What I Learned About Domains From a Bad GoDaddy Experience and What ANY Business Can Learn From How It Was Handled

You should know that I rarely choose to use the privilege of your attention to bark at companies that rub me the wrong way, but when Jacqueline told me about her GoDaddy problem, I knew that I had to lay it all out in a post and get loud about it. While the problem is technically resolved, there’s a lot to learn from this and I have a lot to share with you.

First, I’ll Recap With New Understanding

So here’s what happened (corrected) from my perspective:

  • Jacq purchased a new domain name from GoDaddy.com, a domain “registrar” that listed the price of this domain as $99.99 (There’s more to this later)
  • GoDaddy sent Jacq a confirmation that the transaction went through
  • Behind the scenes, the domain registry for .health (the domain Jacq bought) KICKED OUT THE TRANSACTION saying roughly that they won’t accept the price (Again, more later)
  • GoDaddy sent Jacq an automated email a day later saying “Hey, we took that domain transaction out of your account” (horrendously worded and a big opportunity), thus REMOVING THE DOMAIN FROM JACQ’S account.
  • Jacq called customer service and was 1.) given bad information, 2.) refused a supervisor call or any further follow-up
  • I wrote a grumpy blog post and shared it to Twitter and Facebook.
  • Friends of mine reminded me who I actually know at GoDaddy (including great folks like Christopher Carfi and Heather Dopson). They started shaking some cages.
  • I get offered a call from GoDaddy
  • Johnny from the CEO’s office calls (because hey, angry blogger influencer type).
  • I get a lot of interesting information (covered below for YOU)
  • GoDaddy refunds my purchase and essentially gifts me/Jacq the domain (which wasn’t my goal whatsoever, but hey thanks, GoDaddy).
  • Just for fun automation facts, GoDaddy sends Jacq an email this morning saying hey, you abandoned your cart *for woman.health* so here’s a coupon if you complete the transaction. (Um.)

So that’s what happened.

Second, Some Facts About Domain Purchases

I learned a bunch from Johnny at the CEO’s office. (Jacq points out that GoDaddy should’ve offered to call HER not me, and she’s not wrong, but points for the phone call. GoDaddy has still not apologized to Jacq for this beyond a quick tweet. Apologies go a long way in these situations.) More on this in the next section.

GoDaddy is a Registrar. They’re like the real estate agent for website addresses. When you purchase a domain from GoDaddy (or any registrar), they basically take your money, then issue a command to the Registry (the company that holds the actual domain real estate), get a confirmation, and then everyone agrees that you now own that domain.

.health is a Registry. dotHEALTH LLC is the company that can set the prices and make available the various permutations of that domain space. So if I want to buy donkey.health, I can go to my Registrar (GoDaddy), see the price listed there, and give GoDaddy money. GoDaddy then sends a note to .health and says, “Hey we just bought donkey.health for $69.99 so take that name out of circulation. We’ll use it.”

.health sets the prices and then GoDaddy is allowed a bit of a markup. This is business. That’s always what happens. Some domains are normal. Others are premium. The Registry sets which domain names carry a higher price in a database and then the Registrar just bumps up that price a bit to cover their costs. (Be really clear here: the Registrar has to make some money on this transaction or they’d go out of business.)

The handshakes are, in simplest form, like this:

  1. Customer visits registrar.
  2. Customer checks availability of domain name. (Registrar checks with Registry)
  3. Registrar probably issues a very brief temporary “hold” on that domain so that no one else takes it during this transaction. (I didn’t confirm this.)
  4. Customer sees listed price that Registrar displays based on data from Registry+markup
  5. Customer clicks purchase and confirms financial details.
  6. Registrar confirms the purchase on screen.
  7. Registrar emails confirmation to customer.
  8. Registrar messages Registry and says, “Give us that domain. Here’s the price.”
  9. Registry normally says “Hey sure. Here’s the domain. Thanks.” (***)
  10. Transaction is complete.

What happened to Jacq (and/or what could happen to you) is this:

  • Registrar displays price. Jacq buys at that price.
  • Registrar tells Registry “Hey, give us that domain at that price.”
  • (***)Registry tells Registrar, “Wait. That’s not the price in our system. Reject this.”
  • Registrar then cancels the order and refunds Jacq (spitting the domain back into the available domain pools).
  • Registrar emails Jacq saying they canceled her order (with a really poorly worded email).
  • Upset Jacq.
  • Jacq calls customer service and gets bad/wrong information and no further recourse. Is told basically that instead of $99.99, the domain now costs $649, which makes Registrar look greedy, bad, wrong, and deceptive.
  • Angry Jacq. Angry Chris. Grumpy blog post.

Now, I want to walk through what needs to change in this, and some really good opportunities for Registrars such as GoDaddy and others. (This could’ve likely happened with any Registrar.)

Finally, How to Improve the Domain Purchasing Process

I have to say this up front: if this whole thing operated on a blockchain, this wouldn’t have happened this way. But that’s for the future. Let’s talk about now.

  1. GoDaddy must improve the process of price verification before putting available domains up on their site. If the price says $99.99, then that’s the price. No matter who’s at fault here (and it seems like it might be .health from what I was told), the price facing the customer must be honored by the vendor taking that money.
  2. The availability/purchase experience is clearly done in some kind of batch format and not real time. With something as important as a domain purchase, there either must be a real time option available OR there has to be a lot more/better communication flow explaining this experience. (Jacq and I have been buying domains for years – she has hundreds of them – and we never knew about this Registrar-Registry handshake and opportunity for rejection until now.)
  3. This can’t have been the first time someone went through this. A customer service refresh training has to happen.
  4. Customer service should never deny a supervisor or a supervisor callback. Ever. Resolution is far more cost effective than leaving a customer in a bad state. Dozens and dozens of people shared their frustrating stories of no resolution with GoDaddy upon reading my article. The whole reason I posted this was to flag that “regular” people who aren’t loudmouth bloggers/influencers wouldn’t have been able to resolve this easily. Nothing in Jacq’s experience shows otherwise.
  5. GoDaddy’s BIG opportunity here is to live up to their own positioning and advertising. Jacq is a woman-owned small business who trusted GoDaddy to secure a domain for her project at the price they listed on their site. They failed to do that. They sent the worst error handling automated email I’ve seen to date. They failed to fix this via customer service. This ended up requiring a lot of escalation for something that could’ve been handled a lot cleaner and better and with a satisfactory resolution for the woman-owned small business person trusting GoDaddy with over a hundred of her other domains. And so far, beyond a tweet, they haven’t contacted Jacq directly to apologize. They handled their PR issue (me).
  6. Validate the prices upon inventory loading. This is 100% the PROBLEM part. GoDaddy(Registrar) lists one price in their system and .health(Registry) has a conflicting price. To be utterly honest, if the price started at $650, Jacq would’ve bought it without flinching. She and I both own a few premium domains. But you can’t say $99. Oh wait. $650. It doesn’t work that way.
  7. Explain the process in the purchase flow. 1. check availability. 2. purchase. 3. confirm order. 4. confirm transaction. If this can’t be handled in real time, then make the process flow better align with the communication flow. <– This right here is the bigger part of the frustration. An error occurred. But it could’ve been better managed, even with automation, and not require this level of human intervention and frustration.

Technology isn’t the story here. It’s improving the buyer experience. The farmer says the apples are ten cents. The grocer says the apples cost a five cents. The customer gives the grocer five cents and the grocer hands that to the farmer who says, “No! I said ten cents. Remember?” The grocer sheepishly eats the five cents this time, fixes the signs, and makes a process to ensure that everyone knows the price next time. How bout them apples?

A Final Note on Influence

For years, the way I’ve approached working with the companies I’ve had the pleasure to serve has centered around a really simple concept: “I just want every company to treat my mom better.”

I say it like this because at the heart of everything I’ve ever taught is that our job is to improve the buyer experience and serve our customers.

When I choose to go loud like this and complain at a company, it’s for one purpose: someone without as much of a spotlight and voice as I have didn’t find a straightforward resolution with a company they trusted to serve them and they’re frustrated.

I’m grateful that Heather Dopson and Christopher Carfi and others got the CEO’s office on the line and resolved this. But more than anything else in the world, I want the next person who chooses to trust GoDaddy with their business to know that THEY will be treated better than Chris Brogan whether or not they can tweet to 365,000 people.

“We treat you better than we’d treat Chris Brogan.”

That’s the goal.

And one last detail that Jacq pointed out: while it was me with the bullhorn and who went loud and who raised the ruckus, the CEO’s office didn’t reach out to Jacq. They didn’t try to talk to the customer they wronged. Just the guy who was bitching loudest. I’m glad I got the call, but Jacq would’ve preferred to have been treated like the primary focus of this. (Just a note for future such opportunities.)

I know this post was long. I had a lot to explain. I’m sorry about eating up your time like this but I hope it helped. If you need to reach me, I’m always at chris@chrisbrogan.com

Print Friendly

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*