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First reply time: A detailed understanding and 3 ways to lower the metric
Your first reply can make or break your business.
Why? Because it sets the tone for the entire customer experience, shaping their perception of your brand’s responsiveness, reliability, and commitment to their needs.
Therefore, it comes down to two factors –
- Quickness – First reply time (FRT)
- Quality – First message value
Let’s put this into perspective.
When your first reply is quick and non-meaningful, you risk losing the trust of your customers, as rapid responses without substantial value may not resonate with them.
Similarly, if your first reply time is slow and meaningful, regardless of its value, a delayed response may lead to losing their attention or interest in your service or product.
Therefore, it is imperative that you strike a balance. Make your first reply quick and meaningful. A rapid, meaningful response earns their trust and captivates their attention, setting a strong foundation for a positive customer relationship.
In this blog post, we’ll show you how to calculate, track, and optimize your first reply rate and also show you ways to lower this metric while improving the quality of your service.
Use the power of GPT & Analytics to transform customer support
What is the First Reply Time (FRT)?
First reply time, also known as first response time (FRT), is a metric to measure the duration between a customer's initial contact or query and the moment they receive the first response from a support agent or customer service representative.
If you provide 24/7 customer support, tracking the average first response time involves evaluating the speed of responses across various platforms.
Alternatively, if your support operates within specific business hours, your average first response time can be measured during business hours.
Note: You must exclude automated responses while calculating average response time.
Here’s why your first response time can make or break your business.
The lower your first response time, the higher the customer satisfaction. Therefore, the first reply time has a direct correlation to your business’s bottom line.
- Customer satisfaction: Fast responses show attentiveness and care, leading to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.
- Retention and trust: Satisfactory and quick responses build trust and demonstrate commitment, reducing the likelihood of customers seeking alternatives.
- Brand reputation: Helpful responses on time make a positive first impression and enhance your brand's reputation, influencing how your business is perceived by customers.
- Issue resolution: Faster response times expedite issue resolution, preventing escalation and improving overall problem-solving.
- Competitive edge: Efficient first reply times set you apart from competitors, attracting and retaining customers seeking responsive service providers.
Let’s take a hypothetical situation to understand the first reply time.
There is a product company that provides customer support during business hours. Their customer generates a ticket on Tuesday at 10 am, seeking assistance, and a customer service agent responds to this ticket at 11 am on the following day, Wednesday.
In this case, the first response time or first reply time is one business day.
Considering that First Reply Time stems from customer expectations, we have compiled some facts and how modern business leaders are preparing to fulfill their customer expectations.
Why is First Reply Time important for businesses?
Today’s customers are expecting excellent customer service, that is both timely and of quality. And business leaders are adapting, by employing technology-based solutions such as automation tools and AI platforms, to serve their customers better and faster.
Let’s take a look.
- General: 46 percent stated they were prepared to wait three days for a response from a brand they have contacted. (Source: Statista)
- Social media: 31 percent of respondents from the United States, stated that they expect a response in 24 hours or less. (source: Statista)
- Chatbots: 75 percent of the respondents stated that they expect to receive an instant response when communicating via chatbots (Source: Statista)
Business leaders’ visions
- Chatbot: Chatbot provides round-the-clock support. Therefore, companies are investing in them. A few statistics show how modern business leaders envision reducing wait times with automated responses to their urgent questions. (Source: Forbes)
- 56% of companies say conversational bots are driving disruption in their industry
- 43% report their competitors are already implementing the technology.
- 57% of businesses agree that chatbots deliver a large return on investment with minimal effort.
- Data and analytics: 84% of customer service and service support leaders cited customer data and analytics as “very or extremely important” for achieving their organizational goals in 2023. (Source: Gartner)
How to calculate First Response Time (FRT)?
To compute the First Response Time (FRT), start by noting the timestamp of the initial customer inquiry or ticket creation. Then, subtract this timestamp from the timestamp of the first response received from the customer service agent.
First Response Time (FRT) = Time of First Response - Time of Initial Inquiry
Consider a scenario in a product company where a customer submits an inquiry or support ticket at 9 AM. The customer service team responded to this inquiry at 10 AM. To calculate the First Response Time:
FRT = Time of First Response - Time of Initial Inquiry
FRT = 10 AM - 9 AM
FRT = 1 hour
In this instance, the First Response Time (FRT) is one hour, indicating the duration between the customer's initial inquiry and the moment the customer received the first response from the customer service team.
How to calculate Average First Response Time (AFRT)?
AFRT = Sum of First Response Times / Number of Tickets
- Add up all the individual First Response Times (FRTs) for various tickets or queries during a specific timeframe.
- Divide the total sum of First Response Times by the total number of tickets or queries to obtain the Average First Response Time.
Suppose a product company manages five customer inquiries with the following First Response Times:
Inquiry 1: FRT = 2 hours
Inquiry 2: FRT = 1 hour
Inquiry 3: FRT = 3 hours
Inquiry 4: FRT = 1.5 hours
Inquiry 5: FRT = 2.5 hours
Calculate the Average First Response Time:
AFRT = (2 + 1 + 3 + 1.5 + 2.5) / 5
AFRT = 10 / 5
AFRT = 2 hours
Hence, the Average First Response Time (AFRT) for these five inquiries equals 2 hours.
How to track First Response Time (FRT)?
There are two ways you can track your first response time, using a support solution or using a spreadsheet. Although they both are equally effective, picking the right one will make all the difference. Let’s see how —
Customer support solution or support software
A customer support solution helps in managing, calculating and improving the Average First Response Time (AFRT). Therefore, it is the most efficient method for businesses with a high volume of customer support tickets, especially when they come from multiple customer service channels.
You can consider an AI-native customer support platform like DevRev. It helps you set up a service-level agreement (SLA) between you and your customers to set the expectations for your service level.
It helps you with a rule-based system helping you or your team meet your FRT goal metrics. For instance, if you've set a one-day rule for the first response, the interface will display a timer and alert you within a day when you are about to breach the defined time frame. This way customer support software will help you maintain and track FRT.
In addition, you can add company policies to create a standard, track response time metrics to measure efficiency, and set targets to reach your business goals.
Here’s how you can create SLA, and apply policies as per the priorities.
Next, you can also keep track of the support tickets and conversations that too in real time.
Further, you can also measure customer analytics for actionable insights to ensure that you are not only responding to your customers quickly but also providing relevant information to meet their different expectations successfully.
Spreadsheet or database
It helps businesses calculate their average time manually. Therefore, it is most suitable for small companies with low volumes of customer queries. Agents can record the timestamps for each ticket and their first responses and then enter them into a spreadsheet or database to calculate their average.
Let's say a product company has a team of support agents handling customer tickets. Each time a ticket comes in, the support agents record the timestamp of when they received the ticket and the timestamp of when they provided the first response to the customer's query.
They then input this data into a spreadsheet.
The spreadsheet can then perform calculations to find the average response time. For example, by using a formula to subtract the "Timestamp Received" from the "Timestamp First Response" for each ticket, summing up these differences, and then dividing by the total number of tickets.
Although preferable at the beginning of a growth stage, it is not preferred because of its accuracy and time-consuming processes.
How to lower your first reply time?
Make the best of the technology to manage your FRT but also overall enhance customer experience. Following are a few ways you can incorporate advanced technology solutions to meet your business goals.
- Automated responses: You can consider setting up rule-based automated responses for repetitive customer queries and questions. Use automation tools or chatbots equipped with predefined responses to instantly acknowledge customer inquiries, provide immediate answers, or direct them to relevant resources.
- Automated ticket routing: During certain situations and times like holidays, new feature launches, or simply agent unavailability, you can automate ticket routing as per the priorities and expertise of support agents. AI-native smart support systems such as DevRev can help you reduce the total number of customer tickets while increasing the number of resolved tickets as a result of prompt responses.
- Knowledge base: Build a robust and smart knowledge base for your customers and customer service agents. You can compile comprehensive and easily accessible information regarding products, services, troubleshooting guides, FAQs, and solutions to common issues, customers can self-serve and find answers to their queries independently. It will help your customers find answers to their queries independently and equip your support agents with the necessary resources to respond promptly and accurately to customer inquiries.
- Customer service response templates: From conversation scripts to emails, create templates for all types of customer service interactions. In addition to lowering your FRT, it will also help you stay consistent in your communication, enhancing brand positioning and recall.
- Multi-channel customer support: Employ an integrated multi-channel system merging email, live chat, social media, and messaging apps for flexible customer engagement. You can utilize AI-driven chatbots across these platforms and centralize customer data for swift and personalized responses. Using multiple customer support channels, you can empower customers to choose their preferred channel while ensuring efficient, consistent support. And streamline operations to significantly reduce first reply time, enhancing overall customer satisfaction and support experience.
You can implement these ways and many more with DevRev, AI-native OneCRM, which is built for modern businesses to improve their customer interactions and operational efficiency drastically.
Focus on improving your average resolution
Once you have lowered your FRT, the next step must be to lower your average resolution time, mirroring your exceptional commitment seen in the first reply time. Achieving an outstanding resolution time further solidifies your position in prioritizing customer satisfaction.
You can streamline support processes, optimize workflows, and foster collaboration among teams to improve your customer experience. It will showcase your dedication and strengthen customer loyalty, reinforcing your reputation as a provider of prompt and efficient support.