Customer Service Glossary - First Response Time

What is First Response Time?

Replying quickly to customers is essential for businesses who want to remain competitive by increasing customer satisfaction.
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In a Nutshell

First Response Time (FRT) is the amount of time that elapses between when a customer first submits a ticket and your customer service agent sends a response. First Response Time does not include automated responses or messages from chatbots, or tickets that come in outside of business hours. 

Table of Contents

In the world of customer service, speed matters. When customers have a problem, they don’t want to wait around for ages until your support team gets back to them. They want a solution, they want it now, and they want to move on with their day. Customer expectations are higher than ever and it’s up to your business to meet them. 

90% of customers rate an “immediate” response as essential when they have a customer service question. “Immediate” is defined as ten minutes or less. 

If you keep customers waiting, they may just decide that your product or service isn’t worth sticking around for. Time is valuable, and quickly responding to customers is essential if you want to achieve true customer satisfaction and loyalty. Especially when you’re dealing with angry customers who want to complain, a long wait time may only serve to increase their fury. 

Not only do customers want a virtually immediate response, they also want a helpful response. You need to take both these factors into consideration when you are thinking about First Response Time for your customers. 

What is First Response Time?

First Response Time (FRT) is the amount of time that elapses between when a customer first submits a ticket and your customer service agent sends a response. First Response Time does not include automated responses or messages from chatbots, or tickets that come in outside of business hours. 

First Response Time is measured in minutes, hours and days. The lower your FRT, the happier customers will be with your service. 

See for yourself

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

First Response Time calculator

It’s easy to calculate your average First Response Time. All you do is add up all your FRTs in a particular time frame (such as a week) and divide it by the total number of resolved tickets in that period of time.

An example would be 100 minutes divided by 10 tickets resulting in a 10 minute FRT. Of course, that’s just an example and you’ll likely want to track your FRT over time to see whether your customer service team is improving. 

You can even calculate First Response Time for your individual agents to check how they are performing. If an agent has a particularly low FRT, you can find out how they are so fast at replying to tickets and share learnings across your team. 

Benchmarks for customer service response times

  • Email – 12 hours or less
  • Live chat – 1 hour or less
  • Social media – 2 hours or less
  • Phone – 3 minutes or less

How to get a faster response time

Hire more agents

The easiest and quickest way to achieve a faster First Response Time is to hire more agents who are trained to answer your customer’s questions. When you have a team waiting in the wings to respond to customers, you can tackle more tickets and get your customers the help they need. 

Of course, you don’t want a big team of agents sitting around twiddling their thumbs. This is inefficient, and wastes money. You can use tools like Keeping to keep track of your FRT and identify times of day and the week when agents are struggling to respond to tickets. You can use this as a basis for making more agents available during these busy times. 

It’s all about striking a balance between having the right number of agents to answer tickets and making sure they are kept busy. 

Improve the agent experience

Happier agents result in happier customers. When your agents find it easy to do their jobs, they will be able to help customers more quickly because they won’t be wrestling with difficult systems that waste valuable time. 

When agents are more satisfied in their jobs, they are less likely to leave and require you to hire more agents. When agents aren’t working at full productivity because they are in training, this pushes up your First Response Time. Retaining experienced, highly-trained agents is essential for improving FRT. 

Retaining your agents means listening to their feedback on how well things are working and trying to improve processes where possible. 

Deflect more tickets with a knowledge base

If you want to lower your First Response Time, it’s important to reduce the number of tickets that are being submitted to your customer support team. The best way to do this is by investing in a self-service knowledge base that customers can use to answer their most common questions. 

A knowledge base is a valuable resource your customers can use which deflects tickets from your agents. Agents are spending less time answering the same questions over and over again, and your customers are satisfied with finding easy answers. 

Your self-service knowledge base will only be successful if it is based on the real questions customers have about your products or services. 

Adopt the quickest channels

Some support channels lend themselves more effectively to faster communication than others. For example, if your business hasn’t already adopted live chat, now is the time to think about it. The advantage of live chat is your agents can help more than one customer at once, and it is a very immediate way of communicating with customers. 

When you give customers the option to contact you on the channel of their choice, this improves the customer experience overall. Another option you could take is employing a self-service chatbot to interact with your customers in place of an agent. Chatbots are able to help your customers instantly and refer your customers to agents if they don’t have the answer. 

Customers will be drawn to channels that are easy to use and connect them with your agents directly. 

Train your agents better

Agents who have better training are more adept at helping your customers. They’ll be able to solve tickets faster, meaning that they can get round to responding to the next ticket in a more timely manner. When you train your agents in problem-solving and issue resolution, the whole process of customer service is streamlined. A more productive team results in a lower First Response Time. 

When you train your agents to help customers better they are more effective in their roles and can speed through more tickets. 

Help agents to prioritize 

When you expect too much of your agents, they are likely to become overwhelmed with the amount of work they have to do. This is the fastest way to ensure that the tickets continue to pile up. If you help your agents to prioritize their workload, they can make sure to get back to customer tickets in a reasonable time. 

One way of helping your agents to prioritize is by assigning them to one particular channel at a time. If one agent is focused on email, they can dedicate their efforts to responding to email tickets and ensuring customers are satisfied. 

Another way to help your agents prioritize is to make sure they know you want to lower First Response Time. 

Automate your workflows

Tools like Keeping can help you automate common workflows in your help desk which help your agents save time and respond to tickets faster. Common manual tasks like assigning tickets to agents and labeling tickets can be automated so that your agents need to spend less of the working day completing these tasks. 

When agents know what tickets are assigned to them, it’s a simple process of working through the queue and replying to customer requests as quickly as possible. Everybody knows what they are supposed to be working on instead of having to wait around for managers to assign tickets. 

Automations are a valuable way to enhance processes and make sure your tickets are getting the attention they need. 

Improve communication channels for employees

It’s very common that agents will have to collaborate on customer tickets before they can find an effective resolution. Help desk software that includes communication features will speed up their workflow and ensure that First Response Time is kept under control. 

For example, Keeping offers the ability to attach internal notes to customer emails which communicate to other team members what work needs to be done. You can also tag team members to ensure that they know the note is meant for them. 

When customer service reps can communicate within the help desk tool, this reduces the need to switch between platforms and speeds up issue resolution. 

Invest in internal Knowledge Management

When customer service reps share knowledge with one another, this vastly enhances their ability to respond to customers quickly. Common fixes and resolutions should be documented so agents can consult the knowledge base if they don’t know how to respond to a customer. This drastically reduces the amount of time spent waiting for responses from other team members and means agents can get back to customers instantly. 

Documenting your agents’ knowledge is also useful in case an experienced agent leaves your team. 

See for yourself

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

Wrapping up

While First Response Time is important, it’s essential that you don’t sacrifice quality and helpfulness in pursuit of speed. If agents are under too much pressure to reply to customers quickly, this can lead to hasty and ineffective responses that don’t really solve the customer’s problem or get to the root of the issue. 

A low First Response Time is essential for retaining existing customers and ensuring they are satisfied with your service. When you get back to customers quickly, your business looks organized and they are assured that your business cares about them. Customer satisfaction is enhanced and profits soar.  

Catherine Heath
Catherine Heath
Catherine is a content writer and community builder for creative and ethical companies. She is often writing case studies, help documentation, and articles about customer support. Her writing has helped businesses to attract curious audiences and transform them into loyal advocates. You can find more of her work at https://awaywithwords.co.