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First Response Time (FRT) in Customer Support Explained with Examples

Quality management7 MIN READNov 30, 2018

First Response Time in Customer Service [Stats Infographic]


First Response Time (FRT) indicates how long your customers have to wait before getting a response to their inquiry. Given that there are many KPIs for support teams that can be used to measure support performance, you might be wondering why this one, in particular, is so important. And the answer is that it plays a significant role in customer satisfaction.

Many companies include a baseline FRT in their service level agreements (SLA), which means they must respond to customers within a specified timeframe.

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

How to calculate Average First Response Time?

Sum of First Response Times / Number of Tickets = Average First Response Time

For example:

64,000 seconds ÷ 800 resolved tickets = 80 seconds

As long as you’re using support software to respond to inquiries, you should be able to easily access both these pieces of data in the reporting features.

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 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.

Benchmarking for success

We’ve collected some stats to give you a good overview of how FRT affects support across customer service channels.

Take a look at the response times people expect from customer service to understand which are the most reasonable support channels for your company.

Response time for phone support should be less than 3 minutes

If you provide customer service over the phone, make sure your agents pick up in less than 3 minutes. If you have considerably longer waiting times, consider using callback software.

Respond within an hour to social media customer service requests

Respond to your customers within an hour to avoid rants on social media. Public negative feedback is something you probably don’t want for your company.

Live chat support first response time averages to 1 minute 36 seconds

Live chat is a very convenient way of contacting companies. To make sure you don’t disappoint those reaching out to you, reply within 1 min and 36 seconds. 92% CSAT guaranteed.

Respond to customer emails within 24 hours

Email is still one of the most used means of communication in customer support. Reply within a day and most of your customers will be happy with your service.

Take these statistics into account when picking channels for your customer support. Think about how your customers would like to reach out to you. Then calculate if you’ve got the resources to meet your customers’ expectations for FRT.

How to reduce FRT?

You should analyze the trend of your average first response time to see if it’s increasing or decreasing. Ideally, it should decrease over time, meaning that you’re responding to customers faster.

If you’re having trouble hitting your FRT goals, there are a few ways you can get back on track.

1. Coaching and training

First, you should break down your average first response time by agents to see who takes the longest to respond to customers. Maybe everyone on your team is consistently hitting your target FRT except for one rep. In this case, you can fix the problem by coaching the rep who’s struggling to keep up with the rest. Find out what’s slowing them down and suggest ways they can improve their workflow. This is something you might want to bring up during your customer service performance reviews.

If there is a group of agents that seems to be straggling, then you should consider conducting a training session. This will help you get everyone on the same page about how and when to respond to case submissions. It will also remind your reps that first response time is a support metric that your team is striving to optimize.

2. Scheduling

If you have a high volume of cases being submitted 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. You should look at case submissions by time to find out when customers are reaching out to you most frequently.

3. Changing or adding communication channels

If you really want to put a dent in your first response time, you might need to take somewhat drastic measures. One way to do this is by upgrading your communication channels. Many customer service teams get by with a phone line, web-based chat, and a simple FAQ section. You can decrease your first response time by adding other customer service channels on your website to give your customers more options.

Implementing live chat is a surefire way to decrease your first response time. This will empower some of your reps to respond to customer inquiries within seconds.

4. Use templates and 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.

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 email response.

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 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 the time needed to respond, the complexity of the problem, and the importance to both the customer and the business.

For example, prioritize responding to sales-ready leads over general inquiries 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.

6. Prevent agent burnout

When agents are burned out, they can feel a lack of motivation to hit their benchmarks, even if they are normally top performers.

You can help with burnout by showing gratitude for your agents’ hard work. Building a culture of gratitude can help sustain your team through this crisis and into the future.

Written by

Merit Valdsalu
Merit is the content writer at Klaus - though most of her texts have probably been ghostwritten by her rescue cat Oskar.

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