5 ways to set your target response time

5 ways to set your target response time
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Picture of Nora Beqaj

Nora Beqaj , Operations

If you are running a customer service team, you are passionate about your customers. You want them to receive the best service in a timely manner. It’s the right thing to focus on.

Customers have high expectations – if they have a question or have encountered a problem they want an instant response. But how fast is fast enough? How do you set internal targets for how quickly you respond (frequently referred to as “Service Level Agreements” or “SLA’s”)?

What is a target response time?

Target response time is an agreement that you’ll have in place with your customers. It defines exactly what a customer can expect from you as a service provider. Importantly, it will dictate how quickly you deal with customer issues.

(You might have heard of something called a Service Level Agreement. What we’re talking about is the same, but we don’t like that term because it’s jargon. Click here to see why we don’t use jargon at Surfboard🙅‍♀️ ).

You might feel overwhelmed about how to determine what your target response time should be. But there are key bits of information that will help you to come up with something appropriate.

We’ve decided to show you exactly what you might need. Here are five ways to set your target response time:

  1. Healthy competition as a metric

It’s a good thing to keep an eye on your competitors. Understanding their target response time can give you valuable insight into how quick yours should be. This also applies to what industry you are in and how immediately customers need their problem fixed in that industry. With an insurance claim or food delivery issue, it needs to be solved immediately.

Of course, it should be at least as fast as theirs. Better yet if it’s even faster.

  1. Check your reviews

What are people saying about your customer service team on Trustpilot?

Reviews are a fantastic way of getting feedback directly from your customers. Don’t be afraid to read yours. If there’s any indication that your response time has been too slow, you’ll find it there.

  1. Get your priorities straight

You should have a way of determining how urgent each customer request is. Some problems require immediate attention. Others might be okay to put on the back-burner for slightly longer. You should set up your ticketing software to make this easier.

The first step is sorting out which issues are high, normal, and low priority. Once you wrap your head around that, you can deal with requests within an appropriate time frame and set your target response time based on urgency.

  1. Assess frequency

You need to understand how often your customers interact with your product or service.

It’s likely that you will be engaging with your customers repeatedly. If it’s not the case that you’re having ongoing exchanges with them, you will at least want them as repeat customers.

Show repeat customers your value with good customer service. It will help bring in a continuous stream of revenue. It will also prevent them from looking elsewhere for a better customer experience.

  1. Consider your surfers

Surfers are at the front lines when it comes to great customer service. They are your eyes and ears in the field and are an invaluable part of your product.

Be fair to your surfers and constantly assess how many people you need on the job for every occasion. It might be the case that you need more surfers at particular times to meet your target response time.

So… how exactly can you do that?

You can use these tools to understand your surfer requirements right now:

Erlang C Calculator

The Erlang C Calculator generates suggestions based on your call ticket volumes and your surfers’ average handling time of those tickets. Based on the outputs, it tells you how many people you’ll need for particular live channels.

The calculator is totally free to use. But it does require manual input, so be prepared for a little legwork. It’s also used primarily for phone calls, so bear that in mind if you’re looking for something that covers more ground. This is the type of calculation Surfboard uses for calculating staffing requirements for live channels (phone and live chat).

Surfboard forecasting and staffing

Our forecasting tool plugs into whatever customer service platform you are already using. From there it extracts data from your ticketing and phone systems. Within minutes we’ll give you an actionable plan informing you how many surfers you need, and where they should be. It’s automatic and easy.

How we could handle it all for you

At Surfboard, we use our own internal tools to help create accurate target response times. Those tools were made by data scientists with the aim of making things as simple as possible for our customers. We also help with shift planning and activity recommendations so that all the guesswork is removed when drawing up target response times.

Let’s take a look at how we handle live and non-live channels at Surfboard.

  • We use Erlang C (that’s a mathematical formula used to calculate surfer requirements. It’s pretty technical, but if you want to understand a bit more about it click here. It’s used in the calculator we mentioned earlier) for phone calls, as well as for chats. It requires a bit of internal adjustment when it comes to chat, but we’ve got that covered.
  • Non-live channels like emails and social media require a look at your historical data. You’ve likely already got that on your customer service platform, so we can plug right in and extract it.

The best time to change

We make software that is simple to use, accurate, and fair. Let us handle the data side of things so that you can focus on helping your surfers and managers with excellent customer service.

Click here to try our team planning software today or get in touch at

nora@teamsurfboard.com