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Tips & Insights

Email Response Times: How to Measure and Why It Matters

Now that we're always connected, email response times are more important than ever. The faster, the better. Quick replies set a standard in people's minds of how much you care about them, and how serious you are.

Picture this scenario: an email sits in your inbox. It's a little complicated, and you put it off for a while. Time flies and before you know it, it's been days, and the longer it sits there, the less you want to reply to that email. The person who sent it sits waiting, slowly bubbling up with anger, until they're tired from waiting and have to follow up. This springs you into action, but their respect for you has dropped to 0.

When we send an email, most of us want an answer yesterday. But do we act the same when looking at our own inboxes?

What's an appropriate email response time?

"Appropriate" depends on lots of factors including:

  • How urgent the email is for the sender.
  • What the sender expects from previous emails with you.
  • In business settings, the promises you've made to customers (SLA's for example).
  • The individual idea of an appropriate response time (which depends by demographic).

When looking at surveys and studies we find that overall, they cover a wide range and every user has different expectations. Surveys conducted by Microsoft and Klaus found that 50% of email senders expect a reply within 24 hours, while a more recent one by HubSpot shows that 90% of customers expect an "immediate" response, that being 10 minutes or less.

As you can see, it's hard to define a "best practice" when it comes to email response times. One thing is clear: the quicker you are, the more likely you are to meet everyone's expectations.

You need a standard email response time policy

A standard email response time policy ensures that your customers, leads, and team members are never left waiting hours or days for a reply to an email.

An email response time policy is an internal document setting out the recommended maximum reply time your company should follow. It does not have to be one-size-fits-all for a whole organization. You can set different timeframes for different parts of your email communication, depending on who you are talking to:

  • Internal emails tend to be less urgent than when dealing with the outside world, and so they can wait a little longer unless they are explicitly urgent and important — 24 hours is a good starting point.
  • Customer Support tends to deal with many angry customers, and winning them over by solving their issue is often time-sensitive, meaning a quicker response time can make a huge difference — 10 hours should provide a good level of service, depending on the size of your team and the proper prioritization of more sensitive issues.
  • Sales has been shown to be the most time-sensitive aspect of email communication, as leads are usually not willing to wait around for very long and have lots of other options from competitors. You may think 30 minutes is a decent time to aim for to make sure you don't miss any valuable opportunities, but a study from Lead Response Management showed that responding within 5 minutes increased by 21 times the options to enter the sales process!

How to set a Standard Response Time Policy

You should consider the type of business you're in—are you a B2B company dealing with a few large enterprise clients? Or are you a B2C company working with a huge number of customers at a much lower price?

Make sure you set realistic goals for your team to aim for. If they're impossible for anyone on your team to meet, it's going to discourage everyone. If no one can reach the goal, the responsibility lies with the person who set them.

Why do email response times matter for a business?

The good thing about email response times is that every company has full control of it, while having a clear and measurable impact on their business. Reducing them is a brilliant opportunity for quick teams to engage leads before their competition, make customers happier and reduce their churn.

Let's take a look at some of the benefits of improving your company's email response times.

1. Closing more sales

A research conducted by shows that 35–50% of sales go to the company who answers first. When a customer is looking for a solution and contacts you, most of the times they'll also be contacting your competitors. Responding quickly to their questions will leave a professional impression, putting you in the best place to convert them to customers.

A study published by the Lead Response Management shows that sales people don't have long to contact a lead before it gets "cold". This research found that "the odds of the lead entering the sales process are 21 times greater when contacted within 5 minutes versus 30 minutes after the lead was submitted”. Imagine how much impact a 21x increase in qualification could have on the revenue of your company!

2. Better customer satisfaction

When customers are angry or frustrated, the last thing they want is to be ignored. A 2018 report by Forrester found that a staggering 66% of adults believe that having their time valued by a company was the best thing they can do to provide a good online experience. Understanding that a customer doesn't have all day and giving them a solution as quickly as possible (without sacrificing quality) is a great way to show them you value their time.

If you provide great customer service by answering fast, your customers are going to stick around for longer. A study published by the University of Pennsylvania shows that even when your response isn’t necessarily what the customer wants to hear, just answering in a quick and professional way manages to retain 30% of those customers.

3. Knowing nothing slips through the cracks

Have you ever made the mistake of missing an important client's email? If your employees are having trouble answering emails on time, chances are they're also sitting on a cluttered inbox.An effective email response time policy ensures every received email will be taken care of quickly, and avoids cluttered inboxes where emails are easily missed — never miss another critical email again!

How to calculate your average response time

Email response time is measured by recording the time that passes between when someone sends a message to you and when a response is sent back to that email.

Do you know what your average response time is? Most people hope it's quick, without actually ever measuring it. Not because they don't care about it, but simply because they don't know how to.

Response time metrics on the Email Meter monthly report

Using a free Email Meter account you can easily discover different metrics about your email response times. In your report summary you will find your Average Response Time, while beneath you will find a number of other metrics including Quickest Response Time and First Response Time.

For businesses, we've developed Enterprise Dashboards: a feature-rich solution that helps companies understand their business' email activity. It allows to easily monitor employee performance and productivity metrics such as workload and response times to help companies make informed, data-driven decisions. You can learn more here.

If you've made it this far, you're probably set about wanting to reduce your response time. That's great! Keeping up with your inbox and replying more quickly takes effort and dedication, but soon we'll be posting an article with tips to help you achieve it.

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