It’s pretty obvious to say this, but as your WordPress plugin business grows, the more time you will likely need to spend on customer support. Customer support inevitably bites away into your time to work on other things. And it never stops (even when you’re on holidays).
A great way to tackle this is to have a routine with set times devoted to activities that are important to your business. But you should also look at how you can refine and streamline your customer support process to in effect “buy back” time. This includes encouraging your users to answer their own support questions (e.g. improved documentation and search functions) and minimizing the number of human interactions necessary in order to resolve a customer support query (e.g. adding extra fields to your support form).
When you’re starting out small, you can probably manage fine without a sophisticated support system in place. However if you feel customer support could easily “fall through the cracks” or there’s multiple people on your team, then it is wise to invest in a support system such as Zendesk or Help Scout.
Custom support may be a challenge, but it is also an excellent tool to find out what your customers really want. I don’t have a recipe for success but I know one for failure, and that’s trying to please everyone. Whenever a new feature is requested, take some time to consider whether it fits in strategically. Try to avoid implementing feature requests that are specific to a single person’s needs. A poorly thought out decision can inadvertently incur technical debt and add complexity which increases customer support in the long term.
As your plugin codebase grows in size, the risk of breaking something increases as well. Unfortunately a lot of WordPress plugins are not setup with automated unit tests to begin with. However if you’re able to gradually add more automated unit tests over time, you can dramatically improve your development efficiency and time to market. Having automated unit tests also instills more confidence in code quality and helps to facilitate change through regression testing.
It’s important to develop a strategic roadmap of features for your WordPress plugin. This helps to prioritize work and focus on the tasks that are important. Trello is an excellent project management tool widely used within the WordPress community for roadmaps and tracking tasks.
Losing motivation often leads to procrastination and wasting time. The 4 Hour Work Week suggests people will invent unnecessary work which is actually unimportant. It also explains that if we’re able to limit our distractions and focus on a particular task, we will become be more efficient in what we do. Time is money. If we can improve our time management skills and focus on what’s really important, then you will find you have more time. Another way to find more time is to turn non-productive time into productive time (note spending time with your family is also considered productive).
Customer support will always be a burden which demands your time. The trick is to provide tools so that users can answer their own questions, prioritize important tasks, develop a routine to ensure parts of your business do not get neglected and to improve efficiency.