Many companies include a baseline FRT in their service level agreements. Given that there are many KPIs for support teams, you might be wondering why this one, in particular, is so important.
And the answer is: FRT plays a significant role in customer satisfaction.
What is FRT?
Why measure First Response Time?
Some leaders believe that customer reps should not reply to a support ticket before they have an answer to their client’s problem. But, customers have grown to expect near-immediate acknowledgment of their case, along with regular updates to reassure them that a solution is in progress.
In fact, a vast majority of customers today expect fast and efficient service, and First Response Time is a key factor in meeting those expectations.
A quick and effective response can help build trust and loyalty with customers. On the contrary, long wait times can lead to frustration, dissatisfaction, and even loss of business.
Additionally, FRT can serve as a valuable performance indicator for support teams, helping managers:
- Get insights into the efficiency of their support operations;
- Identify areas for coaching and improvement;
- Manage workload capacity and forecast staffing needs.
Long story short: By tracking FRT over time, you can identify relevant support trends, set realistic benchmarks and goals for your team, and further improve customer satisfaction.
More than 20% of surveyed customer support professionals measure First Response Time (FRT). Ready to join them?
How to calculate the average First Response Time?
All you have to do is take the total First Response Time for all tickets received and divide it by the number of interactions in that time frame.
For example, take 64,000 seconds, divide it by 800 resolved tickets, and you’ll get the average First Response Time of 80 seconds.
Total first response time for all tickets received / Total number of interactions = Average FRT
If you’re using support software to answer customer questions, you should be able to easily access both these pieces of data in the reporting features.
There’s one thing to mention, though. It can be a good idea to calculate your FRT based on the median instead of the average to avoid outliers skewing the data. Your calculation should also exclude automated responses (like those from FAQ chatbots or virtual assistants) and tickets that arrive outside of your stated business hours.
Unless your support coverage is 24/7, your Average First Response Time is best measured in business hours, so your average isn’t affected by requests received on nights or weekends.
Now that you have your FRT score, let’s see how it compares to other teams’:
According to the latest Customer Service Quality Benchmark Report, the First Response Time (FRT) benchmark for 2023 is 4h42min.
FRT benchmarks are likely to vary, depending on the industry and the type of support provided. For example, a software company might have a faster FRT benchmark than a cable company.
Keep in mind that FRT benchmarks should not be the sole focus of your customer service team. The overall support quality is just as important as the speed of the response.
How to reduce your First Response Time?
Ideally, when tracking FRT over time, you should see a decrease. If you’re having trouble hitting your FRT goals, there are a few ways your team can improve:
1. Look into the individual performance and offer training if needed
First, you should make sure that your team is adequately staffed, trained, and equipped with the right automation tools. If that’s the case, try looking into the individual performance of your team members.
Break down your average FRT by support reps to see who takes the longest to respond to customers. The goal is to find out what’s slowing them down and suggest how they can improve their response time.
If there is a group of agents that seems to be struggling, consider a dedicated training session. This will help you get everyone on the same page about how and when to answer customer questions. It will also remind your reps that First Response Time is an important support metric that the whole team should be striving to optimize.
To get the full picture, you can also turn to conversation reviews and check the overall support quality. If your response time remains “slow” but the support quality is high, your team might be experiencing a high ticket volume. Make sure you’re not understaffed, and you’re not setting unrealistic expectations for the team.
2. Use templates and shortcuts
The easiest way to reduce First Response Time is by introducing support automation and message templates.
Rather than making your team repeatedly come up with custom answers to the same questions, provide them with canned responses. Not only will it speed up your response time, but it’ll also help you keep your communication more consistent.
Don’t forget to involve your team in the process. Experienced agents know what type of questions their customers ask time after time — you can use these insights to craft templates, coach new team members, and include relevant information in your knowledge base.
Another way to help make responding easier is to use keyboard shortcuts. By assigning shortcuts to commonly used words or phrases, you can dra-meow-tically reduce the time and effort needed to write a response.
3. Tag and prioritize the tickets you receive
Customer service teams have to handle different types of queries. Depending on your support goals, ticket volume, and FRT benchmarks, categorizing customer queries can help you streamline your workflow.
Every new ticket should be tagged and prioritized, based on the time needed to respond, the complexity of the problem, and the importance to both the customer and the business.
Your team might not be able to answer quickly to all of them. Still, critical issues, such as system downtime, billing issues, or security breaches should be acknowledged immediately. You should always have an escalation management process ready for such issues to ensure fast responses.
4. Consider changing the schedule
Let’s come back to higher ticket volumes for a meow-ment. If you see a spike in queries during non-business hours and on weekends, you might want to consider rescheduling shifts. This can be especially useful if you have customers in other time zones.
To make an informed decision, analyze when customers are contacting you most frequently, and what’s keeping them waiting. Then, if your team is unable to cover the new shifts, consider outsourcing support to a third-party vendor. This way, you can reduce the workload of your in-house support team, especially during peak periods or when experiencing a higher-than-normal volume.
5. Experiment with different communication channels
Many customer service teams get by with a phone line and a dedicated email address. These channels are not exactly known for fast response times.
If you haven’t already, implementing live chat and self-service options is a surefire way to decrease your First Response Time. It can empower some of your reps to respond to customer inquiries within seconds, and encourage your customers to look for the answers themselves.
Changing or adding customer service channels gives your customers more options. When in doubt, evaluate internal workflows and support channels to identify areas of inefficiency or high volume. Then, look for opportunities to streamline processes to reduce the time required to respond to customer inquiries.
First Response Time limitations
The benefits of measuring FRT all sound great, but… One of the biggest issues with FRT is that it only measures the speed of the initial response, not the quality or resolution of the support interaction. Focusing too much on the First Response Time may result in a prioritization of speed over quality.
A fast response time doesn’t necessarily mean that the customer’s issue was resolved appropriately or that the customer was satisfied with their experience. In fact, if the initial response is rushed or incomplete due to a focus on speed, it can actually lead to a worse customer experience down the line.
Another limitation of FRT is that it doesn’t account for the complexity of the support request or the amount of time required to resolve the issue. Some support requests can be resolved quickly and easily, while others may require more time and effort on the part of the support team. Measuring FRT alone can create pressure to rush through support interactions and may be particularly challenging during periods of high volume.
Ultimately, while FRT can be a valuable metric for customer support efficiency, it shouldn’t be the only metric used to measure support performance. IQS, CSAT, and other CS metrics are equally important to consider if you’re serious about customer experience.
Time goes by (so slowly)
First Response Time (FRT) is an important metric in customer support that directly impacts satisfaction and retention. To put it simply, a quick and efficient response can lead to higher customer satisfaction and loyalty, while a slow response can lead to frustration and even loss of business.
However, it’s important to remember that FRT should not be the only metric used to measure support performance. The quality of support provided is just as important as the speed of the response. With the right tools, processes, and team training, you can provide fast and efficient support while maintaining high-quality service levels.
30% of customer service professionals say that improving key support metrics was a struggle for them in 2022. They probably don’t track and analyze customer satisfaction data with Klaus.
Originally published in November 2018; last updated in May 2023.