First Response Time

What is First Response Time?

First Response Time is the number of minutes, hours, or days between when a customer submits a support ticket and when a customer support representative provides an initial response. It indicates how long a customer has to wait before being helped. This metric is also called First Reply Time.

Advice from Customer Support Experts

“First reply time is more important than overall reply times because it’s an acknowledgment to the customer that their issue is being looked into.” - Jamie Edwards, COO and Co-founder of Kayako

“Speed is king for the first reply. Contrary to what we would assume, most customers prefer a quick but “ineffective” response over a calculated, delayed answer. Immediate “your inquiry has been received” responses are standard, so wow your customers with a quick, personalized first response.” - Tim Woo, Marketing Director for Framed Data

“At Geckoboard, we have found that timeliness and speed has a direct correlation with satisfaction. A first response perceived as fast, can set you on the right track for a positive first impression.” - Luis Hernandez, VP of Customer Success at Geckoboard

How to calculate First Response Time

Time of first response - time of customer request = (# Minutes/hours/days) First Response Time

First Response Time is calculated by simply subtracting the time of the customer request from the time of the initial reply.

To see more of a trend over time, calculate the Average First Response Time by dividing the sum of all First Response Time by the number of resolved tickets. For example, if your First Response Times are 45, 70, 62, 80, 58, and 65 minutes, your Average First Response Time would be 63.3 minutes.

[ 45 + 70 + 62 + 80 + 58 + 113 + 65 ] / 7 = 70.4 Minutes Average First Response Time

Another helpful variation of this metric is Median First Response Time. To find the median, arrange all the response times in numerical order and select the middle number. Using the same numbers from the previous example, the Median First Response Time would be 65 minutes. Calculating the median reduces the impact of outliers like the 113 response time in this example.

[ 45, 58, 62, 65, 70, 80, 113 ] = 65 Minutes Median First Response Time

Visualization Examples

Below are a couple examples of how you might view First Response Time on your customer support dashboard.

first-response-time-visualization-customer-support-metric

Pros:

The first response is the customer’s first impression of your support team. It’s critical to establish as early as possible that the customer’s request matters and that they’ve been heard. Tracking First Response Time helps you see if you’re leading with a good impression. The shorter the response time, the happier customers will be.

If customers don’t get a response soon enough, they’re likely to jump channels and try to get your attention another way - perhaps through a snarky tweet or Facebook post, which can be very damaging to brand perception.

Cons:

The First Response Time only shows when a response has been delivered but doesn’t reflect if the customer was satisfied with the response. Be sure to track this metric along with Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) to maintain a holistic understanding of the customer’s experience.

Relevant Customer Support Metrics and KPIs:

If you’re adding First Response Time to your support dashboard, you might want to also consider tracking these related customer support metrics for context.

Industry Benchmarks

For email, customers generally expect a response within 24 hours. For social, the recommended benchmark is to respond in 60 minutes or less. For phone, the generally accepted response time is three minutes.

Of course, for any of these, the shorter the timeframe, the better. Make sure your customers feel heard by responding promptly.

Customer Support Channel Average Benchmark for First Response Time
Email 24 hours or less
Social 60 minutes or less
Phone 3 minutes or less

Additional Notes

Most ticketing systems track this metric by default. For email tickets, some common options would be Zendesk or Freshdesk and for phone or chat, you might use TalkDesk or Zopim.

Want to create a customer support dashboard using this metric? Check out this example Support Dashboard.

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