We’d never would have thought having too many users could be a bad thing.

Gosh, were we wrong!

Over the past few weeks, our users have been experiencing a steady decline in performance, usability, and unfortunately even stints of downtime in Buffer Reply.

From any product, this is a horrible experience. For support software though, this is entirely unacceptable — after all, how are you supposed to help and wow your customers when the product you’re using is temperamental at best?

Today, we’d love to be super transparent about these problems and lay out our plan to improve things going forward. In fact, some changes have already happened.

The unknown cost of a free plan

When we acquired Respondly late last year, it was a product with less than 100 paying customers, and a few users on a trial, and no free plan. The performance was steady, Tweets went out quick, and there was little not to love.

Shortly after the acquisition we re-branded, added a few small new features and re-launched the product as you know it today.

But with one small change. We added a free plan.

It turns out everyone loves free and in no time we were adding nearly 100 new accounts a day, or over 20,000 accounts to date.

As you can imagine, our existing servers (and the new ones we added) were quickly running at full capacity. We could barely keep up and it wasn’t long before this growth started causing downtime, slowness, and an overall not-so-great experience for our free and paid users alike.

Small team. Narrow focus

As a team of four (well, now five, but we’ll get to that soon), when there’s an issue it’s all hands on deck. All our engineering power, all our support resources; everything is focused in on putting out that fire.

It puts everything else on hold, including work on bug fixes, new features and enhancements.

Josh Pigford, Founder of Baremetrics, blogged about this exact scenario late last year:

[…] to make matters worse, we were so focused on putting out server fires, we found ourselves making zero progress on the product itself.

Gosh, we wish we’d have read that earlier!

Instead of working on an all new conversation view, shipping a nearly completed filtering system, and some improvements in product speed, we’ve been forced to drop everything to focus in on making sure things just worked.

I bet you can guess where this is going.

Sunsetting our Free plan

While we’ve tried to scale to ensure a great experience for both our free and paid customers, we’ve realized our small team simply doesn’t have the resources to continue doing this, let alone do it well.

This sadly means we’ll be removing our Free Plan so we can better focus on delivering an incredible and reliable experience our paying customers deserve.

So, what this means for new and current users?

  • New Users: Starting soon we’ll be extending our free trial to 14 days. At the end of your trial, you’ll have the option to upgrade to a paid plan and keep using Buffer Reply to wow your customers and community alike.

  • Existing Free Plan Users: Soon we’ll be prompting you to choose a paid plan if you’d like to continue using the product. Keep an eye out for email from us with more details including a discount on a paid plan as our way of saying thanks.

Welcoming a new backend engineer to the team

In addition to sunsetting our Free Plan, we’re stoked to be sharing that Humber, who was previously on Buffer’s Mobile Engineering Team, will be joining the team. Woohoo!

Humber’s sole focus will be on improving reliability and performance, supercharging the experience for our incredible customers.

We’re hoping that by removing our free plan and expanding our engineering team we’ll be more proactive and less reactive (putting out fires) improving stability and shipping product enhancements faster than ever.

A giant thank you

Buffer Reply wouldn’t be possible without all of your ideas, questions and feedback thus far! We can’t say how grateful we are for each and every one of our users for helping us improve as well as for sticking with us through our performance troubles!

We’re always around and all ears! If you ever spot anything acting up on you (at all), we’d love to hear it! We’re always here @GetRespond on Twitter, and via email 💁