Customer Service Response Time

Customer Response Time: The Ultimate Guide

Everything you need to know to calculate (and improve) customer response time.
13 min read
13 min read

In a Nutshell

Customer service response time is simply the amount of time it takes for your customer support staff to respond to a customer's question. It is the most important metric when it comes to delivering great customer service.

Table of Contents

Your customer service response times will either make your business swim or sink.

If you’re not quick to address a customer’s query, your competitors will do that. With 71% consumers believing that their experience can be greatly improved by customer service agents who respond quickly—striving to improve your customer service response time is important for you.

Today we’re all set to help you improve your customer response time, so that you can provide an excellent customer service experience to your precious customers.

This article is the ultimate guide to customer service response time. From what it is to how to calculate it and tips to improve customer service response time, you’ll get everything! Let’s go.

What is Customer Response Time?

Customer service response time is simply the amount of time it takes for your customer support staff to respond to a customer’s question. It is the most important metric when it comes to delivering great customer service.

“Customer response service time is the amount of time it takes to respond to a customer. This doesn’t necessarily mean resolution of a problem; just the time taken to reply to a live chat or answer a phone call.” – Dominic Kent, Founder of UC Marketing.

If you received a customer support email, the time it will take for any one of your customer support staff to respond to this email will be the customer service response time. Since it is the time when a customer support representative first responds to your customers, it is also called first response time.

First response time (FRT) should only be measured during business hours. Typically, time spent outside of business hours does not count.

Why is First Response Time Important?

Even if you have the best product in the world, it will fail if your customer support experience is not good. And one of the most crucial metrics of a great customer support experience is first response time.

Of course, it’s not the only factor responsible for a good customer support experience, but it’s undoubtedly the main factor. Prompt response from your customer support team makes your customers feel valued and positively impacts your company’s reputation.

Even though there are many reasons why first response time is an essential metric for customer support success, here are the top indicators of its importance:

Fast Responses are the New Norm

90% of the customers rate “immediate” response to be an important factor when they seek customer support—says a Hubspot research. This research also points out that 60% of customers define “immediate” to be within 10 minutes or less 🤯.

The statistics clearly indicate that the modern customer is impatient, and fast responses are the new norm. Customers expect businesses to reply to their email queries within a day or less. What does this mean for your business? Measuring, monitoring, and reducing first response time is essential and you must do it.

See for yourself

Keeping is the fastest, simplest way to manage customer support right inside Gmail.

Faster Responses Prevents Lost Leads

Potential customers may have questions about your product, and not providing them quick and adequate customer support could lead to lost leads. If your company is able to provide fast responses, the potential customer will not have the opportunity to jump from your product to a competitor’s product—preventing loss of new sales leads.

To put this further into perspective, over 90% of customers who are unhappy with your customer service will just not return to your company. If your responses are prolonged, the consumer will have a bad experience with your customer service right away, and they won’t stick around long enough to become a customer.

Low FRT Brings Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty

If you have ever contacted Apple’s customer support, you’ll know how quick they are with their responses. You may also be aware of the brand loyalty that Apple’s customers have. An Apple consumer will almost always solely purchase Apple products in the future if they’ve bought one in the past.

How did Apple manage to build such brand loyalty? The answer is simple, they’ve just been very prompt about their customer service. When a brand is quick to respond and solve a customer’s problems, the customer feels satisfied.

When this pattern is repeated overtime, the customer starts trusting the brand and the brand becomes the first choice for them.

Slow Response Time Could Actually Increase your Work

Let’s say your customer support team was unable to respond to a customer on Twitter. Eventually, the customer also sends you emails and also starts a live chat. Notice a pattern? A slow response time on one platform has led to more workload for your customer support team. In order to ensure that the workload stays in control, having a fast response time is important.

High First Response Times Lead to Poor Company Image

Poor response times might damage your brand’s reputation. Any firm must strive to promote brand loyalty and repeat business, which can be made more challenging by a high first response time.

When looked at closely, you’ll observe how it is a series of events that will ultimately lead to a poor company image. Here’s an example:

A customer raises a query and cannot get an immediate first response. The wait gets frustrating, and the customer feels unsatisfied with your company’s customer support. Ultimately, they talk about the unsatisfactory experience with other people (who may also be your potential customers), and the bad word of mouth brings your company image down. 

Conclusion: A quick first response time is as essential to a company as oxygen to us human beings. Without it, achieving success for your brand will be difficult. This makes observing, measuring and improving first response time an important activity for any business.

How to Calculate Average First Response Time

Calculating the average first response time for your company’s customer service team is not rocket science. The two main things you need from your customer service department for response time calculation are:

  • During a particular period of time, the sum of first response times.
  • The total number of responses sent in that period of time.

In order to get an accurate idea of first response rates, you may want to calculate this rate for the previous week or month. Once this data has been accumulated, use the following formula to calculate your first response time.

First Response Time Formula

To make it easier for you to understand, here’s a quick example of average response time calculation:

Your company is receiving 4 support emails each day.

The first email is responded to in 1 hour, the second in 2 hours, the third in 4 hours and the fourth in 5 hours. In total, your team takes 12 hours to respond to 4 emails.

Your average response time in this case comes out to be 12 hours divided by 4 tickets, that is 3 hours.

Now when you’re calculating the average response time next time, it should not exceed 3 hours. If it does, you may need to review your customer support methods!

Determining the first response time may not be rocket science, but it is repetitive and time-consuming, which is why Keeping does it for you.

See for yourself

Keeping is the fastest, simplest way to manage customer support right inside Gmail.

Your first response times, along with other crucial statistics like the total number of tickets, the number of open tickets, response times by agent (and more!), will be automatically presented to you if you use the Keeping chrome extension for customer care.

Keeping Analytics

Average Customer Service Response Times

When it comes to customer response time standards it is important to note that the average customer response time differs based on the type of customer support channel.

For emails, as a general rule of thumb, the average response time should be between 12 to 24 hours.

Whereas for live chat, it should not be more than 3-5 minutes. Customers have much higher expectations for live chat, so make sure you staff that channel if you offer it!

Tips to Improve your Customer Service Response Time

In a research by Bain and Company, it was found that 80% of companies in the US believe that their customer service is superior. However, only 8% of customers said that they were delivered excellent customer service.

The gap in perception between businesses and customers about customer service delivery indicates that companies need to do better because the customers are clearly not satisfied.

What better way to begin than to start with improving your first response time? Here are some tips that will help improve your business’s customer service response time:

Use Technology to your Advantage

With several technology advancements occurring daily, you have access to various solutions to speed up customer service response times. Using customer service software is one way to do it. Here are some great examples of technology that your business can benefit from:

Chatbots

Chatbots are helpful features to provide instant responses to your customers. They can be a great addition to your live chat and will be available 24/7 for your customers. Since delivering good customer service includes having a quick first response time, chatbots will be quite helpful in achieving that.

If the chatbot accurately answers the questions, that’s another added advantage. The query can be moved out of line, and the wait time for the other outstanding queries can also be reduced—improving the average response time.

Email Auto Responding

Email-auto responses are the simplest yet the most valuable features for improving your customer response time. They act as a great medium to let your customers know that the query has been received and is being handled.

“Email auto-responding is effective at letting the customer know we’re on it while also providing a reasonable expectation as to when a human being will follow up with them to address the issue. Auto responding gives the business some lead time to prioritize getting back to customers with more urgent issues than others.” – Oliver Zak, Mad Rabbit.

Email-auto responses can be a great way to let your customers know about:

  • The amount of time it may take to resolve the problem
  • The time when a human agent may be available.
  • Any supporting documents/files that they need to submit.

In your automated responses, you may also include links to a searchable knowledge base so that customers can look for answers to their questions there. Customers may appreciate having access to information and receiving an acknowledgment email, and you build credibility by promptly addressing customer requests.

Use Templates and Canned Responses

If you are a business that gets repetitive questions with predefined answers, templates, and canned responses will significantly help improve your response times. Your customer support staff does not have to repeatedly answer the same questions; instead, they can focus on other queries, improving the overall response time.

If you still want to include that human touch, provide these templates to your customer support representatives. Your support team could have access to several email templates or how-to manuals covering the most typical themes of inquiry, saving them the time and effort of creating a new email for each customer support request.

Use Multichannel Support Strategy

If your business has only one or two support channels and multiple queries daily, there will be too much pressure on customer support. Even potential clients who could have contacted you through another route will use the few available.

Having your customer support channels spread out in different places will help reduce the pressure on a single channel and improve the response time. While you could assign human agents to the main channels, other channels could use automated responses, like live chats and chatbots.

For example, if your website gets the most customer queries, ensure more of your customer staff is deployed there. Whereas, if your social media handles do not get as many queries, you could have fewer people handle it or automate responses that redirect to the website.

Create FAQs to Let People Help Themselves

What better way to improve response times than to let the customers find their own answers? You can get your customer support staff to identify questions that have been asked repeatedly and create an FAQ section including these questions. When similar questions arise, redirect your customers to the FAQ section.

However, ensure that the answers a customer is looking for are present in the FAQ section. If you keep redirecting customers to the FAQs even when the answers to their queries are not present there, it will lead to a bad customer experience.

Remember, the motive of creating an FAQ section is not to replace customer support altogether; it is to help make things easier for both your customer support team and the customer itself.

Organize the Emails you Get

Every customer inquiry is different. Based on their urgency, you can sort your emails. Using tags, labels, and filters for different customer support emails can improve customer response times multifold.

Any method can be used to organize emails, from a simple way of sorting emails to a complex one. For example, resolving their query may be highly important if a customer has repeatedly been facing the same problem. Accordingly, you can put an “Urgent” tag on this email.

Use a Response Time Policy

A response time policy is nothing but establishing a benchmark for response time. An internal document describing the suggested maximum reply time your organization should adhere to is called a response time policy.

A regular response time policy for emails assures that your customers and leads won’t ever have to wait several hours or even days for a response.

Once such a policy is in place, you can measure the performance of your customer support staff in alignment with the set benchmark. As a result, you can provide accurate feedback to customer support staff to improve customer response times.

Read More: What are Help Desk SLAs?

To make sure this policy is followed, you can implement the use of trackers and reminders. Trackers will track the reply times; reminders will remind your employees if it’s been too long since a particular reply was sent.

“Track average reply time in a daily or weekly spreadsheet, or schedule automatic notifications after a set amount of time has passed without communication. Employees may not be aware of how much time has passed between messages, and this data encourages representatives to keep the lines of communication open, even if only to give a quick update and let the customer know they are still on the case. A tracker can improve performance awareness and motivate employees to improve the numbers”. – Carly Hill, VirtualHolidayParty.com

Make Sure Your Team Has Enough Product Knowledge

If a customer support representative has no clue about a query that a customer has raised, they might spend hours trying to figure it out. This is why it’s essential for you to ensure that you equip your customer support team with enough product knowledge.

Untutored customer service representatives run the risk of offering irrelevant solutions due to a lack of sufficient product expertise, which could negatively impact the customer experience.

In order to make sure that your customer support team knows your product, you can do the following:

  • Regularly conduct training. Hold regular training sessions on the most recent aspects of your goods or services, and spread a consistent brand message throughout all teams and departments.
  • Give business information. Distribute all pertinent corporate information to your customer service crew so they know the frequent problems and how to resolve them.

See for yourself

Keeping is the fastest, simplest way to manage customer support right inside Gmail.

Use Shared Inboxes

Shared inboxes are the best option when you want multiple people to work on the same mailbox. Teams are able to use collaborative inboxes and this ensures that each ticket is being handled by someone in your customer support team—without any chaos.

Without shared inboxes, your custom support staff would waste too much time trying to coordinate amongst themselves. This time could instead be spent on actually responding to customers when you are using a shared inbox.

And what better way to start your shared inbox journey than to start with Keeping? We at Keeping provide you with an extensive collaborative inbox feature that will help track, analyze and improve your first response time—all while keeping it simple and easy to use.

Sanjana Sankhyan
Sanjana Sankhyan
Sanjana Sankhyan is a freelance writer and specializes in delivering data-driven blog posts for B2B SaaS brands. She helps businesses attract more audience and sales with her writing. If not writing, you’ll find her helping other freelancers be better at what they do. Find her on LinkedIn or Twitter.