Customer acquisition and retention

This is a rant and a question. DigitalOcean came recommended as a great place for competitively priced, solid VPS servers for development and production (business use, not student). After 2 days of research I eagerly signed up to get started, but ran into what I am now discovering is a very common problem - Account locked upon registration. It’s been over 24 hours with only automated responses, and in todays world that is pretty bad customer service, especially for new customers.

As a business professional, I was surprised at the frequency and pervasiveness of this problem. Questions posted on this community go back 6+ years reporting the same issue. I did not expect I would have to comb though the Community discussion questions to learn about this, I guess I have learned a new lesson about exercising a more thorough review before signing up for a service like DigitalOcean.

I am further frustrated at the lack of ability to reconcile in a timely matter. Any reasonable person would expect that after 6 years this process would be updated, or the automatic mechanisms would be adjusted to prevent turning off potential new customers, or having better ways to verify inadvertent locked accounts. Especially for new accounts / new customers!

I get it. Because the service is priced so low, demand is extremely high. So my individual poor experience I guess is not enough to balance the large number of successful new registrations, so apparently there is no need, desire, or “cost justification” to address the issue of erroneous account locks. To me this says a lot about DigitalOcean’s priorities.

My question then is to the community at large. For those who have been successfully and joyfully using DigitalOcean’s services, is it cause for concern that it appears the company does not deem new customer acquisition an important enough issue to take seriously or address quickly? To me this seems to be the behavior of a company who is “riding the wave”, cashing in as much as possible before the inevitable implode (aggressive imagery, I know, but I am frustrated!).

What does this behavior say about other support areas? Or other aspects of DigitalOcean’s business? What happens to your data (or your business) if you suddenly and erroneously get flagged? If this is the care and nurturing DigitalOcean gives for new customers, what can you expect as an existing customer? Or is the caring only reserved for top spenders? See, at this point DigitalOcean has no idea what type of potential customer I am. I could be sitting on a multi-million dollar contract and this is my evaluation of their service. I can tell you based on the registration process, I am not impressed. Sure, one random person’s bad experience signing up does not effect you. And if I was the only one experiencing this problem, I would agree. But I have seen dozens of similar postings about account locked issues. And its not just here, check Reddit or just Google this issue. Again, as a new customer, what other problems might I expect to encounter with DigitalOcean’s services?

There are of course simple and immediate ways to set customer expectations appropriately, without having to do a major process change. A note on the registration page that states: “As a security precaution, some new account registrations may go through a more stringent review process to ensure no fraudulent accounts are created. Know this process could take up to 48 hours before account activation. We appreciate your patience as we strive to provide you the best service possible”. These simple sentences would be LIGHT YEARS better than the current expectation, which is boldly stated on the DigitalOcean home page: “Deploy in seconds”, right on the account sign up form.

A long rant for sure, but hoping to catch the attention of leaders at DigitalOcean, and to get current customers thinking about the nature of the services they are paying for. I would guess 99% of users who may read this post will ignore it, or laugh at my misfortunes (“what a cry-baby!”), or even rant back and tell me, in essence, to “suck it up or move on…” But for that 1% I say this: you are paying for this service. Is it reasonable to expect good customer service from your provider? Are you getting the expected value for what you are paying for? If you are happy with your service, carry on and cheers! Glad your expectations are being met. For me, I will take my business elsewhere.


As a follow-up to my rant, I did finally hear back from DigitalOcean and was able to get my account unlocked. Interestingly, it did take almost exactly 48 hours to receive a human response (not an auto-generated response), which is what I originally wrote as an estimated turnaround time! Go figure!

It appears the reason for the lockout was the payment method I used did not pass the auto verification process. This is curious as I did check my financial institution transaction history, and there IS a set of DigitalOcean verification transactions posted. So I find it interesting that it still failed verification. Something wrong in the auto verification process?

After I wrote the original post, I went to a competitor and successfully signed up in about 5 minutes, using the same payment method I used for DigitalOcean. So take that for what it’s worth.

At the end of the day this is about managing expectations appropriately. As alluded to previously, I expect the onboarding process should be the smoothest and have the least amount of friction possible as it sets the stage for everything that follows. It is unfortunate, but this experience has made me apprehensive about trusting DigitalOcean services going forward. Of course I will give it a go, and I do hope this ends up being a minor hiccup. But for a company that just received $50M in Series C funding, I expect some improvements. After all, if you really expect to compete with AWS, this issue really needs to be addressed and resolved.


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@GetGunthr appreciate the feedback and please know that we are very focused on trying to make this process better. Through improvements to our risk model and potentially new self-verification methods in the future.