6 ways to dramatically improve your response time and increase sales!

In the competitive world of sales, responding to each and every lead and customer’s concern quickly is key to success. It’s not rocket science if you think about it. Just put yourself in the customer’s shoes — would you be happy doing business with a company that takes ages to respond to your inquiries?

It may come as a surprise then, that the majority of firms are still taking far too long to get back to their leads and customers. In fact, a study published by the Harvard Business Review indicates that although 37% of businesses responded to their lead within an hour, and 16% responded within one to 24 hours, 24% took more than 24 hours—and 23% of the companies never responded at all.

Shockingly, the average response time, among companies that responded within 30 days, was 42 hours. In another study published by Super Office, it was reported that a whopping 62% of companies do not respond to customer emails at all. Ouch.

This is especially concerning given how quickly online leads go cold. The facts are that firms that tried to contact potential customers within an hour of receiving a query were nearly seven times as likely to qualify the lead (which we defined as having a meaningful conversation with a key decision-maker) as those that tried to contact the customer even an hour later—and more than 60 times as likely as companies that waited 24 hours or longer.

So, when you’re spending big money on lead-generation, you need to respond QUICKLY.

How do you improve your response time? We have 6 ideas.

1. Establish your average first reply time and total average reply times

You can’t improve what you can’t measure. So the first step would be to understand exactly what your company or team’s average first reply time and average reply times are.

Your average first reply time is the average time taken for your team/company to respond to an inbound email. Similarly, your average reply time is the general average amount of time it takes your team/company to reply to an email.

timetoreply’s Overview Report and timetoreply Ratio Report give you quick access to this data, without you having to do any manual calculations.

See a portion of the timetoreply Overview Report below. As you can see, it tells you your first reply time and overall reply time for any date range you choose.

timetoreply overview report

2. Set Reply Time standards and goals

Once you’ve established your overall reply times, you can aim to improve them. At timetoreply, many of our customers split their reply time goals between the 8-hours (or one business day) and 4-hour mark, and then have stretch goals from there.

As you can below, you can set a variety of reply time goals in the Overview Report and the. measure your team against them. There are also clever filters you can use to account for outliers – those agents who may work in more technical fields and therefore will always take longer to respond. Reply times goals can also be different for different teams and individuals.

reply time goals

Lonnie Jackson, Vice President of Customer Experience at Ontellus explains how Ontellus has improved their reply times. “When we started, we were only responding to 62% of emails within an 8-hour business day, which is a scary metric for me. Now, it’s gone up from 62% to 82% as a company, against a target of 95%. And that’s been under the disruption of COVID, so I’d like to think we’ll hit our target soon.”

How did they do it? Primarily, they gave their agents access to their reply times within the timetoreply dashboard so that they could monitor their own progress. That brings us to point 3.

3. Incentivize quick reply times

If fast reply times matter to your business, you need to elevate the importance of responding quickly within your team/company. Lonnie explains that their agents are measured on their response times as part of their KPIs – especially useful for customer service/key client agents, for whom it can be difficult to measure success. They also use the timetoreply reports in their daily meetings and circulate the Overview Report to senior management. This is made easier by the Scheduled Reports feature that allows you to automatically send any report of your choice to anyone who needs to get them, at a frequency that you decide. Handy for those who don’t want to log into the timetoreply dashboard every day.

In order to stimulate quick reply times, you might even foster some competition. You could have a friendly monthly or weekly reply time competition between say the sales and support teams, or even within each team itself, awarding the winner with a special bonus, or simply the prestige of being the fastest responder.

4. Leverage email automation and use templates

If your teams receive a lot of the same kind of queries, you should have templated responses or snippets ready. Once you start using templates, you’ll wonder how you even handled customer service before them. Templates are great ways to pre-package answers to your most frequently asked questions, comments, and concerns. By using a template, you not only ensure that you have a quick answer readily available — but you’re ensuring consistency across your team when they provide responses to the same questions.

The next step would then be to automate some responses. Automation can trigger pre-planned responses, streamline your process, and even solicit feedback so that your agents can focus their attention on the leads and queries that really matter.

5. Identify and address points of delay

You can incentivize fast reply times as much as you like, but often, there may be underlying issues that need to be addressed. You can look at your conversation logs in timetoreply’s dashboard to gain an understanding as to how many email messages each conversation thread has in it. If it’s a game of email ping pong, some of your agents may need some training in how to reply more comprehensively, or there may be a trending issue that is taking up a lot of time to handle.

conversation logs

You can also filter by specific agents and/or customers. Helpful for either performance coaching, or having a much-needed conversation with a certain customer about points of frustration.

Lonnie from Ontellus explains how Ontellus decreased their email volume with the timetoreply tools.

“The other thing that was interesting was the volume of emails. When we started, we were getting over 1700 incoming emails a day. Part of what the timetoreply tool has allowed us to do is go into the data at a firm level and look at where the largest concentration of emails was coming from. Using the timetoreply email threads tool, we could look at the nature of the conversations, and analyze why some firms were emailing back and forth a lot more than others. This helped us to accurately identify process and training issues. This meant we could go in and have some important conversations with our customers about the frustrations experienced on both sides and how we could better our communication.”

6. Make sure you don’t miss any messages

Lastly, if you’re feeling flooded with customer emails, chances are that some might slip through the cracks. If you don’t have a way of checking, this will negatively affect your customer service response time.

The solution would be to access all your open email queries in one place. Then it would be easier for your support /sales team to reply to 100% of your messages.

With the timetoreply tool, you can use filters to find any and all emails still awaiting a response.


Timely, responsive customer service is central to delivering quality customer experiences and delivering more sales. It is well worth spending effort monitoring and tweaking your response times, and we hope we’ve given you plenty of ideas to work with.


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