an error with a weird ticket number on my screen, but my subscription is still active.

Conclusion

At a UX Lausanne in Switzerland, Giles Colborne spoke about patterns that trigger delight in user experience. The pattern he mentioned struck a chord with me:

1. Anxiety
Certain steps in user flows, create anxiety. What happens if this goes wrong? What will be the next step after this one? Will it get more complicated?

2. Effortless
When people face moments of anxiety, design or people have to help them overcome that anxiety. The right help at the right time in the right place, is crucial to good UX.

3. Delight
What results through such a well supported user flow is what we users generally experience as delight.

It is known from marketing and reputation management that people generally build stronger connections with brands when something goes wrong but the brand eventually manages to help people, than if everything goes smooth from the beginning. When game developer EA Sports released Tiger Woods ‘09, a guy made a video of a glitch allowing him to walk on water. He then put it on YouTube where the video would get substantial traction.

Here is EA’s reply:

While this is an old example, it shows how to react to people’s critics. Maybe I’m just terribly wrong. Maybe I oversaw an obvious solution. But if I learned one thing in UX design, then it’s that if something happens to one person, it probably happened to many others as well.

So yes Skype, we’re waiting for your answer.

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