5 proven ways to reduce customer service response time

Ways to reduce customer service response time
Written by:
Picture of Natasha Ratanshi-Stein

Natasha Ratanshi-Stein , Founder & CEO

If you are running a customer service team, you are passionate about your customers. You want them to have the best experience with you. So, it’s right for you to focus on customer service response time.

Customer service response time is the time your support team takes to first respond to a customer request or query. The shorter the time taken, the higher the customer satisfaction. 

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? 

Customer service response time statistics say,

📍46% of customers expect a response from companies in less than 4 hours.

📍12% expect a reply within 15 mins or less.

📍Moreover, 90% of customers consider instant response a critical factor they look for in customer service. 

Check out how to improve your customer response time for the ultimate customer delight. 

Target response time is an agreement that defines exactly what a customer can expect from you as a service provider. Importantly, it dictates 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🙅‍♀️).

Understanding First Response Time (FRT) and Average Resolution Time (ART)

FRT is the time taken by a support agent (or surfer, as we call them🏄‍♂️) to initially respond to a customer. In other words, it is the time a customer waits to get an initial response from a surfer.

FRT = Time of first response – Time of customer request

ART is the average time your support team takes to resolve open tickets within a given period. Tracking this metric on a per surfer basis lets you identify the surfers taking longer to close tickets.

ART = Sum of all times to resolution / total cases resolved

5 ways to set your target response time

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.

Here are five ways to set your target response time.

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. For example, with an insurance claim or food delivery issue, it needs to be solved immediately.

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

Check your reviews

What are people saying about your customer service team on Trustpilot? Is there any mention about your customer service response time?

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.

Get your priorities straight

You should have a way to determine 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.

Assess frequency

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

It’s likely that you will engage with your customers repeatedly. If that’s not the case, then you have ongoing exchanges with them, and you will want them as repeat customers.

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

Consider your surfers

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

Be fair to your surfers and constantly assess how many people you need on the job for every occasion. You may 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 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 to improve customer response time?

According to customer service response time standards

  • For emails, the average response time should be between 12 to 24 hours.
  • For live chat, the average response time should be no longer than 3-5 minutes.

While you know the ways to set target response time, what if you find out that your response timing has been slower than that of your competitor’s?

You’ll need ways to improve your customer service response time right away. 

Here are a few ways to do it.

Set up a knowledge base

The more the queries, the more you have to think about response time in customer service. Setting up a knowledge base gives customers a quick access to information. Create a repository of knowledge base articles, FAQs, and documentation. This will have answers to repetitive customer queries. It will also reduce the workload of your customer support team.

Leverage chatbots

Provide instant responses 24/7 with chatbots and add value to your live chats. Chatbots can reduce your first response time or FRT by responding to customer queries instantly.

Create customer service response templates

Templates are super useful when it comes to reducing customer service response time. It cuts down the time your surfers take to rewrite same responses over again for multiple customers. 

Building templates save time. They help maintain consistency in brand voice, and help provide a comparable service level to every customer. Use these templates to respond to common customer queries over email, social channels, chat, or other platforms.

Implement customer service software

Another way to reduce customer service response time is to use customer service software. Here are a few types of customer support software to choose from based on your business goals.

  • Smart scheduling tools like Surfboard can help you reduce response time by forecasting the number of surfers required to speed up your response time. You can also plan shifts and track your surfer performance to identify the roadblocks to a faster response time.
  • CRM tools like HubSpot, Zendesk, Salesforce can help you store customer information and use them to retain customers.
  • Messaging tools like LiveChat can help you offer customer support quickly over emails, SMS, and social media platforms.

Improve team efficiency

Well-trained and efficient surfers are your answer to negative customer experiences. If you build a team of knowledgeable surfers, you’ll reduce the chances of losing customers. Here are a few best practices to help you.

  • Set up training sessions for your surfers frequently. 
  • Communicate your product information, updated features, brand messaging and voice.
  • Make your team aware of the common queries and problems and provide them with solutions.
  • Monitor your surfer performances and other metrics to identify the areas that need improvement. Focus on these areas in the upcoming training sessions.

Surfboard for faster response time

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 (a mathematical formula used to calculate surfer requirements we mentioned earlier) for both phone calls and 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. Most likely, you already got that on your customer service platform, so we can plug right in and extract it.

Surfboard 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.


What is the difference between response time and problem solution?

The difference between response time and problem solution lies in the timing and scope of the actions. Response time refers to how quickly a customer receives an initial reply to their enquiry, while problem solution is the time taken to resolve the customer’s issue or query fully.

What is the impact of customer service response time on customer satisfaction?

Customer service response time significantly impacts customer satisfaction. A quick and efficient response makes customers feel valued and appreciated, increasing satisfaction. Conversely, delayed responses can frustrate customers and harm their perception of the company’s service quality.

Why does speed matter in customer service?

Speed matters in customer service because it directly influences the customer experience. Prompt responses demonstrate attentiveness and professionalism, increasing the likelihood of customer loyalty and positive word-of-mouth. Quick resolutions also reduce customer stress and enhance overall satisfaction with the service provided.

Learn how Mercuryo, a global payments infrastructure platform, maintains a 90% plus service level using Surfboard, scheduling live chat, quality assurance and KYC checks across three timezones.

Book a demo to find out if Surfboard is the workforce scheduling software you need.