How can my average open time be higher than my average response time?

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It’s unintuitive that average open time would ever be higher than average response time — after all, wouldn’t that mean that we are responding to emails before opening them? How could that be?

Of course, that can’t be. And the answer is just in how the calculations are made.

“Average response time” only kicks in when an email is actually responded to. So it only counts emails that actually receive a response, whereas the “open time” metric counts all emails that get opened.

We tend to prioritize opening emails that we know will require a response, and we tend to leave unimportant emails unread for a while, until we get through all the known important ones.

Additionally, a quirk of Gmail tends to contribute to this illusion, because Gmail groups emails within the same thread together. When we open the thread, it counts as an open for every single email within that thread. So for example, if you open a 2-day old thread with 10 unread emails in it, that counts as 10 opened emails, each with a 2-day open time. That can significantly raise your average open time, causing it to become higher than your average response time.

As a result, the stats can sometimes show that our “average open time” is longer than our “average response time.”

Of course, you can look at individual open and response times for any single email — just click the “open time” or “response time” metric at the top of your dashboard to see the breakdown of all emails included in the calculation.

You’ll see that all emails you responded to do, indeed, have a lower “open time” metric, because of course you had to open the email before you could respond to it 😉

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