Everything You Need to Know about First Response Rate (Guide)
Measuring and analyzing your customer support team’s performance can be challenging.
The quality of an interaction between two people is subjective, and given that customer interactions are ultimately what make up the majority of a support team’s work, standard metrics like costs and returns aren’t often the best way to gauge and improve quality.
Fortunately, many support platforms now offer built-in tracking tools that help teams measure a few key pieces of data. And while these metrics can’t account for the more subjective parts of customer service, they can paint a clearer picture of a team’s overall performance, as well as how that performance changes over time.
One of the most important of these is the first response rate. So if you’re not yet using this metric as part of your reporting strategy, keep reading to learn what it is, why it matters, and how to use it to improve your support team’s efficiency.
What is First Response Rate?
Before jumping into the importance of the first response rate and the role it plays in customer support, it’s essential to have a clear idea of what this metric represents. The answer is relatively simple: your team’s first response rate is the average time it takes for a support agent to respond to a customer.
In some cases, you’ll also see this metric referred to as FRT or first response time. These terms are interchangeable. It’s important to note, though, that many customer support teams also use resolution time to measure performance—and these two metrics are not the same.
While the first response rate measures the average time it takes for an agent to answer a customer, this is only the first step in the process of finding a solution. Once the agent has opened the conversation, he will need to listen to the customer, understand their issue, determine what the appropriate course of action is, and follow through accordingly. And the time it takes to move through all of these steps is included in resolution time.
So while both of these metrics are useful for gauging a team’s efficiency, they represent two different pieces of the support puzzle—and it’s important to keep that difference in mind when assessing each of them.
Why does First Response Rate Matter?
Given that there are quite a few other metrics that can be used to measure support performance, you might be wondering why this one, in particular, is so important. And the answer is that it plays a significant role in customer satisfaction.
The lower your first response rate, the more satisfied your customers will be—both with your customer service team and with your company as a whole. And when it comes down to it, boosting customer satisfaction is an extremely important goal. Beyond the benefits excellent service brings your customers, it can also have a serious payoff for your business.
In fact, a study by Deloitte & Touche found that customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable. That’s because the happier a customer is with a brand, the more likely they’ll be to stick around and become a loyal, long-term buyer.
Plus, it should go without saying that dissatisfied customers won’t be in any hurry to recommend your brand to their friends and family. But if they’re happy with your products and are impressed by the level of service you provide, their recommendations can lead to even more customers in the future.
How to Calculate First Response Rate
If you’ve never tracked this metric, you might be wondering what the formula for the first response rate is. But if you’re using a support platform that tracks response times, the process is a simple one.
First, select a time frame that doesn’t include any open tickets. If a ticket hasn’t yet been responded to, there’s no time value to assign, and this will create issues with your data.
This means that in most cases, the best approach is to calculate your first response rate for the previous week or month. Once you’ve selected a time frame, take the total time taken to send the first response and divide it by the number of tickets during the selected time period. As long as you’re using support software to respond to inquiries, you should be able to easily access both these pieces of data in the reporting features.
That said, it’s worth noting that depending on the support software you use, you may not even have to do your first response rate calculation manually, as some tools now include it as a standard reporting metric.
In Freshdesk, for example, it appears in the Report View as Average 1st Response Time.
For teams that offer support on multiple channels like email and social media, the report also provides separate first response rates for each channel. This way, businesses can get a clear idea of how their customer service varies by channel, which ones provide the best experience, and which ones have room for improvement.
What is a Good First Response Rate Score?
If you’re new to measuring first response rates, it can be difficult to get a clear idea of what the average you come up with says about your service. Without any previous rates to compare to, this number tells you very little.
Of course, as you track this metric over time, you can use it to monitor whether your team’s speed and efficiency improves, worsens, or remains relatively stable. Still, it can be useful to know where you stand when compared to your competitors.
And that’s part of the reason we compiled our Customer Happiness Benchmark Report. In this study, we found that the average first response rate across all the industries included was seven hours.
That said, there was a lot of variance between industries. Some showed an average of as low as four hours, while others ranged up to 13 hours. And if you’re curious about where your industry stands, you can check out the data for yourself.
Of course, this isn’t to say that if your support team’s first response time clocks in below your industry’s average, you should stop trying to improve.
Instead, take it as an indication that you’re on the right track—and continue looking for ways to serve your customers even more efficiently.
What does First Response Rate Tell You about Your Customer Support?
Once you know how to calculate your team’s first response rate, you need to figure out how to interpret this data. Of course, the simplest way is to track it over time and monitor increases and decreases. This is an easy way to get a sense of how your team’s overall performance changes (or not).
But beyond that, you can use the first response rate to gauge team efficiency. If your team can consistently respond to tickets within a time frame you’re satisfied with, it is an indicator that they’ve established an effective workflow. Plus, if you have an SLA, or Service Level Agreement, regularly taking a look at this metric is a simple way to determine whether your team is meeting the expectations you set with your customers.
Finally, monitoring the first response rate is also a useful way to determine when it’s time to hire more agents for your team. If you notice any sudden increases, accompanied by increases in ticket volume, it can indicate that your current team is no longer able to provide the same level of speed and efficiency that your customers are used to.
And if you catch these increases when they’re still minor, you can take a proactive approach to interview and hire new agents before your customers experience a drop in service quality.
How to Use First Response Rate Results to Improve Customer Service
Metrics like the first response rate are only useful if you use them to improve your team’s performance. After all, simply knowing how long it takes your agents to respond to tickets doesn’t help them get any better—but using it to set clear, concrete goals can.
Once you’ve established a benchmark for your current response rate, work with your team to determine a reasonable number to work toward, and use that number to motivate each agent to deliver even better service to your customers every day.
Having a system in place for measuring and monitoring customer support performance is an essential step in the process of setting goals that drive your team forward.
And while many metrics have a place in that system, the first response rate is one of the most valuable for any company. It paints a clear picture of your team’s efficiency in assisting customers and can be a solid gauge of whether you’re sufficiently staffed.
After all, while the “acceptable” or target first response rate varies by company, increases or decreases are an easy way to spot problems (or improvements!).
By keeping an eye on this metric, you can spot potential issues or hiring needs before they have a significant impact on your customers. You can adjust accordingly and always keep your service standards high.