VeriSign: We’re Better, Really We Are

VeriSign , the world’s largest registry and registrar
with control of .com, .net and .org (among others), has a game plan to fix
the mess that has become its reputation.

Dogged for its billing and
support mismanagement
, Champ Mitchell, VeriSign executive vice
president of mass markets, is overseeing the revamp of his beleaguered
division.

It’s a story customers with a vested interest in the company’s success have
heard before. But now, after first announcing an all-encompassing
restructuring plan, then getting downgraded
by the major investment houses, executives are eager to move forward with
improvement plans.

“We intend to walk our talk,” Mitchell said.

The past year has seen a marked difference from business as usual for the
registry/registrar, with technology and manning improvements to improve its
operations, he said.

“The key to any turnaround is the people and we’ve made tremendous strides
there,” Mitchell said. “We’ve pretty much changed out the leadership of
the mass markets division and cut our head count by about 30 percent. The
reason we did that was not because business is falling off, but because we
were badly overstaffed. It slows you down and makes you less efficient.”

That’s the story many are familiar with and associate with a company that’s
in large part responsible for the stability of the three most popular
domain extensions in the world. Long phone hold times, missed invoices and
charges of domain slamming have long been the norm.

Mitchell points to new technology, and a little help from an outsourcing
company, as the reason for an improved customer experience. He said that
in the past several months, several improvements have been made, whether
through technology or operational efficiencies:

  • Abandonment rate dropping from 30 percent to 3 percent.
  • Customer satisfaction scores have improved “dramatically.”
  • Wait time on the phone cut by more than 90 percent.
  • Number of outages cut in half.
  • Incidences (whether through “lost” domains or financial errors)
    decreased by 25 percent.

  • Completed phase two (of three) of an XML-based application program
    interface (API), new portal and new fault management tools for domain
    resellers.

  • Bulk renewal process to be implemented this month.

“We think that’s pretty exceptional performance,” Mitchell said. “What
we’ve heard from our partners is that we are ahead or at parity with our
competitors as far as their ease in switching.”

In answer to the falling number of domain names registered at VeriSign, the
mass markets VP points the finger at competing registrars. In the past,
VeriSign has leveled charges of “domain slamming” against
its competitors
, which tricks customers into switching to another
registrar.

It’s led to a lot of acrimony between the registrars and VeriSign, which
last year implemented a convoluted process which makes switching between
registrars, namely away from VeriSign.

Mitchell plans to take it a step further, with a mass mailing campaign
aimed at keeping its customers and even getting new ones.

“We’ve started a transfer program where, for the first time, we’ve gone out
and done to others what has been done to us,” he said. “For a long time we
just laid there and let everybody take our base away. Those days are over
and they will not return.”

The campaign has been met with mixed reviews
from competing registrars — some who say the “invoices” suggesting domain
name customers pay VeriSign to update expiring domains is fair game, while
others call the practice akin to mail fraud.

“Can you honestly blame VeriSign?” quipped one. “They’re not my favorite
company, but many smaller companies have been doing exactly this to them
for years.”

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