Tag Archives: call center

Skype’s ‘fraud’ problem

Skype is a great technology and compelling product. However Skype has not set up the appropriate protections within their network to make it a safe place to do business (as viewed by multiple major financial institutions). It must address this if it wants to generate a large, recurring revenue stream.

Skype IS a great online conferencing service

200px-Skype_logo2.svg_1Skype is a great online conferencing service. I use it daily to conduct online video conference calls with friends and colleagues all over the world. As long as they have a Skype account and a video camera and Skype software installed, I can see them, speak with them, send them files, and text chat with them—all free of charge. It is far easier to use than services other online teleconferencing services.

Skype COULD BE a great telephone conferencing service as well

Skype provides the ability to do call and conference with telephones as well (landline and mobile). This is where Skype has positioned itself to generate more than simple online advertising revenue. To make a Skype-to-Telephone call, I need to buy and use Skype Credits. Why would I want to do this (instead of using my mobile phone number)? For one major reason: Skype is VoIP-based. As such, I can make international calls much more cost-effectively—and in a more user-friendly fashion—than setting up a separate internationally dialing plan (or separate VoIP account). This prospect becomes even more use friendly as Skype be used from my Smart Phone (as long as I am connected to any Wi-Fi network).

Unfortunately, this theory does not execute well in practice…

It turns out Skype does not have a good reputation with major banks

I travel a lot and have many friends in Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. This week, I bought some Skype Credits so I could call them at a low rate and wish them Happy New Year. My plans did not work out well…

nocreditMy first credit card (a major UK-based bank that I use when I travel outside the US) immediately denied the charge. My second credit card (a major US-based bank) also denied the charge. My third credit card (a regional US-based bank) correctly processed the charge and allowed me to purchase the credit. Within minutes, my test call to the France worked (at less than $0.03 per minute). I was a little miffed that it took three card attempts (I pay my credit card bills online monthly in full), but was relatively pleased with the service I purchased. Then I went to the supermarket 2.5 miles from my house…

At the supermarket, all of my cards were turned off due to a Fraud Alert (a rather embarrassing situation). When I called each company, every one said the exact same thing:

“You purchased something on a web site called ‘Skype-dot-com’;
this triggered a fraud alert and caused us to block your account.”

I have been using ecommerce sites since 1997; I have never had this happen with any other web site.

This is a major problem

I immediately turned off auto-replenishment on my Skype account. I cannot risk having them repeatedly shut off my credit card due to a fraud alert. It would take a lot to get me to turn this back on. This is a major problem that limits Skype’s ability to grow recurring revenue.

How Skype can address this

The new owners of Skype should invest in creating a broad human- and technology-based security infrastructure:

1. Enable member policing supported by a Community Action Team

Enable Skype Members to report suspicious or threatening behavior (e.g., all those “Contact List” requests from “SexyBettyXYZ”) to a Community Action Team empowered to review and terminate accounts in response. In addition, Skype should automatically suspend accounts that receive a threshold number of reports within a time window.

2. Create a member security call center

Create a Call Center where Members can call and report problems, ask questions and check to ensure their account is secure. This immediately puts Skype on the level of any other telco. The beautiful thing is that Skype can do this with lower IT costs than any other business.

3. More aggressively monitor and block suspicious IP addresses

Skype probably already has many automated safeguards to protect against password phishing and intrusion detection. It should take this a step further and block suspicious IP addresses from their network. Yes, this is an endless “Chess Game.” However, it will make Skype a less appealing target to many hackers and phishers.

4. Create security threat reporting relationships with “The Authorities”

Create business reporting and forensic information exchange relationships with authorities like the FBI and INTERPOL. Make it easy to escalate suspicious behavior (and electronic evidence) to these authorities to go after hackers, phishers and online-based abusers. This not only makes Skype safer; it also provides Skype access to a broader set of resources to resolve security issues.

5. Create fraud reporting and processing operations in conjunction with financial services institutions

Create business processes, virtual call centers, reporting frameworks, credit and debit processing operations and forensic information exchange frameworks to make it easy for financial services institutions to verify transactions, report fraud and take care of victims of fraud. Without this investment, many people will simply not be able to use Skype for recurring paid transactions.

None of these approaches are new. They were all pioneered in the early days of the Business-to-Consumer Internet where they were critical to establishing safe, online business environments.

Yes, these investments are expensive. However, they will pay off in the long run by enabling direct consumers, small businesses and large enterprises to use Skype as an all-in-one telephone and video conferencing provider.

Social Networks for Business Tip #10: Connect All The Dots

I have found ten common tips that apply irrespective of what your enterprise does, your market is or what technology platform you are using. This is my last tip in this series of 10 posts; each with a particular theme. These intended to be read in the order presented, as they will build upon each other…

Tip10

Don’t Leave Your Community Detached

red_net_fAs I stated on the first post in this series, you business community is one of many channels within which you will interact with your customers, employees, partners and other stakeholders. If you do not recognize this fact and simply create a standalone community, you will only create a place where your stakeholders socialize. While this is nice, it will not create a large return on your investment (more often than not, it will not provide any return).

If you want to maximize the return on investment in your business community, you need to embed it into the your entire enterprise.

Start With Your Core

I am a big fan of modular architecture. This model advocates that you can achieve the better results, in a more flexible manner, by picking the best technology for each problem on hand instead of trying to find one perfect system that does everything.

I recommend starting with the following core of three modules to build a “best of breed” architecture ideally positioned to exploit value from your business community:

the_core

Module 1 is Your Business Community. Its purpose is to serve as channel to attract customer interest and drive engagement. It is essentially a virtual storefront to capture the ideas, preferences and experiences of your customers in a measurable, data-driven format.

Module 2 is Your Data Warehouse. The Data Warehouse extracts the wealth of interaction and engagement from your business community and merges it with all of your other business data (e.g., customer lists, sales, supply chain data, etc.) in a format ideal for business analysis. This enables you to detect patterns and make discoveries from your community that you can use to create value.

Module 3 is Your Primary Back Office Management System. Depending on you business this could be an enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), sales force automation (SFA), billing and merchandising (B&M) or even content management systems (CMS). This is where you automate your data warehouse discoveries in the format of rules for advertising, promotions, offers, sales, customer care, shipping, billing and credit.

Note: For more information, you can click here to listen to my online Webinar on Social CRM (link no longer active) for more information as to about why this modular architecture model is better than trying do everything from a single, all-in-one platform.

Then Build Out to the Rest of Your Enterprise

Now that you have your business community integrated into your core, you easily add on every other part of your enterprise to leverage even more value from the discoveries you are making by engaging with your community members. In many cases, the much of your enterprise is already integrated with your primary back office system and data warehouse, making this extension far less daunting than it initially appears.

Here is how it works:

whole_system

  1. You put a Fan Page up on Facebook and a User Name up on Twitter to attract customers
  2. Through these mainstream consumer networks, you redirect customers to your business community
  3. Customers can view what you have to offer here freely, maximizing the number of Spectators you have
  4. When Spectators want to add to the community, they can easily become Joiners (and log in) by re-using their Facebook or Twitter IDs. All of their actions as Critics and Creators of content are automatically attributed to these accounts (which already have established contact and profile information)
  5. All of this (Critic and Creator) interaction is pulled into your data warehouse and joined with the rest of your enterprise data
  6. Your Marketing and Business Analysts mine this data and find new opportunities to present better offers, package better products or simply explain what you do (and its benefit) in clearer terms
  7. They work with your Business System teams to publish these findings in the forms of rules and workflows in your ERP, CRM, SFA , B&M and CM systems
  8. These new rules and workflows automatically drive changes in your Static Web Site, Business Community, Direct Response Campaigns, Contact Centers and Sales force
  9. You can capture customer feedback through all of these channels and combined it in you data warehouse with results from the your ERP, CRM, SFA and B&M systems to measure the value you have created

This creates an entire system that facilitates continuous improvement, generating over time growing understanding of your customers, employees and partners and using this to create growing value and ROI.

Smart Enterprises Have Already Shown How This Creates Enormous Returns

Tying all this together is not some imaginary view of success. Many smart enterprises have already down this. Three are highlighted below:

Dell’s IdeaStorm

Dell tied a set of open communities to their every aspect of their operation. This has generating ideas for new products and product configurations, improved customer satisfaction and increased online sales.

dell_eco

Men’s Health

Rodale  has fully embedded their Belly Off Community into their online content and print magazine. This has boosted online advertising revenue, increased customer loyalty and boosted magazine sales.

mh_eco

American Express OPEN Forum

American Express has tied their new OPEN Forum community into core entire enterprise and advertising network (even including affiliate marketing programs such as their join Shine-A-Light campaign with NBC Universal). This has created a clear value proposition for their customers leading to everything from increased card transactions to added OPEN card applications.

amex_eco

You Can Do This Too

This entire blog series lays out the steps to do this. If you follow it, you too can create effective communities that drive business value.