How long does it take you to respond to an email? If you’re not busy and you have your email open, it might only take you a few minutes. If an email gets lost and you forget about it, it could take you a few days.
But we’re not interested in these outliers; almost everyone will have both lightning-fast email response times and painfully slow ones. Instead, it’s important to consider your average email response time, which can tell you much about your overall email habits, and how they need to improve over time.
Finding your average email response time can help you diagnose problems with your sales efforts, as well as your internal communications, and could even help you detect problems with the balance of your workload.
So how should you go about determining their average email response time, or that of your employees? And what’s a “good” response time to shoot for?
What is an acceptable professional email response time for business?
This is a complicated question to answer. For starters, there are multiple types of emails you might be dealing with. What’s acceptable for an in-team conversation may not be acceptable for an important client interaction, or a high-priority question from your immediate supervisor. Second, the word “acceptable” could imply a few things, including a response time that’s merely tolerable, or one that’s ideal. On top of that, individual preferences could make two different people have diametrically opposed views on what counts as “acceptable” in their own line of work.
That said, we do have some statistics that suggest what an “acceptable” email response time is for most customers. For example, a study from the Northridge Group found that 40 percent of millennials wait 60 minutes after emailing to see if they get a response. If they don’t, they try to reach you via an alternative channel. A study by Forrester Research found that 41 percent of customers expect to see a response to their email within 6 hours of initially sending it, yet only 36 percent of companies are able to meet that response time.
If you’re more interested in what’s acceptable for in-team communications, such as emails between you and your coworkers or you and your supervisors, you should know that 52 percent of professionals who send a work-related email expect a response between 12 and 24 hours from the initial time of sending. Roughly 20 percent of people expect an even faster response time, in less than 12 hours. Only 3 percent of participants in this survey indicated they’d be okay with waiting a week or longer.
With that information, you can assume that a baseline “acceptable” range is giving a response in less than a day, with customers having higher expectations than your coworkers. Never go more than 24 hours without answering an email if you can help it, and strive to email within an hour or two if you can.
What is an acceptable personal email response time?
The world of personal email is very different, for obvious reasons. The people you’re emailing will probably be more understanding if you aren’t checking your email regularly, and there will be fewer (and less severe) consequences for emailing outside the expected time parameters. I imagine you’re also less interested to hear the answers here.
Your response time should partially depend on what type of email you’re responding to. If someone requests an RSVP for an event by a specific date, or needs the answer to a question by a certain time, try your best to adhere to that requested timeframe. Otherwise, do your best to reply within a day or two.
What is a normal or average email response time?
There are a few ways to look at the normal email response time, across the board. For starters, let’s review this study by Polymail, an email collaboration platform.
This study focused on Polymail users, so it’s a bit biased (but we’ll look at other measures shortly). The researchers noted that while it was possible to analyze millions of emails, there were some considering factors that would significantly skew the results; for example, a large proportion of replies sent within the first few minutes of receiving an email were likely due to auto-responders.
Plus, even a handful of emails that didn’t get a response until months after being received could feasibly push the “average” response time to be much longer than what is truly normal. Accordingly, they only looked at messages that received replies after five minutes had elapsed, but before two weeks had elapsed, leaving them with 691,000 messages.
Overall, they found that the average response time for a business email is 16.83 hours—so not quite a day. But this seems to be because of a very small percentage of emails that were answered after a week (and of course, emails that didn’t get a response over the weekend). Instead, the median value for email response time is a better gauge of what’s normal—and the median appears to be 1.78 hours.
One study from SuperOffice, a CRM platform, looked at company response times to emails from customers. According to their findings, 62 percent of companies don’t respond to customer emails at all—which seems a bit high, so take that with a grain of salt. They found the fastest response time to be a minute (clearly the outlier of the group), with the slowest response time being 8 days. The average was 12 hours and 10 minutes, putting it within striking distance of the average email response metric that Polymail found.
As you might suspect, average response time varies wildly, depending on the company you’re studying and the individual people within those companies. One 2011 study attempted to rank some of the country’s top retailers, to see how quickly they were able to respond to customer emails. Office Depot was at the top of the list, with an average email response time of just 48 minutes—compared to the average response time from the aforementioned studies, that’s incredibly fast. Musician’s Friend came in second with an average response time of 58 minutes, but the average of all top 100 retailers was 17 hours.
Of course, email response time isn’t just about replying to emails from existing customers. We also have to consider the average response time to a form submission by your sales staff, as fast replies tend to lead to much higher conversion rates. One study by Drift found that only 7 percent of companies responded to a new form completion within 5 minutes, and more than half of companies (55 percent) in the group failed to respond within the first 5 days. Around 30 percent of companies responded within the first business day.
How to find your response time in Gmail and G Suite
The best way to find your email response time in Gmail and G suite is to use EmailAnalytics. Our tool integrates with your account and provides you with key details on you and your teammates’ email usage. Once you sign up for an account, you’ll be able to view statistics like the number of emails you’ve sent and received, your email traffic based on day of the week, the number of emails you get for each category, your average word counts, and most importantly, your average email response time.
You’ll be able to view these stats in an interactive graph, mapping out response times when you reply to other people and when they reply to you. You’ll also see a chart breaking down how many emails in each category of response time you send (such as within 5 minutes, within 15 minutes, and within an hour). That way, you can monitor your response time as it changes, and get a feel for whether your optimization strategies are working.
Perhaps most interesting of all, EmailAnalytics displays how your metrics differ from the average of all other users of EmailAnalytics, so you can see how your response times (or your employees’) compare to other professionals who are interested in their average email response times.
We take calculation of average response times very seriously, so we developed a thorough algorithm for calculating response times that takes into consideration your work hours, time zone, and emails that never received a response, in order to ensure we provide accurate figures to our customers. For example, for emails received outside of business hours, we don’t start the clock on the response time until the next business hours begin. This helps to ensure you and your employees get a fair, accurate estimation of average email response time.
How to find your average email response time in Outlook
In Outlook, you can use Microsoft’s MyAnalytics, which is an app designed to help you monitor employee productivity in Outlook specifically. This will give you a breakdown of how you and your employees are spending time within Microsoft’s apps. It’s built into Office 365, so you might already have access to it.
How to find your response time in Yahoo, AOL, and other mail providers
Unfortunately, other email providers don’t have a built-in feature to address the issue of email response time.
Depending on which tools you have available to you, you may also be able to export your inbox, and use a spreadsheet to calculate your average response times. However, for the most part, you’ll be reliant on third-party tools to calculate average email response times in Yahoo, AOL, and other non-mainstream providers, and these tools aren’t always robust or reliable.
How to improve your average email response time
Unless you’re seriously impressed by your current email response times, you’re probably wondering which strategies you can adopt to make those times even faster.
These are some of the most helpful tactics you can use:
- Check your email often (with a few caveats). First, consider checking your email more often—so long as it doesn’t interfere with your productivity. You may have notifications turned on, which means in most situations, you’ll get emails in real-time and can respond to them as soon as you get the chance. Otherwise, make sure you schedule periods of time throughout the day when you can check and reply to emails. Just be careful not to get too obsessed with your email response times—if you spend too much time watching your inbox and scrambling to respond, you may get your response times faster, but your productivity will plummet (not to mention your stress will increase).
- Proactively address emails that can’t be fully responded to. Sometimes, you’ll receive an email that you can’t feasibly address immediately; you might need time to put together a coherent, comprehensive response, or you might not have all the information available to you. But instead of simply waiting until you have all the pieces in place, put a response out there; respond to the email telling the sender that you need more time and/or information before you can provide a more thorough response. Most senders will appreciate the heads up.
- Use away messages when you’re unavailable. If you know you’re going to be unable to respond in an acceptable timeframe for a period in the future (like if you’re going on vacation), use an away message to set the right expectations with your customers and/or coworkers. Explain that you won’t be able to email back as quickly as you usually would, and provide an alternative contact in case there’s an emergency that requires a faster response time. Just make sure you set a reminder to remove this away message when you come back (or set it to automatically expire).
- Don’t be afraid to delegate. Sometimes, you’ll get a message that you can’t immediately respond to, or you’ll be so overloaded with emails and tasks that your response times drop. If and when this happens, don’t be afraid to delegate. That may mean forwarding the email to someone else on your team who can handle it more quickly and more attentively, or it may mean enlisting the help of a subordinate or independent contractor to handle your main workload so you can maintain communications with your most important contacts.
- Set clear expectations about your schedule. You can also buy yourself some extra time if you set the right expectations about your schedule in the first place. For example, if you’re relying on customers filling out a contact form, you can let them know it could take up to 24 hours for a salesperson to respond (even if you think it will take far less than that). If you’re working within a team, you can tell them how you only check your email periodically, and that they shouldn’t always expect a response in an hour or less. You can even tell them what your busiest email days are, so they can set different expectations for your response times on those days.
If you’re ready to start measuring your email response time (and the response times of your employees), your first step should be signing up for EmailAnalytics. It’s virtually impossible to measure your average response time with any sort of reliability without a robust platform to help you do it, and EmailAnalytics has everything you need to get the job done.
Use it to gauge a starting point for you and your team members, and track your progress as you make improvements along the way.
Ready to get started with EmailAnalytics? Try it now, instantly, with a 14-day free trial. No credit card required!