Email Reply Times

Why Email Reply Times Matter and How to Improve Them

A huge thank you to our guest contributor, Tarah Darge, Head of Marketing for timetoreply for sharing insights into email reply times—dive in to learn more:

A lead visits your website, loves your solution, and drops you an email. 24 hours later, with no response from you, the lead goes to your competitor. They respond to his query within an hour and a lucrative deal is signed. 

You just lost an ideal client to slow email response time. 

Imagine losing 10 clients this way every day. 

Hurts right? 

Don’t let poor email response time to lead queries, customer queries, complaints, and tickets hurt your business. These are minor problems that can easily be resolved with the right organizational processes, backed by the right tools. Left untended though, these minor issues can cause massive damage to your revenue and sales goals. 

So how do you improve email response time? 

Here’s a quick guide to the how, the why and also the what for those unfamiliar with the concept. 

What is Email Response Time & Why it Matters? 

Email response time refers to the average time your organization takes to respond to a query, a ticket, or a complaint. The ‘speed’ of this response time depends on: 

> The number of agents in the company 

> The number of tickets each agent handles in an 8-hour shift 

>  The availability & easy accessibility of information for agents 

> The processes set up to make response time faster 

Most businesses such as startups and SMEs, do not have a defined benchmark for response times. Agent performance is measured based on the leads they win or the tickets they close, but not on their response time. 

This lack of response time benchmarks prevents agents from committing to their jobs. Where they could easily handle 10 – 12 queries in a day, they would probably be handling only 5 to 6. Additionally, the lack of processes & the inaccessibility of information causes further delay. For instance, it’s not uncommon to see agents relying on other staff members to deliver information which in turn delays response time. 

The result of all this? The company’s average response time to any query is 12 – 24 hours. 

Why is 24 Hours a Poor Response Time? 

Now more than ever before, people demand prompt response. They are not going to wait 24 hours for your agent to come around and tell you that they will “look” into your query. The 24 hours that you make them wait can change their perceptions about your business. This is one reason why customers complain about Sales & Support the most. 

According to a report by Hubspot, 90% of customers expect an immediate response, while only 50% expect a response within 24 hours. 

Companies that respond to emails within an hour? They are winning big. 

And if you want to optimize team performance, set measurable metrics & increase revenue or customer satisfaction, you need to improve your company’s email response time. 

How Do You Improve Your Response Time? 

Improving your company’s email response time is not an overnight process. 

To begin, you’ll have to dig up reports, measure capacity (number of responses/agent) and identify roadblocks. For instance, startups may have just a team of two or three agents handling queries and so it’s difficult to improve response times without addressing their challenges. 

Some of the most common issues with delayed response time are: 

> Shift timings. If you’re catering to people outside of your current geographic zone, timings may be a problem. In this case, you could send a template email to the lead/customer, ensuring them that their ticket has been received and they will receive a response within 24 hours. 

> Access to information. Agents are mostly dependent on internal staff members for access to information. A technical bug, a marketing query, a product query for which the agent has no access to information means they will have to wait for respective members to respond before they can respond to the customer. A solution: create a knowledge base or an FAQ section for agents to use. Another way could be to send out templated emails ensuring the customer that their query is being resolved and that they will receive a prompt response soon. 

> Lack of accountability: When there’s no benchmark or processes, there’s no accountability. So before you implement a change, you’ll have to create processes that encourage accountability. You will also need to add incentives and rewards to motivate agents to be accountable. 

Once you’ve addressed challenges and aligned their respective solutions, you can start focusing on improving response time. 

Here are a few tips to get started. 

  1. Use a real-time email response time measuring tool: Yep, a real-time email response tool such as timetoreply makes it easy for companies to measure their email performance and agent performance at both, an individual and team level. Processes are only effective if they are backed by easy-to-use tools.
  2. Create templated emails: Templated emails save time and assure customers that their query has been received. Do make sure your templated emails sound personal & are addressing the challenge. You don’t want to send a generic, robotic email that will only leave the customer more skeptical. Lastly, don’t stay silent. That’s an easy-way to lose good business or to provoke a customer to drop a bad review for your company. 
  1. Establish a response time policy: After you’ve used the tool to measure your team’s performance, you can be at a better place to establish an email response time policy. Remember, you must resolve challenges & optimize processes before you establish a policy. The response policy will depend on your team’s capacity and the individual performance metrics of each team member. 

Improving your response time will improve your customer satisfaction and lead acquisition rates. It will also give your team a goal to aspire to and enable better performance. The good thing is that once you’ve set up the process, established the policy & measure the progress, you can use your new response time as your USP in your marketing copy or business proposals. A company that boasts of 1-hour support time is a company that most customers will flock to.