Customer Service Metrics: Email

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Managing Director

New Media Software Ltd

Customer Service Metrics: Email
I am currently researching into how long it takes contact centres to reply to customers’ email.

Before reading on, you should be aware that my company that supplies an email management and distribution system. This post is not about the product. It is however, about customer service metrics.

I started my research by asking customers how long they are prepared to wait for a reply to their email. I now have a reasonable level of data. The data leads me to believe (and this is a grossgeneralisation) that most customers, that receive an acknowledgement email to confirm that their email has been received, would be “very satisfied” if they then received a personalised reply within an two hours and “satisfied” if they received a reply within four hours.

My biggest problem now is gathering data on how long it actually takes contact centres to reply. My customers can provide accurate data because they use Adaptive Messaging – and it provides it for them.

Other centres that I talk to use Exchange / Outlook or Lotus Notes and they simply cannot accurately track how many messages they receive, the service level that they deliver and the and average handle time per email etc.

I would be interested to hear from anybody else who has worked on the customer service metrics for email with a view to sharing data.

Decision Making


re:Customer Service Metrics: Email
Hi Phill,

I dont know if i am eligible to talk all these before bigshots from various places. But, let me share my experiences from Email customer support (i worked with Brigade corp for 2 years). when we started supporting clients like Mypointsand Palm tops( 24 hrs Service level guarantee(SLG) was something gr8 and path breaking(this was good till 2000).Things changed at brisk pace and we starting replying emails in 1 hr (some times much less then that including week ends) for COMPAQ products.

These days Turn around time agreement itself is talking about less than 4 hrs for technical clients and 2 hrs for non- technical clients.

There are few third party like "SATMETRIX" which asks specific set of questions for customers on the type of support they got. One of the prominent question is "Response time" which plays important role in grading apart from tone.

I am really obsessed with email support can talk for hours on it :)) any takers?

Have a niceday!


Planning & Performance Manager

Thames Water

From our own companies perspective the turnaround is approx 48 hours!!

On a personal note I like an immediate automate response to let me know they got the e-mail, and included in that some indication of turnaround. I am then not as satisfied ascould be if it takes 24 hours or more, and I believe there are some statistics around somewhere that show how much more likely a satisfied customer is to go elsewhere than a very satisfied one.

I think the expectations are very high for a speedyresponse due to the nature of the medium, I am generally at home, online, running-up a phone bill in order to e-mail the company and I don't want to spend hours and days checking for responses.


Reynard Thomson Ltd.

The forgotten issue...
"I am generally at home, online, running-up a phone bill in order to e-mail the company and I don't want to spend hours and days checking for responses"

How very true. Many contact 'transactions' (such as they are) often forget that ultimately the caller is paying for the priviledge. That's a real bummer if the call centre has an endless queue, which of course paves the way for a complimentary and justified use of callback technology. Email is a much simpler beast to implement, from a technical perspective, and at the same time it should be regarded as a 'quick letter'. Let me explain: if one sends a letter or places an order, and there is likely to be some delay, some confirmation of receipt is useful feedback. For snail mail, a "Thanks for writing. We are dealing with your enquiry...etc"; for email, much the same, although this can be easily automated.

Otherwise, anyone emailing (or sending a letter) has no immediate feedback as to whether the message got through. Fundamental to effective communication is feedback, and that's where I see the flaw in a non-immediate response.


Decision Making


Better one
Email suppport might take time compared to voice support but i see its more effective for technical solutions were some responds after doing a practical research before giving a solution.

"yes,it solves"

Managing Director

New Media Software Ltd

Customer Service Metrics: Email
Thanks for the input guys. Interesting to see both sides of it. From a managers perspective, email can be stored and handled at the most appropriate time (usually when the phones are quiet). As a customer, I am happy to wait for a response, providing that I receive an acknowledgement of my email.

As far as I can tell, the attitude of most managers is that email is a less important communication medium than a phone call. Personally I think that it is every bit as important.

It has been proven many times that a high proportion of the work associated with handling email can be done automatically. Indications from my clients are that the cost of handling a customer by email can be up to half the cost of handling the same customer enquiry by phone call. Bearing this in mind, email should, in fact, be more important than phone calls!

What do you think guys?

I have also been working on how customers perceive reply content that has been automatically generated. Early indicators are that customers are happy to receive an automated reply providing that it is relevant and fairly instant and that if / when they ask for further information, they get a personalised response. Has anybody got any hard data on this?


Large Direct Sales Force

Reply to e-mail is extremely important
Good Afternoon,

I just wanted to point out and agree with Phil with regards to this topic.

Remember 4 years ago and the adverts on the TV or radio were full of 0345 numbers, etc, etc and in the past 12 months it has suddenly gone to www. etc, etc. Next time you take 5 mins to watch the TV, look at the bottom of your screens.

I think that there has to be a customer team which deal directly with e-mails without even considering using the telephone team when 'they are abit quiet'.

E-mail and text messaging is fast over taking the phone call. What I am saying is that the business person / and the home maker is likely to have access to a computer at work and at home - which ever location they are at. They do not want to queue listening to nice 'customer' friendly music, and listen to someone who sounds really apologetic about the length of time that have to wait.
However nice it is...... !!

They want an answer which is concise and answers their direct question(s). They then have a response in writing, they have a contact name and an e-mail address to reply to.

Important Note: The person(s) who respond to the e-mail requests MUST NOT have a number of standard letters which they can pick and choose whichones to send. It must be carefully thought out and planned.

The response time is always key. If you and your competitor have the basically the same packages that you are selling. What is going to make or help you to increase the chances of winning the business - response times !!

Give the e-customers what they want !

There will always a requirement for people to speak to the call / contact centre - but there also has to be a quicker turnaround time for the e-mail responses which are becoming larger in volume.

It also means that for those that have speech or hearing restrictions - the communication portal is that much easier......


Decision Making


One major problem we came across in email responses is understanding customer tone and understanding his requirements. Also, personalizing of mails is very important.


Large Direct Sales Force

Tone of e-mail
Again, agree entirely.

Have you got any research that you can share with us on this matter ?


Managing Director

New Media Software Ltd

Customer Service Metrics: Email
Hi Richard, Manohar and John,

I agree that sending an automated reply has a downside. It can however, also have a considerable upside. Sending a bland acknowledgement has its place. However I believe that we can all do this better. However, Iguess that it does depend on the nature of the emails that you receive and how you are able to organise they way your organisiation works.

One simple way is to look at the emails received by different accounts and to respond accordingly. It is for example, a safe bet that emails sent to will be about sales enquiries or product information requests and emails to will be looking for technical support or to report a bug. (Ok so this is perhaps a bit of an oversimplification but bear with me here.)

Take this to the next level and you can start to look for order numbers, delivery dates and product names in emails to and product problems, error codes etc in emails to

What I found is that customers really do want to have an acknowledgement that their email has been received. If you are able to automate the acknowledgement, AND answer their question at the same time, then they are very happy.

If you are able to answer a high percentage of the enquiries, first time, with an automated reply, then your agents have less emails to deal with and you will be able to provide a much faster personal response to more complicated emails.

With automation, the trick seems to be to aim to hit the most common cases first (the 80/20 rule applies here), and to keep it simple. Use the computer to do what it is best at and the agents to do what they are best at. One thing that we always do is to set-up automated responses but start by having 100% of all email approved by agents before it is sent. ONLY when we have built up confidence in the email rules do we suggest sending emails automatically.

I do not have any formal research that I can publish yet. However, I have worked with clients that are able to set-up automated responses that hit 80% + of all inbound email to generic email addresses.

One of my challenges for this year is to formalise some of the work that we have done and to produce case studies.

Director & Senior Consultant

ST Squared Pty Ltd

Email Response Metrics

The Customer Contact World magazine, of July 2001 (you could get one via summarised the results of their survey across Asia Pacific on email response rates. For more information on the survey, email

Interestingly Australia had the fastest response rates, with around 30% responding within 24 hours, however in terms of overall responsiveness (% of emails responded to within 3 days of initial enquiry), Australia, Hong Kong and Korea were respectable. Singapore Airlines is an example of a major company that failed to respond.

Unfortunately they didn't match customer expectations with actual results. For example, maybe Australians actually expect a faster response to be satisfied, and maybe in Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines, customers are satisfied with a 3 day turnaround time.

Phil, I have a passion for metrics, so would love to hear more about your findings. Please email me with any information if possible

Hope this helps.


Managing Director

New Media Software Ltd

Email Response Metrics
First my apologies for not responding as quickly as I should, I have been more than a little busy!

I found the link you provided very interesting and useful, thank you.

I have just finished an article for one of the UK magazines. It isall about why standard email systems like MS Exchange / Outlook and Lotus Notes are not suitable for use in contact centres and why managers that use these systems are setting themselves up to fail. It then goes on to talk about how Adaptive Messaging (our product) is suitable and why people should buy it. (Well it would wouldn’t it?)

I am mindful that this site is all about sharing information and not advertising. I do not wish to abuse this in any way so I have submitted my article to this site and hopefully the moderators will see value in what I have written (and edit it if they feel that this is appropriate). Hopefully they will make it available to all. However, if you would like me to email it to you, please drop me a note to


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