Skype Your Way to a Better Bottom Line
Since its release in 2003, Skype — the world’s first practical VoIP service with video — has enabled geographically distant colleagues to converse as close as face-to-face as possible without being in the same place at the same time. Businesses big and small have adopted and adapted the service to lower costs and increase revenues in interesting ways.
Here’s how various entrepreneurs and organizations are using Skype to their advantage, plus five features that may boost your bottom line.
Skype on the Job
Jason McCoy, a voice-over artist who operates McCoy Productions, uses Skype as a way to let his remote clients virtually sit in on his recording sessions for them.
“Producers and directors listen in as I record in my studio and provide me with feedback and direction,” McCoy says. “Skype is patched into my studio so that only my end of the conversation is recorded, but I can hear the client through my headphones the whole time.” Involving clients in the recording process reduces the time McCoy needs to deliver the perfect recording, he says.
Lori Feldman, who runs the consulting firm Database Diva, keeps a Skype chat window open with her four co-workers throughout the course of the business day, even though they are all located in the same room.
“Skype allows us to coach each other privately without clients knowing that we’re doing so,” Feldman explains. “For example, as a salesperson, I may be talking to a client who has a technical question. Instead of putting the client on hold to track down our programmer, I just Skype-chat him. He responds via chat, and I don’t disrupt the flow of my sales call. Skype helps us collaborate more effectively to close more sales.”
Speech and language pathologist Ita Olsen, who owns OlsenSpeech, coaches her clients via Skype. Contrary to her initial beliefs, she says, video chat is more effective than in-person coaching.
“Speech pathologists have traditionally needed to implement cues, things to help people to use their new speaking skills in all areas of their lives into their training. Traditionally, a client works on their speech in a faux training room and then goes out in the real world and has nothing to remind him to use his new speech skills,” Olsen explains.
“When a person is working with me in their own office or in their kitchen, everything around them becomes a cue, a reminder to use their skills. When I Skype with a client, they can see themselves,” she says. “This helps them work on facial expressions, body language, and even how to use their mouth to speak. That makes the webcam training more efficient.”
Emergency Medical Care in New York created a new division to provide telemedicine services to area nursing homes. “The doctor sees the patient through Skype, and the nurse on the other end takes the patient’s vital signs and manages the webcam to help the doctor evaluate the patient. We have even seen patients through the Skype app on our tablets,” says Dr. Steve Okhravi, the company's CEO and founder. “This is a very promising venture for us.”
5 Lucrative Features
Use these built-in features of Skype to save — and make — money.
- Screen-sharing — Sharing your screen with a customer or colleague is free on Skype. Windows PC users can right-click during a video call on Share Your Screen. (Mac users simply click Share Screen.) Group screen sharing is available with Skype’s Premium service, $10/month. You can view presentations, do consultations, or collaborate on projects or upcoming assignments.
- Call recording — Skype doesn’t natively support call recording, but various third-party providers do. Record calls to save time and money on activities such as employee orientations, product introductions, or business meetings (for clients or staff members who were unable to attend in real time).
- Call forwarding — You can forward Skype calls to a second Skype contact for free. To send calls to your mobile phone, you will need to purchase Skype credits (2.3 cents per minute in the U.S.) or a one-, three-, or 12-month subscription. It doesn’t matter if your computer is on, the forwarding is handled on the back end by Skype.
- Remote monitoring — Use this feature to keep tabs on your office after hours while you’re out to make sure lights haven't been left on or there hasn't been a break-in. Here’s how: Set up two Skype accounts and, while logged in to your office account, set it to auto-answer any incoming calls, thus activating your webcam.
- Customer service — You can add a Skype button to your website to let customers and prospects contact you with a click of the mouse. This makes getting in touch with you quick and simple. You can talk them through service issues, address concerns about a purchase, or close the sale.
Dave Clarke is a business writer for Intuit and is passionate about solving small business problems.