Time challenges

I’m having an issue right now which is definitely a good problem to have.

I have a PPC campaign going which is bringing me a steady stream of prospects. This prospect stream has forced me to hammer my sales process into shape, and so not only has my number of prospects drastically increased but my engagement has increased dramatically as well.

The challenge is that now it seems like I’m constantly getting a call from a prospect to my 800 number, or a live chat from a prospect, or an email from a prospect, or a support call, or a support chat, or a support email. I’m not yet full-time on my product, not even close. I do freelance programming work all day and all this communication is becoming disruptive to my regular work. It’s simultaneously awesome and annoying.

All this activity is also shining a spotlight on the shortcomings of my product. I often find myself agreeing to add a particular small feature or fix a bug to appease a prospect. At this stage of my business with fewer than 15 customers, I feel inclined to move heaven and earth if necessary to get each customer in the door. So this is taking time as well.

I could pay somebody else to do support, although I don’t know if I can justify that expense with only a few hundred bucks in revenue so far. I really don’t think I can pay somebody else for programming.

Basically my whole challenge is that I’m experiencing a wave of sales activity, but the revenue lags behind the sales. Not an outstandingly unique situation I guess.

Has anyone else gone through a period like this? What did you do? How did it end up?

Hi Jason,

It’s a great problem to have customers pounding down your door! Looks like it’s time to start setting some boundaries, though. :smile:

You don’t need to respond instantly to every customer’s request (meaning you don’t have to drop everything, fix it and notify them!), particularly if it’s something you see as a nice-to-have feature in the future. I would respond to critical bugs and the like, but now is the time to start saying “We plan to support that, but we’re not there today”. No is an acceptable answer and we’re very sensitive to avoiding that for newly launched businesses because we’re afraid of alienating customers. My experience, FWIW, is that saying no to some things is more than fine. Customers don’t expect to get everything, all the time. At least the reasonable ones. Blatant bugs is another story, but for feature requests and the like, that’s probably fine. You can tell them you’re a small team of 1 and working hard on it. I’ve found they understand in most cases.

You can help with support by posting hours on your contact form so people don’t expect immediate responses. And you have a lot of ways to reach you–maybe cutting those down a bit? Phone + email is probably more than enough. Tell your customers that you’ll get back within 24 or 48 hours (so they know what to expect!) Live chat seems like a luxury you can’t afford at the moment (time wise). Maybe consider adding that back in the future but drop it today.

Also, some timeboxing may help you here as well–I find that handling support in the morning and late afternoon and then turning off the email makes me WAY more productive than trying to keep up with it all day. You’ll just feel pulled in all directions. Your customers don’t need a 1 hour response time right now. 4-8 hours will still probably make them quite happy.

Paid support help probably isn’t the right way to go here at this stage. Maybe when you’re pulling more revenue, but I’d say that your direct contact will help shape the product more quickly.


I think you should look at outsourcing.

What is your time worth? $X / hour?

Can you get someone answering routine calls for less than that?

Could you find a programmer to help you with your website for less than $X? What if you go overseas?

I’m having the exact same ‘problem’. It is tiring but I hope it will get better soon as we get to the 4 figure MRR levels instead of 3 figures.

Thanks for the feedback, guys,

I think some combination of delegation + lowering service level will be a good idea.

I’m meeting with my assistant tomorrow to hand off some sales and support work to her.

I can definitely stop saying yes so much to features, or at least lower the expectation on speed of implementation.

What I’m not sure about is finding someone to help with programming. My revenue is less than $500/mo and I’m spending $500/mo on advertising, so I’m already in the red. I’ll probably just let programming be a bottleneck for now. After all, no one has yet said “I’m canceling because you’re not giving me features fast enough.” Like @pjc said, maybe things will get a little better once I get to four figures MRR…which I expect to be pretty soon!

I had basically exactly the same problem. Jumping on every little feature request someone makes is still hard to stop, especially when you don’t have a lot of clients and feel making a few changes will get them over the line. What I did is basically

  • Stop building every little feature. This is mostly a mental challenge.
  • Encourage them to email rather than phone
  • Have resellers/partners/assistant who can take the phone calls. Even if your wife is not working you can get her to take some phone calls even if they are only to say you will call them back.

Here’s a sensible way to handle the never ending stream of feature requests:

When someone requests a feature, you should have a standard response, using whatever auto-type product you use:

“Thank you for your suggestion. We’ll consider it for a future update.”

Then put it into your issue tracking software at low priority. If someone subsequently requests the same feature, bump up the priority.

Don’t ever be fooled by the claim that “I’d buy your product if only it did this.” Although the potential customer might mean it, when it is time to actually put up the money, they are likely to change their mind. You are not a custom software house. I suspect most of us get fooled by this sooner or later.


Just finished a meeting with my assistant. As of September 1st she’ll be taking over customer support duties for me. Yay!

@SteveMcLeod You’re totally right, and the sad thing is that none of that is news to me. I’ve just lacked the discipline not to say yes when I know I should simply say “copy that”.

On the other hand, if the client is eager to have that feature and the feature they requested is on your list, I would ask them if they want to pay beforehand for 6 months (or whatever is appropriate) subscription, then we will prioritize and make that feature within e.g. a month.

What I do a lot is telling (paying) customers I will write a custom fix for them for a feature they want that we don’t have yet. Custom fix is often just a few lines of code compared to database migrations and UI for implementing the feature for everybody. It also impresses customers more to get this custom fix than me rushing the feature for everybody. It’s also easy to ask for an app review after this level of service.

After a few of my customers ask for the same custom fix I then take the time to write the real feature. That’s then another opportunity to get back to those customers who had the custom fixes to tell them they can now change their mind on that fix by going to the updated settings page.

It depends on a product. We still (after 12 years) do not offer phone support for customers. I’ve tried it myself in the past, and found it extremely time consuming and not productive. You should consider dropping phone support, or at least make it a paid option. Same goes for other options where the communication is instant. If you’re the only one doing business, doing instant support is not the best way to spend your time…

For feature requests, I’d just add them to the bug tracker - when I have a development plan, I won’t put a new feature request in the way. It goes to the queue (it also gives some time to validate the feature: some of the requests are not worth implementing).

We had this same advice recently from a mentor. Outside of trial period phone support should be a paid upsell. I find they get better and quicker response from email anyway.


1 Like

Same here. I don’t mind answering emails on holiday, but I’m not going to ring customers. And it is disruptive to drop everything when a call comes in. Also it tends to be fairly unproductive as you can’t see what is on their screen or easily direct them to help pages.

I have a sales phone number, but I mostly let that go to voicemail and ring/email them back at my convenience.

[quote=“Andy, post:13, topic:3423”]
I have a sales phone number, but I mostly let that go to voicemail and ring/email them back at my convenience.
[/quote]Interesting approach. How often do they ask why no live person answers their calls? I think I should consider adding “phone support” like yours as well, as some customers feel more comfortable knowing that there’s a phone number available.

[quote=“Dmitry, post:14, topic:3423”]
Interesting approach. How often do they ask why no live person answers their calls? [/quote]
They don’t really. They either leave a message or don’t. I only put the number on the purchase page and I probably get 2 or 3 calls a week on average.

That is part of the motivation. I haven’t A/B tested how much of a difference it makes to the conversion rate though.

This is similar to me. We have never really had anyone ask why no “live” person is answering. We use Twilio for this which as the benefit that we can get a phone number cheaply in different countries, so you can have easily have a US and European office :slight_smile: