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Summary:

It has been an interesting 30 hours for Skype, its community and its engineers. The outage that caused anxiety amongst millions who depend on Skype for communications exposed the fragility of our digital lives. And in this moment of crisis, eBay’s (EBAY) senior management was AWOL. […]

It has been an interesting 30 hours for Skype, its community and its engineers. The outage that caused anxiety amongst millions who depend on Skype for communications exposed the fragility of our digital lives.

And in this moment of crisis, eBay’s (EBAY) senior management was AWOL. Ebay and Skype management are happy to talk to the press when delivering the good news, but in this crisis situation, the silence was deafening.

Ebay CEO Meg Whitman, Skype co-founder Niklas Zennstrom, and other Skype management made no statement, gave no assurances to their community, leaving their PR agency and the blog to keep people informed. Of course, this led to even more speculation, rumors and innuendoes.

Sure their words wouldn’t have brought the service online faster, but it would have made it clear to Skypers that eBay’s management cared. Skype President Henry Gomez has background in corporate communications, so he should know a thing or two about crisis management communications.

Ebay bought Skype for $2.6 billion indicating that it was making a bet on the future of distributed communications. Unfortunately, the senior management didn’t learn how to communicate!

  1. Great point. Communication is key, and in this case, as you said, the silence was deafening. I’m a fairly new Skype user, and had come to depend heavily on it, as my bosses are in Europe, and I’m in the States. I’m glad it’s back online.

    This is a good lesson for all of us in the business world. Crisis management, and crisis communication, are not tested on a daily basis. But when that test comes, there’s a short window of opportunity to connect to and communicate honestly with your customers.

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  2. I bet they had no idea how large the outage was. Obviously it shows, with no communication to users. All they can say is take a deep breath? How about a $0.10 cent refund to all Skype users, lol

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  3. Hmmm… could eBay be undergoing a braindrain?

    For one, Maynard Webb, the former COO of eBay, is now CEO LiveOps, a “virtual call center”.

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  4. Sebastian Moser Sunday, August 19, 2007

    I think that was on purpose. I’m sure Skype and eBay top management did something behind the scenes and talked about communication matters but decided to leave the users think this was a Skype-issue, not an eBay-issue.

    Because what’s even more threatening is, if people thought “What happened, when eBay was suddenly offline two days?”.

    Keep people thinking Skype was its own company in bad times, but take the positive image in good times.

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  5. I agree with you Om…they have a lot to learn even from Mattel crisis management (see my post http://www.vincos.it/2007/08/18/mattel-ci-rimette-la-faccia-luso-del-video-nelle-crisi-pr/)!

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  6. [...] is back up again, but slowly the impact of the outage is becoming clear. People are talking about mismanagement at EBay’s side. Others are talking about the fragility of our digital lives and how one major [...]

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  7. How do we know that eBay didn’t CAUSE the outage with some kind of integration project?

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  8. You are too harsh. At least in my opinion, I am glad eBay management did not get involved. In fact, they get involved relatively little in the day to day at Skype so why should this be any different. This was just a growing pain for Skype and they managed it wonderfully. If you look at their blog, the overwhelming response has been on of support and thanks from customers. Why mess with such a great response to a blackout?

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  9. Spot on, Om! I’m not sure, but I think that companies that are listed on the stock exchange are obliged to follow some rules when it comes to sensitive information (is that why we will only get an official statement on monday?).

    But it would have been so much better for Skype’s reputation if some members of the management would at least have let us know that they care!

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  10. I don’t know how hard it is to say that their servers didn’t work and apologize, probably Ebay wes busy trying to bring their stock back and care less about the customers.

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