I am frustrated with preemptive actions taken by GoDaddy this week, effectively impounding my web site without adequate notification for at least two days. The web site has since been released, but I wanted to share my experience in case it helps others make better informed choices about domain name registration services ... and to release some of my frustration. I would be very interested in any recommendations for other reasonably priced services that offer better customer service.
My domain name, Interrelativity.com, is currently registered with GoDaddy.com, and was set to auto-renew on October 25. Unfortunately, my Visa credit card - which was the card on file at GoDaddy for auto-renewals - was hacked last week, and the old card number was cancelled on October 23. On October 26, I received the following email from GoDaddy, with the subject "Product Failed Billing Notification":
Dear Joe McCarthy,
Customer Number: ******
According to the terms of our agreement(s), we tried to bill your Visa card ending in the last two digits 89 in the amount of $41.96 for the item(s) below, but our billing attempt failed. This could be for a variety of reasons, including an invalid or expired credit card on file.
Product Name Next Billing Date Qty Price .COM Bulk Domain Name Renewal (1-5) (recurring) 10/30/2010 1 $11.62 INTERRELATIVITY.COM .NET Bulk Domain Name Renewal (1-5) (recurring) 10/30/2010 1 $15.17 INTERRELATIVITY.NET .ORG Bulk Domain Name Renewal (1-5) (recurring) 10/30/2010 1 $15.17 INTERRELATIVITY.ORG
If an item has already expired, it is noted above as "CANCELLED" and can no longer be renewed. PLEASE NOTE: Once an item has been cancelled, all related data – Web site files, emails, databases, etc. – is removed from our server and cannot be recovered.
If there is a date in the "Next Billing Date" column, we will hold your item(s) and attempt to bill again on the date shown, OR you can renew now and qualify for bonus savings.
[instructions / link for online renewal omitted]
Thanks as always for being a Go Daddy customer.
In reading this email, I didn't interpret "hold your item(s)" as "impound your item(s)". I interpreted it as "we will hold your item(s) - rather than try to resell your items". I figured that GoDaddy would simply try to bill the card again on October 30, by which time I hoped to have a new Visa card number that I could substitute for the old number in my account information.
I was surprised when I was contacted by someone today who told me that my web site appeared to be for sale:
Since I have not yet received my new Visa card, I immediately logged into my account to enter a different card number. I then called GoDaddy customer service to (a) determine what notification I missed or misinterpreted that should have informed me of the impending impoundment, and (b) find out how long it would take for the content on my web site to be released / reinstated.
During my phone call with the GoDaddy customer service representative, we reviewed two preceding email messages I had received (on September 25 and October 20), notifying me of the upcoming auto-renewal for the domain, and we reviewed the message I included above. The only signal of impending impoundment the representative could point me to was the use of "hold" I alluded to above, i.e., "hold" = "impound" rather than "hold" = " will not resell" ... and I don't know how accurate the "will not resell" interpretation was, either. The representative never offered an apology, repeatedly referring me to their "terms of service", but did try to offer some sympathy using the analogy of a wireless carrier suspending service for a mobile phone. I responded that the public nature of my web site having been "parked" (as shown in the screenshot above) seemed more like a bank posting a foreclosure sign out in front of my house. I'm glad the most recent email message from GoDaddy only thanked me for being "a customer", vs. the thanks I often receive from other companies for being "a valued customer", as I don't feel that my business is valued by GoDaddy.
Ironically, I do feel like a valued customer at Optify, a Seattle-based real-time marketing service. It was Jennifer, a customer service representative at Optify, who called me to let me know about the inaccessibility of my web site content (and/or availability of my domain name) - and more generally to see if I had any questions about Optify. I say this is ironic because I signed up for the free trial of Optify on Monday, shortly after reading an article about them in TechCrunch, but I was using my Interrelativity web site primarily to experiment with and learn more about the service, more out of curiosity than with any serious marketing intent. That said, the prompt and helpful followup by Jennifer has proven unexpectedly valuable, and exemplifies a strong customer orientation and valuation.
Fortunately, after getting off the phone with Jennifer and updating my credit card information at GoDaddy, the content of my web site was reinstated and available again within an hour or so. While I no longer use Interrelatvity.com for any direct commercial purposes - as I liked to say when I joined Nokia back in 2006, the business of Interrelativity failed, but the dream lives on - my Interrelativity homepage continues to serve as the central online hub for my professional activities, including links to my projects and papers as well as my accounts on a variety of social media services (such as Twitter, SlideShare and this blog). Given that I am currently in another career transition, exploring new professional opportunities [self-promotional link to my resume / CV (PDF)], the preemption of my web content for 2 days while I am sending links to my homepage to prospective employers may have cost me valuable "impressions".
And, as I noted above, I am also exploring a transition to a new domain name registration and hosting service, so I would welcome any recommendations from others who have enjoyed better customer service from other companies.