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Speed—How Quickly Do Audiences Expect Responses?

Learn more about how your chat response times impact your customer service experience.

Illustration of a blank smartphone with a large icon of a clock with a “!” stamped…in the top right hand corner
March 14, 2024
Chloe Mulliner
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Reading time about 9 min

No one likes to be left hanging—especially regarding customer service interactions. After all, customers deserve quick, efficient responses to their questions and concerns.

So, are you keeping up with your customers' expectations regarding your customer response times?

Our guide below unpacks everything you need about live chat response times to ensure you meet your customers' demands.

How quickly do audiences expect responses?

A good chat response time varies due to several factors, but the quicker you respond, the better.

How quickly do audiences expect responses? Interestingly, the channel you're communicating is the deciding factor regarding customer expectations. According to recent studies, most customers expect an almost immediate response to chatbots, online messaging, and SMS texts, but they're willing to wait several hours for replies via email.

Based on those findings, you should strive to reply to chat messages in real-time and emails within a few hours.

Below, we dive more into the importance of quick customer service response times as we address what impacts customer expectations, the benefits of fast responses, and some best practices for speedy replies.

What factors affect audience expectations for response time?

There are several factors that affect audience expectations for response time, including your specific audience, the industry you’re working in, the level of urgency of the messages, and the channels you’re using.

Audience

Only some customers are the same, so only some customers will expect the same response time. For instance, millennials have gotten a reputation for having a low tolerance for slow responses from brands. In fact, one recent survey revealed millennials expect a response within 10 minutes. However, older customers, especially those less digitally savvy, may have more patience when waiting for a reply from a business.

Industry

While quick responses should always be your goal, the industry you operate in may also impact your customers' expectations. Ask yourself questions like, what kind of goods and services do you offer your clients? How will the timeliness of your responses impact your customers and their interaction with your business? And what kind of turnaround responses typically align with your industry?

For instance, healthcare professionals are expected to respond more promptly than, say, those in the salon and spa industry due to the nature and urgency of their business.

Urgency

Along with the kind of industry you’re in, urgency plays a big role. Some instances, like health and financial matters, require immediate responses compared to other less urgent scenarios.

For example, a retail customer inquiring about a brand’s return policy might not necessarily anticipate a response right now, but a banking customer needing help with a fraudulent alert on their credit card will expect an immediate response.

Channel

The channel on which your customers are communicating often dictates customer service response times, too.

A recent survey showed that 75% of customers expected instant live chat responses regarding online chats and chatbots. That means a response within minutes. However, that isn't necessarily the case if the customers correspond over email. Another survey found that nearly half of the respondents expected an email reply within four hours, proving customers tend to be more lenient toward longer wait times when communicating over email versus live chat or text.

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What are the benefits of responding quickly to audience inquiries?

You realize your customers want almost instant responses, but what are the benefits of responding quickly to audience inquiries? There are a few benefits to responding swiftly to audience inquiries, such as increased customer satisfaction, improved customer loyalty, and reduced churn, to name a few.

Increased Customer Satisfaction

Let’s face it, having happy customers is your top priority, so give the people what they want! Providing timely responses is one sure way to boost your customer satisfaction rates. After all, when your customers receive instant resolutions to their questions and concerns, they’ll be more likely to stick with your business in the future.

Improved Customer Loyalty

Happy customers are also loyal customers. Therefore, the faster and more efficient you can make your customer service process, the more your customers will want to continue doing business with you. Not only that, but they’re likely more inclined to rave about their customer service experience to their friends and family, which could generate new leads.

Reduced Churn

Churn refers to customer turnover or those who stop using your business’s products or services. High customer satisfaction and loyalty correlate to reduced customer churn. Essentially, as long as your customers are pleased with their interactions with your business, they’ll remain loyal to your brand.

What are the risks of not responding quickly to audience inquiries?

We get it; responding to your customers in real-time or almost instantly can be challenging. So, what are the risks of not responding quickly to audience inquiries? Unfortunately, there are quite a few risks of reacting slowly to audience inquiries, as it can lead to reduced customer satisfaction, increased churn, and even damage to your reputation.

Reduced Customer Satisfaction

Just as speedy chat response times can lead to increased customer satisfaction, the opposite is true. If you're slacking when replying to your customers, you might see a dip in their satisfaction rates. This isn't good for business as it could cause customers to go elsewhere or even leave bad reviews about their customer service experience.

Increased Churn

If you're not replying to your customers within minutes or even within days, then they'll likely find a business that will. Your customers will only want to stick around if you give them the time of the day.

Damage to Your Reputation

Unfortunately, disgruntled customers like to talk. And that means if they’re unsatisfied with your chat response times, they’ll let you (and everyone else!) know it. Not only will they share their experience with their friends and relatives, but they may also leave poor reviews or negative comments, discouraging others from doing business with you and tarnishing your business reputation.

What are some best practices for responding quickly to audience inquiries?

A few best practices for responding quickly to audience inquiries include being proactive, clear and concise, helpful, and personal.

Be Proactive

Time is of the essence, meaning you need to be proactive with your responses and resolutions. Do you know the solution? Jump right in and offer it! Not sure what to do next? Ask someone who can help you.

Be Clear and Concise

Aside from offering timely responses, it's crucial to be clear and concise to sort out the issue quickly. Avoid sending lengthy, convoluted messages, as this will only prolong the conversation.

Be Helpful

Being helpful is one sure way to boost customer satisfaction. Doing everything you can to provide answers and resolutions shows that you care and prioritize your customers.

Be Personal

Personalizing your responses is another best practice that makes your customers feel appreciated. Even just including their name in your messages can go a long way!

Boost Audience Response Time with SMS Marketing

In addition to cutting-edge technology like AI mentioned earlier in this article, businesses can leverage fast communication channels through SMS texting. Secure, immediate, and personalized SMS text messages are excellent for boosting engagement and seeing more returns from your outreach tools.

If you have more questions about SMS text marketing or how it can help your business speed up its response times for those who matter most, start a 14-day free trial (no credit card needed) to explore the EZ Texting conversational texting platform and learn more about the versatility and power of SMS text.

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FAQs

You should be mindful of a handful of things when responding to customer inquiries. Some of the most common mistakes include:

Not Responding at All

Not responding at all to your customers is the worst offense. No matter the situation, your customers always deserve a response, even if you don’t have the answers or their message got lost in the shuffle.

Taking Too Long to Respond

Fast customer service response times should be a priority. If you're taking your time, your customers will get frustrated. And frustrated customers will take their business elsewhere. If you need help keeping up, consider sending automated replies until you can address their concerns so your customers think you're paying attention to them.

Being Rude or Dismissive

There’s no room for being rude or dismissive when handling customers. Approaching your customers with anything aside from a polite and professional demeanor is a sure way to lose customers and gain a bad reputation.

Not Understanding the Customer's Needs

You can only help your customers if you understand them. When interacting with them, ask clarifying questions to help you get to the bottom of their needs. To get to know your customers better, consider sending out surveys or questionnaires to get their feedback.

Businesses can improve their response times in a number of ways, such as investing in the right tools, setting clear expectations, and training their staff.

Invest in the Right Tools

Improving your response times doesn’t have to involve manually overseeing every single message every second of every day—that’s what tools are for. Look for software with AI technology that will manage your customer service interactions for you and help speed up the process.

You can incorporate tools to set up alerts, prioritize messages, track conversations, send canned replies, and even generate automated responses, helping you better oversee customer interactions.

Train Your Staff

A knowledgeable customer service team with the communication and problem-solving skills to quickly and efficiently respond to your customers will significantly reduce response rates. After all, the more equipped they are to handle customer inquiries, the faster they can resolve their issues.

Set Clear Expectations

If your customer service team takes days to respond to customers, you will probably need more time to achieve instant response times. Instead, create realistic expectations and SMART goals, and then work with your team on how you can achieve them. As recommended above, that might mean investing in new software and developing training sessions for your staff.

The best way to improve your customer service response rates is by monitoring them. So, how can businesses measure the effectiveness of response times? To start, it helps to track your response time, survey your customers, and analyze your churn rate.

Track Your Response Time

You might think you’re responding quickly, but your numbers tell you otherwise. The only way to be sure is to monitor how long it takes to reply to your customers. Use tools and software that help you gauge your response times so you have a benchmark to work with.

Survey Your Customers

Want to know what your customers think of your response rates? Ask them. Consider sending them a survey or questionnaire in an SMS message in which they can provide feedback about their interactions with your company. Ask questions regarding your response times and inquire about how you can improve your customer service experience.

Analyze Your Churn Rate

The numbers don’t lie—if your churn rate is increasing every month, then you might want to take a good, hard look at the efficiency of your customer service responses. After all, long chat response times often correlate with high customer turnover. When customers are starting to jump ship, it’s time to look at how you can improve their customer service experience, and that might mean speeding up your responses.

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