We've recently set up a new business, and moved into a new office. This involves buying lots of stuff – servers, computers, software, cables. And also phones. We have fifteen people who need phone numbers, and many of them need to make a load of calls around the world.
So, we thought, why set up a clunky old PABX when we could use Skype? The technology is great – they have business subscriptions*, cheap calling plans, multi-way calling, smartphone apps so we can call from anywhere – all we have to do is pay them a chunk of money.
No. Instead, I have now spent six days attempting to persuade Skype to take about £500 per month from my pocket. They have refused. Just in case anyone reading this is thinking of trying something similar, here's how it all works, and why you might want to really, really consider an alternative service.
In preparation for launch we added a bunch of accounts, set up a business control panel, and made initial payments of a few hundred quid from a credit card. After moving into the office, we attempted to add another £300, but the options are all blocked – the only payment Skype will accept was £30. And then with that paid, for £5. Which won't even cover a single user.
There are a few other ways to get credit into an account. We signed up with Moneybookers, which should allow higher payments, and registered and verified a credit card there. Once the card was verified (three days), we attempted another payment of £300 – Moneybookers claim this was rejected by Amex, while Amex tell us they were never aware of the attempt. Two more attempts made later managed only to persuade Moneybookers to block the card. Excellent.
Next up – cold hard cash. Skype accepts UKash for up to £600, and by strange coincidence I had £200 in cash – £201.25 will buy £175 of Skype credit, which isn't really enough but better than nothing. On getting to a UKash shop, though, we found out that the service has a maximum of £200 – so the most you could pay Skype via this method is £100. So in order to use this method we'd have to ferry three to five cash payments of £100 around Soho every month. Fun.
Of course, we asked Skype what to do. Several times. On every occasion we were told that there was nothing we could do other than 'make smaller payments' – presumably of £5 a time, in the hope that a computer will choose to lift our limits. This for a £6,000/yr account.
So, there you go. Thinking of a business Skype account? Maybe consider setting fire to your hair instead. It'll be quicker, less painful, and will result in exactly the same level of telecommunications service.
* Few other things to watch out for: many plans are available to personal customers only, and 'Europe' calling packages don't really correspond to any sane definition of Europe.