What Is First Response Time, and How Can I Measure It?

Targeting a first response time helps contact centers balance staffing efficiency with customer satisfaction

What Is First Response Time, and How Can I Measure It?
Contact CentreData & AnalyticsInsights

Published: May 18, 2022

CX Today Team

Timeliness is a critical factor in customer satisfaction. Indeed, a study conducted by researchers at MIT found that long wait times result in less satisfied customers, regardless of the service quality they receive.

Fortunately, first response time allows contact centers to monitor wait times. Here is how.

What Is the First Response Time KPI?

First response time (FRT) measures the average time it takes for a service agent to respond to a customer after they first raise a ticket.

Contact centers often target an FRT within their service level. For example, many will try to answer 80% of calls in 20 seconds. This 20-second goal is the target FRT, which planners build staffing calculations around.

By tracking how close they come to hitting this target, FTR helps measure the success of staffing plans while ensuring that customers do not have to wait for too long a time.

If contact centers fall short of the target, customer satisfaction takes a hit, while the customer may spam other channels to get the fastest possible response – sometimes leading to duplicate conversations.

Of course, these channels will have different FTR targets. For the voice channel, live chat, and messaging, it is often around the 20-second mark. Yet, traditionally, customers that contact via email and social channels must wait longer.

Yet, should a contact center stick to these conventions? Not necessarily. Best practice dictates that customer satisfaction and contact abandon research should guide service level targets.

How To Calculate the Average First Response Time?

The formula for average FTR is:

Most helpdesk systems – such as Zendesk – will automate the process across the various contact center channels and periods.

For those that do not have this luxury, ACD reports will likely provide the data that allows analysts to gather figures for every contact and its FRT across a specific period. They can then utilize the formula to calculate an average.

By calculating an average across various reporting periods, resource planners can track schedule efficiency and use the data to inform workforce management processes.

There are three considerations for calculating FRT:

  • At times, it is good to calculate the first response time based on the median instead of the average to avoid outliers distorting the data.
  • Do not include automated responses from virtual assistants in FRT calculations, as these are immediate. Many planners do this when presenting figures to management to make figures look better than the reality, yet it is not best practice.
  • If customer support runs only during business hours, then requests received at night and on weekends should not factor into the equation.

In covering all channels – not just inbound voice-first response time differentiates itself from average speed of answer (ASA).

In addition, unlike ASA, FTR is particularly good for monitoring agents that handle channels such as live chat and messaging apps, where they field multiple queries simultaneously. Tracking FTR, in this case, enables supervisors to ensure they do not feel overburdened.

Benefits of Measuring First Response Time

By measuring and lowering average FRT, contact centers can:

  • Increases Retention

A quicker response time helps businesses lower abandons and increase retention, possibly alongside acquisition rates. For example, a customer may be in the middle of a purchase decision. A quick response could make all the difference.

  • Enhances Customers Satisfaction

Customers do not want to wait, with patience especially low among customers with simple queries, which they believe should be available on the website. A fast response puts them at ease and builds the perfect atmosphere for a mutually beneficial conversation, maximizing the value of a human touch in CX.

  • Informs Staffing Plans

As referenced previously, WFM teams target FTR as part of their service level agreements (SLA). By tracking how close they come to this, they can assess the success of staffing plans, learn lessons, and improve future schedules.

How to Improve First Time Response in Your Organization

Organizations can hire more customer service agents to speed up the first response. Unfortunately, in the current recruitment climate, this is tricky and expensive.

As such, businesses are turning to automation and self-service to lower contact volumes and ease the pressure on contact center teams, enabling them to meet FTR targets.

Helping agents lower handling times also helps as they can breeze through customer contacts quicker. Yet, enforcing targets is not the way to do so, as agents will rush through calls, and first contact resolution rates (FCR) will plummet.

Instead, a contact routing strategy that connects customers with agents best equipped to handle their query – based on customer and employee data – is often an excellent approach.

Meanwhile, contact centers can also enhance knowledge management processes, automate agent desktop processes, and increase coaching activities.

Eager to learn more methods to decrease handling times and, consequently, improve FTR? Then, check out our article: Reduce Average Handling Time with These Ten Tips


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