Understanding Business Response Time and Why it Matters

Business or any service industry has a wide range of jobs that entails either providing services or products to customers. Most of the time, these jobs are found in hotels, retail, and hospitality industries.

In this regard, a quick service response plays a vital role in keeping your business running because of satisfied customers. Nobody likes waiting for days to get an answer to their request.

Responding to a business request is a competitive advantage to your business, and your leads and customers can attest to this.

The customer is the boss of your business and the source of income for it. Without them, there is no reason for doing the business. Therefore, it is vital to keep them happy in any way possible.

Suppose you want your customers not to be left waiting for their replies to their requests or orders. In that case, it is crucial to start to consider setting a standard response time policy.

Though this might sound like another piece of boring information, the truth is, any business that boasts of quick response time has more advantages than its competitors.

Through this post, we will take you through the reasons you consider setting a standard response time or to let you know if response time matters to your business.

What is the business response time?

Business response time is the period between the time when a customer places a request and when the response to the request is given. It can also mean a delay in communication or feedback from the business to customers.

In a nutshell, this is the time between when a customer enquires about a product or service and the actual time the business receives the request.

Why measuring business response time matters

Time is the most potent factor in measuring the quality of customer service interaction. A response to a question that arrives in thirty minutes is considered excellent but discouraging if it reaches three days later.

Studies on customer satisfaction have been continuously showing a positive correlation between quick response time and increased customer satisfaction.

For instance, research by Forrester found that 77% of clients reported that the most important thing a business can do to them is valuing their time.

Customer expectations are driven by the experiences they get from your business. Therefore, if you can surpass their expectation by responding to their concerns quickly, it reflects a positive picture to clients and gives your company positive credit.

If you respond to your client’s email slower than expected, you send a negative reflection to your customers, which puts your business in jeopardy.

Business response times matter because they are (relatively) manageable factors with a direct and instant impact on your client’s experience.

What is the average first-time response in business?

The average first-time response is among the most essential reports used in gauging how you perform. It does not focus only on the one-off response for one client, but the average time for a response within the entire department.

Giving your clients relevant and helpful information and reducing the response time is the main recipe for customer service success.

For an improved customer service experience, consider reducing the average first-time response a priority in your business.

How to calculate the first response time

To calculate first response time effectively, there are two important pieces of information you need to gather from your customer service team:

  • The total time is taken to respond to customers’ requests within a chosen timeline.
  • All the responses gave within the selected time.

Ensure the data matches correctly because you will need to observe this over time, maybe for a day, a week, or even a month, to have a clear picture of the response times.

business response time

Author credit: By Ttingue Travis Tingue – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=73284788

With all the data collected, you divide the total number of times to send responses and the total number of responses received. This gives you a sole number, which is your average first-time response.

Why does quick business response time matter?

To start with the most apparent reason, quick response time makes your clients feel important. Secondly, speed is vital in your business because the customers demand it.

As stated earlier, the most significant attribute of good customer service, according to the clients, is a fast response time. Consequently, responding quickly to your customer is meeting their expectations.

Another reason why speed is essential is that when you don’t respond fast to your customers’ concerns, they will contact you via another medium of communication, hence giving you a double workload.

State of the customer service experience report by Northridge’s group found that around 40% of the current decision-makers (the millennials) have 60 minutes to wait before trying to reach you on other channels.

Quick response means fewer tasks for you and your team; therefore, you get enough time to write relevant and quality answers.

Lastly, quick responses to your customers will make your business grow because clients are likely to spend on businesses that respond quickly to their concerns. So, let an immediate reaction generate income for your business.

Importance of email response time to a business

The good aspect of email response time is that most companies have full control of it and have actual and quantifiable business results.

Therefore, reducing the response time is an excellent opportunity for teams to focus on engaging leads faster than their competitors, decrease churn rate, and make happy customers.

Below are the benefits of improving your business’ email response time.

  1. This leads to more sales

When a client reaches you for a solution, most probably he is also contacting your competitor. Providing timely responses leaves a professional impression, giving you an upper hand in converting them to paying clients.

According to research by InsideSale.com, 35-50% of the total sales go to businesses that answer first.

Sales agents do not have extended time to engage a lead before going cold. Referring to a study by Lead Response management, the odds of leads getting into the sales process is 21 times greater when their concerns are responded to within five minutes instead of thirty minutes.

You can quantify what 21 times more sales can do to impact your business success.

  1. Better customer satisfaction

Valuing customers’ time is the best thing a company can do to offer a good online experience. Knowing that the customers do not have all all-day doing one thing and providing a response as fast as possible is the best way of showing them you value their time. But do not sacrifice on quality.

The customers are going to stay around for a long if you give a good customer service experience. It is believed that, even if the response you provide is not correct, just responding fast in a professional way can help in retaining 30% of the customers.

  1. It lets you know nothing passes through the cracks

Have you ever missed an important client’s mail? If your team struggles to answer emails on time, then there is the possibility of them sitting on a messed up inbox.

With a proper email response time policy, you make sure that every email received is handled quickly. It also avoids a cluttered inbox where you can easily misplace an email. Do not miss another important email again.

Why you need a standard email response time policy

A standard email response time guarantees that your customers, prospects, and team members are not kept waiting for long to get their emails answered.

business reponse time

Author credit: By DavidMomin – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=97326572

This is an internal memo outlining the recommended time for replying to emails that should be followed. The policy does not have to be uniform for all systems. You can create different times for different bodies of email communication based on who you are talking to.

For instance:

  • Internal emails are always not urgent when engaging with the outside world; hence, they can wait a little longer except if they are very urgent and important. The best time to keep them is 24 hours.
  • Customer support- they always deal with many angry customers and expecting customers, and convincing them by responding to their concerns is very time-sensitive. This means that a faster response time can make a big difference.

Depending on how you prioritize your sensitive issues and the size of your customer support team, ten hours should give you the right service level.

  • Sales- this is the most time-sensitive facet of email communication as prospects are always not ready to wait for a long time and are exposed to many alternatives from competitors.

You may have heard that 30 minutes is the appropriate time, but according to several studies, responding within the first 5 minutes can lead to 21 times the chances of entering the sales process.

How to set a standard email response time policy

Before you decide on setting the standard response time policy, consider first the type of business you are doing. Whether you are a B2C business that deals with a large number of clients at a lower price or you are a B2B business operating with a small, large enterprise client.

Ensure that the goals you set are realistic and your team can work towards them. Everyone will be discouraged if your goals are going to be impossible for your team to aim.

If nobody can reach the goals, the person who set them carries the whole responsibility.

How to minimize customer service response time

There are loads of benefits that comes with reducing response time than you can imagine. To help you enjoy these benefits, we have compiled some of the practical techniques you can implement to help you reduce response time.

  1. Adopt the use of customer service software

If your business still applies the shared mailbox technique in managing the hundreds of customer service mails, then investing and implementing a customer service software is the way to go.

Customer service software keeps all the interactions and engagements with the clients for future reference. This allows you to get back and the individual problems, know the feature of the products or services they are subscribing to, and use the data to give a more relevant and helpful response.

Additionally, employing the right tools for the task makes you work much faster than you would have with the shared inbox or the same low-tech approach.

  1. Use email autoresponders

Sometimes a customer only needs to know that their email is received and expect a response to it. Until they realize their concerns are ignored that they begin to feel negative sentiments. This can potentially affect your future relationship with the customer.

An ideal way of avoiding such instances is to use email autoresponders.

Though it is only used by less than 10% of companies, this ancient technology can be the best way to let your customers know that their email is received and the next course of action they should expect.

You can also utilize this opportunity to outlay other things, such as:

  • Thanking the customers for their message. Doing this gives them the impression that you are taking their concerns seriously and giving them the respect they deserve.
  • Your average response time. Telling your customers to expect a response sets their expectations upfront. Additionally, including a timeframe reduces your customer service team’s tension as you will avoid follow-up inquiries.
  • Opening hours of your customer care department. Explain this makes your customers understand the hours of communication. For instance, they will know that it will take time before getting a response if they email on a weekend or holidays.
  • Links to instruction manual/ FAQs. Regardless of how you think using your website is, customers always have difficulty finding documents such as manuals or FAQs. Sometimes, what is needed is a simple nudge in the right direction.

Linking them to pages like self-service may help customers solve their problems before you find the chance to respond to their concerns.

  1. Use time-based email alerts

Though the ultimate aim is to reply to all the customers’ service emails, but occasionally, emails can also get delayed.

For instance, you may be waiting for some information before giving your response or having more emails on your customer care desk than you expect.

No matter the reasons you are having, your clients warrant your attention within the most reasonable time. Try setting up time-based email alerts to prevent loss of emails or delayed response for a much longer time than expected.

This should be done manually if your company still uses a shared access mailbox. However, if you have customer service software, you can set this automatically and tag new emails with a timer.

Simply set out how fast you would like to respond to your clients and create an alert to trigger before time. This ensures you have enough time to read and respond to customers’ emails within the average time.

  1. Use text shortcuts and templates

Professional customer service agents know what kind of questions their customers ask frequently. Use this information to optimize your website and instruction documentation to show these questions and prepare your service team.

Instead of having your team continually come up with a conventional response to similar questions, please give them customer service templates to help make their work much more straightforward. This will not only speed up your response time but also keep consistent communication.

It also makes your customers get responses to their questions with no or little deviation, hence strengthening the brand and keeping your customers happy.

Indeed, not every customer service question can be done through templates. Another great to make writing your emails easier is by using text shortcuts.

For example, you can reduce the keystrokes required to write an email response by setting shortcuts to the frequently used phrases or words. The more you use the same shortcuts, the more quickly it is typing a reply.

Text shortcuts can also be used in other parts of an email, including;

  1. Categorize and prioritize the emails you receive

Another great way to speed up the response to your clients’ service emails is to put each email into categories and with relevant priority.

Set a triage system that a new email must go through- the same way a patient would do in a hospital emergency room. Make emails accessible by either their subject or themes, then give them different tags.

These tags should be assigned based on different priorities and criteria like the time required for the response, difficulty of the problem, and the degree of importance to the business.

For instance, it is essential to prioritize responding quickly to sales-ready prospects over other customer concerns. This is because studies have shown that 90% of leads go cold faster. Set the emails that match a priority like that to feature on top of the queue.

Having your emails categorized and prioritized allows your team to handle each email at a time according to category and order of priority. Focusing on one topic and subject at a time saves time and boosts efficiency.

Training your team to respond quickly to customers’ emails might seem to be easy enough. But remember that the more focus you give on speed rather than quality is most likely to reduce the quality of the services you provide.

The following are what to consider when it comes to setting a fast email response time,

  • Define what a reply is; a quick answer is not relevant if it does not add value to the customer,
  • Customer service is teamwork; choosing easy requests can help an individual give a quick response, but it does not support the team to achieve its goals. Let each persons’ strength be concerted together towards achieving the team’s ultimate targets.
  • Develop and share the knowledge across the group; when the workload increases, maybe due to sickness, annual leave, or seasonality, sharing the experience across the team provides the flexibility required to handle the extra customers’ requests.

If you follow the steps outlined in this article, rest assured that your customer business response time will be reduced from 5 hours up to 1 hour. This will lead to significant benefits for your business and also provide an easy time for your team.


Companies and businesses always set a standard business response time, not only for doing communication follow-up and shipping of goods but also for the production program. Doing this allows the business to see how well it is replying to its customers.

Setting standard business response time also provides the company with the opportunity for future growth and development. It also makes customers know the means of the company’s communication.

Additionally, reducing customer service response time is very important to your business.

When done correctly, it brings efficiency to your entire organization and helps make your customers happy and satisfied, enhancing your brand’s prominence.

If you aspire to improve your customer service, remember the five easy procedures to help distinguish your company from the competitors and portray it as a business that values its customers:

  • Implement customer service software to make your inbox easily manageable.
  • Use email autoresponders to manage your client’s expectations and keep them in the loop.
  • Create time-based alerts to ensure that no email is delayed or gone missing.
  • Use text shortcuts and email templates to reduce the time taken to write emails.
  • Prioritize and categorize the incoming customer emails and reply according to the priority accorded to each.

Replying more quickly and keeping up with your inbox takes dedication and effort. If you have come this far, you likely want to set a standard business response time, and we hope we’ve given you enough tips to do so.