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5 Ways to Reduce Customer Service Response Times

Response times

Post summary: 

  • The most important attribute of good customer service, according to customers' themselves, is a fast response time. How quickly do you respond to your own customers?
  • According to our own research of 1,000 companies, the average response time to respond to customer service requests is 12 hours and 10 minutes. That’s too long! So, how can you reduce response times?
  • We share 5 of the most effective and easy-to-implement techniques that we use at SuperOffice, which helped us reduce our own response time from more than 5 hours per reply to now less than 1 hour.

Your customers are the source of your revenue.

Without them, you don’t have much of a business – so it’s important to keep them happy.

Yet, in our annual customer service study, we found that 62% of companies do not respond to customer emails.

It’s clear that you have an opportunity to stand out against the competition by simply responding to your customers.

For companies that do respond, the average response time is 12 hours – with the slowest response taking longer than 8 days!

customer service response times

Together with Jeff Toister, we recently asked 3,200 consumers how quickly they expect companies to respond to their email.

The result? Nearly half of all of customers (46%) expect companies to respond faster than 4 hours.

While 12% expect a response within 15 minutes or less.

There's clearly a mis-match here.

Do you know how long does it take for you to respond to your customers?

To answer that question, you need to calculate your first response time (FRT).

What is average first response time (FRT)?

Average first response time is one of the most important customer service reports used to understand how you are performing. It looks at not just the one-off response for a single customer, but the average response time for your entire department.

Reducing response times and responding to your customers with helpful and relevant information is the key to customer service success!

Therefore, if you want to improve the experience for your customers, then you need to make reducing your average FRT a priority for your business.

So, how do I calculate average FRT?

To understand how to calculate your average FRT, there are two key pieces of data you need to collect from your customer service team:

  1. The total time it took to respond to emails during a selected time period.
  2. The total number of responses sent in that selected time period.

Make sure the time period for both metrics matches. You may want to look at this over the course of a day, a week, or even a month to get a clear picture.

Then, simply divide the top figure (total time to send responses) by the bottom figure (total number of responses). This will give you a single number of hours, which is your average FRT.

calculating first response time

For SuperOffice Service customers, FRT is calculated automatically – meaning less work for you and your team!

Here, you can find the average response time by reporting period, by department or team and by individual agents.

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If you’re not a SuperOffice customer, then here’s how you can calculate your average FRT.

Let’s imagine you send 3 customer service emails per day.

The first email takes 2 hours, the second takes 4 hours, and the third takes 6 hours. Collectively, it takes you 12 hours to respond to all 3 emails. Now, divide 12 hours by the 3 emails you sent and you end up with an average response time of 4 hours.

If you calculate that your average response time is 4 hours, then – job well done!

However, if it takes your team longer than the average to respond, then it might be time to examine how to amp up team work and find new ways to improve your processes, so you can reduce response times and keep your customers happy.

But, do fast response times really matter?

Yes, they do, and here's why.

Why speed matters in customer service

Let's start with the obvious – a fast response makes your customers feel important.

Second, speed matters in customer service because your customers demand it!

CMO council found that the most important attribute of a good customer experience, according to the customers’ themselves, is a fast response time.

most important attribute customer experience

Therefore, responding quickly means you're meeting customer expectations.

What happens when a company takes too long to respond and doesn't meet expectations?

They stop doing business with you.

Personally, I prefer a response within 15 minutes - no more than an hour maximum.

If they don’t respond, I’ll find a new company to do business with (if possible). Slow response times definitely leave a bad impression for any future business. David Bailey-Lauring, CEO at Blu Mint Digital

Adding to that, a survey from Hiver found that 70% of consumers say they will advise their friends against buying a product or service after a negative service experience.

Sadly, too few companies prioritize fast response times.

While Net Promoter Score and other customer success metrics remain popular, a study by Call Centre Helper found that only 12% of customer service managers are focused on responding quickly to their customers.

reducing response times is low priority

If meeting customer expectations isn't enough to persuade you of how important it is, perhaps another argument will do the trick? The third reason for why speed matters is that if you don’t respond quickly, your customers will contact you through another channel – essentially doubling your workload!

The Northridge Group’s State of Customer Service Experience Report found that 40% of millennials (today’s decision makers) wait 60 minutes before they try to contact you in another channel.

Responding quickly means less work for you and your team, so you can spend more time on writing quality responses.

Finally, responding quickly to your customers will grow your business.

A study of more than 500,000 interactions found that customers are willing to spend more with a business that responds quickly to their enquiry. Simply put, a fast response generates higher revenue.

How to reduce customer service response times

There's a direct business benefit to reducing response times.

To help you get started, we’ve collected 5 of the most effective and easy-to-implement techniques that you can use to respond quickly to your customers.

1. Implement customer service software

Do you use customer service software?

If not, then now is the time to consider it.

If your company still uses a shared access mailbox to manage hundreds (or even thousands) of customer service emails, there’s no easier way to improve your customer service processes than to invest in and implement customer service software.

Customer service software stores every single conversation or interaction you’ve had during your company’s relationship with your customer. This means you can look back and understand their problems, identify details of the products they’re subscribing to and use this information to be more helpful in your response.

On top of this, using the right tools for the job means you’ll be much faster than you would be trying to piece together all this information from a shared inbox or other similar low-tech approach.

2. Use email autoresponders

Sometimes, all a customer needs to know is that their email has been received and that help is on the way. It’s only when their concerns, problems or complaints have gone ignored that negative sentiment begins to appear and potentially affect your long-term relationship with the customer.

A great way to overcome this is to use email autoresponders.

Less than 10% of companies use autoresponders, but this simple, age-old technology can be used to let a customer know you have received their email and what they should expect to happen next.

example of auto responder for customer support

You can also use this opportunity to outline things like:

  • Thanking them for their message. This way, they know you’re taking their communication seriously and paying it the respect they deserve.
  • Opening hours of your customer service department. By including this, they know that if they email in the middle of the night or on a weekend, that it might take several hours (or even days), until their email is seen by someone.
  • Average response times. Informing your customers of when they can expect a response sets expectations upfront. Plus, including a timeframe will take the pressure off your customer service team by avoiding follow-up inquiries.
  • Links to FAQs / instruction manuals. No matter how easy to use you think your website is, your customers won’t always find documents like FAQs or manuals. Sometimes, all they need is a gentle nudge in the right direction, and through self-service they could end up solving their problem before you get the chance to respond.

3. Use time-based email alerts

Although we aim to respond to every customer service email, sometimes emails can get left behind.

For example, you could be waiting for some information before you can respond in full, or perhaps there’re more emails in the customer service queue than you expected. Whatever the reason, your customers deserve your attention within a reasonable timeframe.

To avoid losing emails in the system or response times being delayed for much longer than they need to be, try setting up time-based email alerts.

For companies that use a shared access mailbox, this will have to be done manually.

However, if you use customer service software, you can set this up automatically and tag new emails with a timer. Simply work out how quickly you would like to respond to your customers and then set up an alert to trigger before the timeframe. This way, you’ll ensure you have ample time to read and respond to your customers within your average response time.

new GUI2.png

4. Use templates + text shortcuts

Experienced agents know what type of questions their customers ask time after time. Use this information to make sure your website and help documentation reflect these types of questions. And you can also use it to better prepare your customer service team.

Rather than making your team repeatedly come up with custom responses to the same questions, you can supply them with customer service email templates to help make their job easier. Not only will it speed up your response time, but it’ll also help you keep your communication consistent.

This means that every customer will get the same answer to their question, with little or no deviation – helping to reinforce the brand and keep all your customers happy.

Of course, not every customer service query can be handled with a template.

Another way to help make writing emails easier is to use text shortcuts.

For example, by assigning shortcuts to commonly used words or phrases, you can dramatically reduce the number of keystrokes needed to write an email response.

Here’s how it could work: with the shortcuts updating automatically once the email has been sent, based on your settings.

text shortcuts in email responses

Simple, but very effective!

The more times you use the same shortcut, the quicker it will be to type up a response.

You could also use shortcuts for other parts of the email, including:

  • Social media profile links,
  • Links to FAQs or knowledge base,
  • Email subscription copy and links.

Text shortcuts or email templates can dramatically reduce the amount of time needed to answer an email, which in turn will allow you to respond to more emails and reduce your average response time.

5. Categorize and prioritize the emails you receive

One of the best ways to speed up the way you answer customer service emails is to categorize and prioritize the emails you receive.

When a new email is received, it should go through a ‘triage’ system – just like a patient would in a hospital emergency room. You can assess an email based on its subject or theme and assign it a tag accordingly. Different tags should have different levels of priority based on criteria such as time needed to respond, complexity of the problem, and the importance to both the customer and the business.

For example, we prioritize responding to sales ready leads (free trial and demo requests) over general enquiries as research has shown that 90% of leads go cold within an hour. All tickets that match this priority will move to the top of the queue. Alternatively, you can find all prioritized tickets using the search function (as shown below).

prioritizing tickets customer service software

Once you have the emails categorized and prioritized your team can then efficiently respond to each email based on one category at a time by order of priority. By concentrating on one topic or subject area at a time, major time saving efficiencies can be made, compared to jumping between multiple topics which can be time-consuming and inefficient.

A response time within one hour?

We reached out to Stein Ove Sektnan, manager of customer service at SuperOffice, to get his input on how to reduce response times.

Here’s what he had to say:

Asking your Customer Success team to respond quickly might sound easy enough, but the more you focus on speed, rather than quality, the more likely you are to lower the quality of service you provide to your customers.

When it comes to response times, here’s what you should think about:

Define what a reply is. A fast reply is not helpful if the reply doesn’t add value.

Customer service is a team effort. Cherry-picking the easy requests might help individuals respond quickly, but it doesn’t help achieve the team’s goals.

Share (and develop) knowledge across the team. When the workload spikes, whether due to seasonality, annual leave or sickness, having shared expertise across the team gives you the flexibility to handle an increase customer requests.

Some 5 years ago our customer service team`s response time reduced from an average of 5 hours to less than 1 hour. Since then, the average response time of SuperOffice Customer Support team has remained the same. 

superoffice response times


Reducing your customer service response time is incredibly important.

Not only can it help you make your customers happy and enhance your brand’s reputation – but when done properly, it can also improve efficiencies throughout your entire organization.

Yet, with the average response taking more than 12 hours, it’s clear that many companies could be doing more to reduce this figure.

If you’re looking to improve customer service, then remember these 5 easy-to-implement techniques to help set your company apart as an organization that values your customers:

  1. Implement customer service software to make your inbox more manageable.
  2. Use email autoresponders to keep your customers in the loop and manage expectations.
  3. Use time-based alerts to make sure no emails go missing or are delayed.
  4. Use templates and text shortcuts to reduce the time it takes to write each email.
  5. Categorize all incoming customer service emails and respond based on priority.

To find out more about our annual customer service benchmark report and how 1,000 companies respond to customer service emails, download the report for free.

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Ripley Watkins

4 years ago

Excellent post, Steven. It's amazing how many businesses aren't using time-based auto-generated email responses. Such a powerful method to improve customer service!

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José Alvarez

2 years ago

CSAT is the most important for every company it shows you to qualify the agent experience to follow the procedures and metrics are so related.

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Zeeshan Ali

3 years ago

Your post on response times is very informative! Thank you.

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Abby Blanton

3 years ago

Great tips! Speed to response is an important KPI for support teams. The faster you can respond, the happier your customers will be for it. Thank you!

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Harriet Kelly

3 years ago

Customer service agents can only handle one customer service problem at a time. I believe a company can provide better customer experience by improving the first call resolution rate (FCRR) which ultimately reduces the repeating support calls. So, lesser calls and a better customer experience!

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Steven MacDonald

3 years ago

So true, Harriet! Thank you!

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Lloyd Bronson

3 years ago

I am glad that your article goes into the importance of speed mattering with customer service. Additionally, I personally believe that speed and ease of access are both incredibly important tools in ensuring a positive customer experience. In the future, I want to open a restaurant, and in order to ensure that finances are handled with maximum efficiency, I will be sure to use the services of a bank that prioritizes these values.

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Steven MacDonald

3 years ago

Great comment, Lloyd - thank you! And good luck with the restaurant!

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Gary O.

2 years ago

Great strategy! Thanks for sharing these tips on how to reduce response times.

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Dustin M Scott

2 years ago

Superb post, Steven. It's astounding what number of organizations aren't utilizing time-sensitive auto-produced email reactions. Such a ground-breaking strategy to improve client care!

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Spencer Pearson

2 years ago

Great strategy! Thanks for sharing these tips on how to reduce response times.

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Dana Malin

2 years ago

First Response Time (FRT) is definitely valuable. It seems there are a ton of autoresponders out there with today's customer service. So, getting a response is nice, but it's only so helpful if it's just a confirmation that your email has been received. Don't get me wrong, it is nice to hear back from a company in that scenario, but it's also important to get some relevant information from that first email knowing that you are on your way to be helped.

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Steven MacDonald

2 years ago

100% agree Dana!

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Sofia Overhill

2 years ago

I agree that cutting down on the response time is crucial for good customer service these days, but how do the customers react when they don't receive an full answer to their question and have to go back multiple times? I've come across this issue too often and I feel like those companies value speed over accuracy which leaves me thinking that the company is not professional.

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Steven MacDonald

2 years ago

I completely agree, Sofia! In fact, based on our own research, we've found that customers do prefer a full response to their request over speed.

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Trevor Hall

2 years ago

It's really sad to hear that 62% of companies don't reply to customer emails because that isn't great customer service. Not at all.

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2 years ago

Another way that can improve response time is by implementing a unified communications service so that every staff can answer a customer enquiry wherever they are.

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Mauricio Díaz Brito

2 years ago

First Response Time (FRT) is definitely valuable. It seems there are a ton of autoresponders out there with today's customer service. So, getting a response is nice, but it's only so helpful if it's just a confirmation that your email has been received. Don't get me wrong, it is nice to hear back from a company in that scenario, but it's also important to get some relevant information from that first email knowing that you are on your way to be helped.

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Carlos Alfredo Funes Santana

2 years ago

First Response Time is more important than your overall response/reply time because it is an acknowledgment to the customer that their issue is being looked into. It indicates how quickly our team is addressing new support cases, and help us see whether we have enough team members to deal with the volume of the customer´s requests.

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Mario Mauricio Huezo

2 years ago

Response time is important. If you don't respond quickly, your customers will stop doing business with you.

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2 years ago

Great tips on how to respond quickly to customers. Thank you!

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Saul Argueta

2 years ago

First Response Time (FRT) is definitely valuable. Because it's really sad to hear that 62% of companies don't reply to customer emails because that isn't great customer service. Taking into count that 88% of customers expect a response from your business within 60 minutes.

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Carlos Hernandez

2 years ago

I agree that cutting down on the response time is crucial for good customer service these days, but how do the customers react when they don't receive an full answer to their question and have to go back multiple times? Besides the issue that they are having with any situation, they have more things to think.

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Victoria Zamora

2 years ago

Thanks for sharing! Will keep in mind!! FRT is indeed very good to know!!!

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Elena Gilles

2 years ago

First Response Time means that you care for the customer, that you are aware of their needs. And shows you work in excellence

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maria ingles

2 years ago

Response time is really important for all customers, this helps a lot to have happier customers

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Rene Figueroa

2 years ago

It is extremely important to provide a prompt and accurate response to the member. If it is not possible to solve him in the first interaction, we must ask the appropriate questions to achieve it in the second one. Empathy is key for the member to feel confident in the company and become a net promoter

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Marla Torres

2 years ago

The best way to know how the employee is doing is through the customer's eyes, this is why CSAT is very important in every company, even when we handle fast responses. To know how to improve the company need to qualify the agent work and the best way to it is through a survey and this is why metrics are so related.

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Ana Campos

2 years ago

The importrance of a fast an accurate reply is important to keep high our customer's satisfaction and to keep the company growing. It is tru that customers value a fast response but as well it is important to keep quality standard to provide a feasible solution.

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one year ago

Great article it gives good tips to be quicker on responding customer.

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one year ago

First Response Time means that you care for the customer, that you are aware of their needs. And shows you work in excellence

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yasser arellao

one year ago

First response time is the base os our work as agents, it means we give fast and reliable solutions.