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Your email response time can tell you a lot about your email productivity, and even predict your success in sales and customer service. Just check out these stats:
- 35-50% of sales go to the first-responding vendor.
- Your close rate goes up 700% if you respond within an hour.
- 90% of customers want an immediate response, and 60% of customers define “immediate” as 10 minutes or less.
Finding your average email response time can help you diagnose problems with your sales efforts, as well as your internal communications and workload balance.
So how can you measure email response time for yourself or your employees? And what’s a “good” response time to shoot for?
Read on for the answers to these questions, as well as how to implement response time tracking for your team.
Table of Contents
- What is an acceptable professional email response time for business?
- What is a normal or average email response time?
- How to find your average email response time in Gmail, Google Workspace, and Outlook
- How to find your average email response time in Yahoo, AOL, and other email providers
- 6 ways to improve your average email response time
- Average Email Response Time FAQ
What is an acceptable professional email response time for business?
Well, the type of email and its context matters a lot.
For example, 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.
That said, we do have some statistics that suggest what an “acceptable” email response time expectation is for most customers.
- 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” business email response time is giving a response in less than a day, with customers having higher expectations than your coworkers.
A good email response time etiquette would be to never go more than 24 hours without answering an email if you can help it, and strive to respond to email within an hour or two if you can.
If you’re in sales or customer service, response time is a super important KPI.
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 some response time statistics.
The EmailAnalytics Study (updated monthly)
We publish a monthly research report that benchmarks various email averages, such as emails sent/received and average response time. You can find the latest one here.
According to our research, here are our customers’ average email response times:
Including weekends & holidays
- Actual response time: 11h 28m 41s
- Work hours response time (ie, when we only consider emails occurring during work hours): 3h 57m 06s
Those figures include weekends and holidays. So what if we remove all weekends and holidays from our calculations? How does that change things?
Excluding weekends & holidays
- Actual response time: 10h 57m 13s
- Work hours response time (ie, when we only consider emails occurring during work hours): 3h 48m 24s
The methodology of our study is outlined in the report itself, but the important thing to know is that we removed all @gmail.com email accounts from our report, so that we are only including data from professionals (ie, Google Workspace users).
Here’s a graphic that shows how email response time changes by day of the week:
The Polymail study
Next, we’ll compare with 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.
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, they recommend referring to the median value for email response time for a better gauge of what’s normal—and the median was 1.78 hours.
The SuperOffice study
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 our own study.
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.
Improve your team's email response time by 42.5% With EmailAnalytics
- 35-50% of sales go to the first-responding vendor.
- Following up within an hour increases your chances of success by 7x.
- The average professional spends 50% of their workday on email.
Around 30 percent of companies responded within the first business day.
The point: Proper email response time expectations are difficult to nail down. Studies show ranges from around 2 to 17 hours, though they involve different industries.
More research is needed in this area!
How to find your average email response time in Gmail, Google Workspace, and Outlook
The best way to find your email response time in Gmail, Google Workspace, and Outlook, is to use EmailAnalytics, an email response time tracking software.
EmailAnalytics integrates with your account and provides you with key details on you and your teammates’ email usage, and offers a super simple way to track email response time.
Once you sign up for an account, you’ll be able to view email 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 your average email response time.
You’ll be able to view these stats in interactive graphs, 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.
Most interesting of all, our email response time tracker displays how your email metrics differ from the average of all other users of EmailAnalytics, so you can see how your average email response times (or your employees’) compare to those of other professionals.
We take calculation of average email 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 Yahoo, AOL, and other email 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.
6 ways 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 for how to improve response times to customers, vendors, and leads:
1. 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).
2. 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.
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). Be sure to see our post on nine perfect out of office message examples you can use!
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.
5. 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.
6. Establish an email response time policy.
If you’re managing a team, establish an email response time policy with clear expectations so that your team has goals to achieve. With clear goals in place, your employees will be able to perform accordingly!
If you’re ready to start measuring and tracking your average email response time (and the average 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.
Average Email Response Time FAQ
What is average email response time?
Average email response time is the time it takes, on average, to respond to emails. This is a useful email metric to know for sales and customer service teams because it significantly affects customer satisfaction and lead conversion rates.
What is a typical average email response time?
Different studies have found varying answers to this question. Our own study has found that the average professional email response time is 3h 50m 58s when weekends and holidays are excluded, and when only work hours are considered.
How do I find my average response time?
If you use Gmail, Google Workspace, or Outlook, you can use a third-party tool like EmailAnalytics.
Jayson is a long-time columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, BusinessInsider, Inc.com, and various other major media publications, where he has authored over 1,000 articles since 2012, covering technology, marketing, and entrepreneurship. He keynoted the 2013 MarketingProfs University, and won the “Entrepreneur Blogger of the Year” award in 2015 from the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs. In 2010, he founded a marketing agency that appeared on the Inc. 5000 before selling it in January of 2019, and he is now the CEO of EmailAnalytics.