But how quickly do people expect a response? Are those expectations realistic? And what can you do to improve (and track) your email response time? These are the questions this article covers.
How quickly do people expect an email response?
Email response time expectations differ quite a bit depending on the context emails are being sent in. Someone contacting the customer service of a company will have different expectations than someone sending a personal email, who has yet other expectations than someone emailing a coworker.
We'll break down email response time etiquette across different contexts below but first, let's have a look at what the average email response time is.
What is the average email response time?
50% of people respond to work emails within approximately 2 hours. If we extend that to personal emails, the most common response time drops to just 2 minutes. On top of that, 90% of all emails that get a reply, get it within 2 days.
Sales email response time
A study by InsideSales.com showed that companies who reply to sales inquiries first, get 35-50% of sales. On top of that, your chances of getting a lead into your sales process are 21 times higher when you reply within no more than 5 minutes vs 30 minutes of a lead making first contact.
Yes, you need a quick response time, but this data also needs to be taken with a grain of salt as it doesn't different between leads who fill out your contact form and definitely respect a reply, and leads who, for example, download a whitepaper and probably don't expect you to get in touch with them.
That being said, according to the same study, the average sales email response time lies around 61 hours. This is pretty slow and to a prospect, this says that a company does not respect their time, isn't very responsive, and doesn't really want their business.
Customer support email response time
That's a massive gap between expectations and reality, and not one you can ignore because other research has shown that fast response times are the most important sign of good customer service according to customers.
Business email response time
According to MailTime.com, 52% of people expect a reply to a work-related email within 12 to 24 hours, and only 3% accept having to wait for a week to get a response.
This doesn't seem to be much of an issue as a survey from 2013 among 500 US employees found that one-third of them replied to work emails within 15 minutes, and one-quarter within 30 minutes.
It's important to note that times have changed since 2013. More and more teams are working remotely and spread out over different time zones. This doesn't have to impact your remote team performance in terms of communication with external parties, but it might mean that you're a bit more lenient when it comes to internal response times.
While the studies mentioned above give a good indication of what your email response times should be like, it's important to note that company context plays a role as well. If your team uses a messaging tool like Slack, for example, for all urgent internal communication, there won't be such a high expectation on coworkers to respond to emails quickly.
Where do your company's email response times lie in comparison to the average email response time? If you don't know, it's time to start tracking.
How to Measure Response Time
Gmelius’ email analytics for teams makes it super easy to track your average email response times straight from within Gmail. A detailed report will tell you how long it takes team members to respond to emails, how many conversations (or support tickets) they've closed since you started tracking, and what their average time to finalize a conversation is.
Aside from tracking the response times for individual team members, you can also gain email performance insights for the whole team, per project, or per shared inbox you created. This means you can track conversation response and close times across different projects and pipelines.
On top of that, Gmelius shows you how many active email conversations your team has at any given moment, how many active email threads are happening on average in a day, and which day of the week is your busiest in terms of email activity.
This information allows you to adjust your team's workflow to its most productive and busiest times.
Sounds interesting? Learn more about Gmelius’ email analytics for teams here.
How to Improve Your Email Response Time
Once you've identified bottlenecks and opportunities, you can create email automations in Gmail to help improve your team's email response times.
But first, you need to define what those response times should look like.
1. Create Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
In industries like travel and logistics, Service Level Agreements often exist as explicit contracts between service providers and their customers. They tell customers exactly what kind of service they can expect and when they can expect it.
While such agreements may not be common within your industry, setting these types of rules internally is a great way to make sure everyone knows how to handle emails. Additionally, they give you something to compare your team's actual response times to without having to rely on what you think would be acceptable response times.
Your SLAs outline how long it should take your team to reply to each type of email they get. That means you may have different rules for:
- emails from suppliers.
- email from other team members.
- emails from other departments within the company.
- emails from customers.
- emails from leads.
The guidelines within this policy should be based on the standard email response times for your industry, target customer, and the type of emails it concerns, but also your brand positioning (perhaps fast customer service is one of your brand's core values).
Even if you frequently need to deal with complicated requests, you can have as a guideline that you'll send a quick initial reply to let the recipient know you're working on it and will get back to them with a reply soon.
2. Set up alerts for SLA breaches
As you don't want to spend your time making sure SLAs are being followed, it's best to set up alerts within Gmail that will notify you when there's an SLA breach. With Gmelius, there are two ways to do this:
- by having emails that haven't been replied-to fast enough automatically added to a shared label.
- by adding a color-coded tag to these types of emails.
For both options, you can set a specific time (24 hours, two days, …) after which the shared label or tag should be added.
By visually filtering out emails that haven't received a timely reply, you avoid them falling into the cracks as new emails keep coming in.
3. Auto-assign emails
Another rule Gmelius allows you to set up, is to automatically assign certain emails to certain team members. This doesn't just save you time, it also allows for a more efficient workflow as team members can focus on those email tasks they're most proficient in.
On top of that, Gmelius' built-in analytics also show you how all incoming emails are distributed across your team so you can easily see who has too many to handle and re-assign emails accordingly. This way, you can make sure the workload is evenly spread out and prevent bottlenecks from occurring.
4. Set up autoresponders
It's always best to send a real reply whenever you can, but if you receive a high amount of support tickets every day or there are certain emails that always require the same answer, it's a good idea to set up autoresponders for those.
Another reason to set up an autoresponder is when you only reply to emails during certain times and want to remind your customers of this so they don't expect an answer straight away when they email you at 11 p.m. on a Saturday.
Gmail only provides an out-of-office autoresponder but there are barely any options to customize it so the best way to set up an autoresponder is by using Gmelius Rules.
5. Automate repetitive emails
When you often need to send out the same type of email, you can create customizable email templates to use. Just like Gmail canned responses, these templates can be added to your compose window with the click of a button, but they also offer a lot more on top of that:
- organize your email templates in an easily searchable library right in your compose window.
- use variables to automatically personalize your emails.
- share well-performing email templates with other team members.
Aside from email templates being time-saving, they also ensure that your recipients get all the information you need in a clear format.
Achieving and maintaining good email response times is important for the overall performance of your team. It increases sales, keeps customers happy, and prevents you from annoying coworkers and creating bottlenecks within your workflows.
On top of that, using Service Level Agreements and automating email response workflows avoids your team from getting overwhelmed and helps keep them motivated to tackle whichever emails comes their way.
With Gmelius, you can make Gmail help you to improve your response times by setting up automated workflows and alerts for SLA breaches. Sign up today and try it out for free.