We may live in a time of social media, but email continues to be the preferred channel for business communication. According to an email statistics report by the Radicati Group, as of 2018, approximately 124.5 billion business emails are sent and received each year. Meanwhile, around 111.1 billion consumer emails go back and forth every day.
If anything, the popularity of email as a communication tool underscores the importance of maintaining high standards and making a good impression with the customers you’re corresponding with.
One way of doing this is by ensuring that you reply to emails in a timely manner. The problem, however, is that it can be easy to lose track of the messages you need to reply to right away and the messages that aren’t urgent. Add in the fact that different people have different expectations about reasonable email response times, and you could be one message away from a disgruntled customer.
To prevent this from happening, here are a few things entrepreneurs should remember on email response times.
1. The Faster the Response, the Better
According to research by Polymail, the average response time for business emails not answered in five business or less is 16.83 hours. But the median response duration is much faster—1.78 hours.
Meanwhile, another study by researchers from the University of Southern California found that the most common email response is two minutes. But this depends on the platform you use to answer messages. For example, among individuals working on laptops and desktop computers, it usually takes twice as long to respond to emails than if he or she were typing away on a phone.
2. Generation Differences Matter
Preferred response times can also vary by age. According to a survey by Toister Solutions, 28 percent and 30 percent of Millennials (individuals between the ages of 23 to 38 in 2019) and members of Generation X (ages 39 to 54), respectively, expect email responses in an hour or less.
Surprisingly, 35 percent Baby Boomers (ages 55 to 73) expect the fastest response.
For entrepreneurs, it may help to find out who exactly you’ll be sending an email to, which will allow you to anticipate preferred response times. If this isn’t possible, Toister’s findings suggest than responding to emails in an hour is a good benchmark to aim for. But if you want to show world-class service, shoot for a sub-15-minute response.
3. Emails Sent During the Day Tend to Get Faster Responses
The same USC study found that while most people are connected to the Internet 24/7, there are still times of the day when emails get faster replies. For one, most people are more active on email during the day than at night. So, if a customer sends a message during the morning, they might expect quicker responses. Furthermore, the researchers also found that messages sent during the day tend to get longer replies.
Another thing to consider is whether you should reply to emails after working hours and during weekends. Fast Company reports that companies like Vynamic have a rule forbidding email during after hours and non-working days. Ultimately, this depends on your ability to set reasonable expectations with your customers. One way to do this is by automating email responses letting customers know that you’ll respond to emails between 9:00 am to 6:00 pm on Mondays to Fridays, and that if they have an urgent matter that can’t wait, to call or text your business phone.
4. Different Communication Platforms Have Different Response Times
Email is one thing, but how soon do people expect replies on other communication platforms?
- Text – Research by instant messaging app Viber shows that 95 percent of texts are read three minutes after being sent. The average response time, at least on the platform, is a mere 90 seconds.
- Twitter – According to Toister, on Twitter, Millennials seem to be more patient, with only 16 percent expecting a reply to a direct message (DM) in 15 minutes or less. Members of Gen X and the Baby Boomer generation tend to expect faster replies, with 22 percent and 28 percent expecting quick responses, respectively.
- Facebook – On Facebook, around half of people, regardless of generation, expect replies to message in an hour or less. Interestingly, 46 percent of Millennials expect fast replies, while only 41 percent and 39 percent of Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers have the same expectations.
Email Isn’t Just Email
For entrepreneurs, making a good impression through email can go a long way towards building goodwill and generating new business. What the different reports on email response time show seem to point to the same thing—the faster the replies, the better. And if you can’t reply sooner, be sure to manage expectations by letting customers know you’ll get back to them as soon as possible.