Customers and Co-workers Expect Faster Email Responses

Note: This study was repeated in April, 2018. The new study includes response time expectations for Twitter and Facebook messages. You can read the latest results here.

The results of my 2014 email response time survey reveal it may be time to re-think our response time standards. Customers, co-workers, and even our friends expect faster responses to email than ever before.

Previous years’ surveys have indicated these email response times are acceptable:

At first glance, the 2014 results seem similar to the 2013 survey. For example, 78 percent of respondents expect co-workers to respond to an email within 4 hours or less, up slightly from 74 percent in 2013.

A small problem appears when you look at the distribution of responses. While a majority of people (59 percent) are happy with a 1 day response time from a business, there's still a large portion of people (41 percent) that expect a faster response.

In a new wrinkle, I decided to see what response times would meet at least 80% of the respondents’ expectations. This seems like a fairly reasonable benchmark to use when establishing response-time standards. 

This new perspective suggest some new response time standards may be in order:

This chart suggests the following response time standards are now appropriate:

  • Responding to a customer = 4 hours
  • Responding to a co-worker = 1 hour
  • Responding to a friend = 4 hours

The survey also looked to see whether there were significant differences between response time expectations for different generations. The short answer is there weren’t. Millenials, Gen Xers, and Baby Boomers all have similar response time expectations. 

This data does bring up several important issues:

  • How can we meet demand for increasingly fast email responses?
  • Are there strategies to reduce the volume of email we receive?
  • Are our co-workers insane?

I will be attempting to answer these questions in a webinar I’m hosting next week called Seven Ways to Improve Email Response Times

The complimentary webinar is next Tuesday, April 22 at 10am (Pacific).



If you missed the webinar, you can watch it here plus read a re-cap.