Make it Quick: Does Your Customer Service Response Time Matter?

Alex Cowell
5 min readSep 4, 2020


Image by Markeaze

Multitasking is a myth — etailers know it firsthand. Try handling the supply, marketing activities, delivery, returns, accounting, and keep your customers happy in the meantime. The standard of your customer service should always be at its best: one little delay can cost you a sale and make a bad name for your business.

If you run a small or medium-size online store, chances are that you start your workday with sorting out hundreds if not thousands of emails. Depending on how many teammates are helping you out, as well as how knowledgeable they are, you probably spend three to four hours sorting out the mail. In the worst-case scenario, you won’t be able to get back to all the requests in a day, leaving a handful of work until later.

Meanwhile, your customers are waiting.

According to statistics, 90% of customers would be satisfied if you managed to get back to them within an hour. However, the average time a support agent replies to a service request is over 12 hours.

Remarkably, about 23% of companies do not bother to respond to their leads at all. That raises a question — how does it fit into somebody’s business strategy? In the days when eCommerce drives department stores out of business, the competition in the online space gets surreal. If you won’t react to your customer’s request fast enough, your competitor will.

Roots of the Problem

After talking to a handful of online store owners, we’ve noticed that they often underestimate the importance of fast customer service. Hiring a dedicated team of agents is expensive and often feels secondary.

Although the majority of entrepreneurs realize that failing to answer to customer’s requests in time has a negative effect on their business, they feel they have to compromise.

Some business owners are not so keen on hiring any help at all as they don’t trust that a support agent would be reliable. They feel they cannot expect people from the outside to have the same kind of enthusiasm for the business as the owners and prefer handling everything, including customer support, themselves.

It is a common concern of the business owners that a random support agent or a call center employee simply won’t have the proper product knowledge, necessary insights, and motivation.

Unfortunately, when business owners start managing customer support themselves, they quickly feel burned-out and unmotivated too. And answering everyone in time is completely out of the picture.

In many cases, online store owners try to approach the issue from the logical point of view by taking a shortcut. Why not create a comprehensive FAQ page assuming that it would be the first thing a person in need would go for?

You would hope that your customers prefer the self-service path and find the answers they are looking for themselves. Unfortunately, that hardly ever happens.

In reality, a lot of people hate reading instructions and manuals and choose to speak to the sales rep directly especially if they can reach them out immediately via the phone or a live chat.

Besides, if your target audience is on the older side they usually go for a real-life conversation when possible. Unlike millennials and gen Z, boomers choose phone calls over live chats and like to engage in long and not necessarily productive conversations.

Although providing help via the phone may seem like a good idea for speeding up customer service, it often becomes ineffective in practice. Idle chitchat and poor product knowledge when talking in person may do an ill service. You should leave the call option available if you can but do not count on it as your main communication channel.

Regardless of the channel the overwhelming amount of unanswered requests and frustrated customers can indirectly slow the scaling of your business. Etailers feel that they are not ready to expand as they would have to process a greater amount of tickets or chatbox messages. When it comes to scaling, people prefer to do it gradually.

So is there a way to address these challenges?

Can Live Chats Help?

Live chat software can drastically improve the level and the speed of your customer service. It’s easy to set up and use, it builds trust, increases your availability, speeds up response time, cuts down the costs, and even helps with boosting sales.

So why aren’t all business owners using it?

There are two reasons why etailers hesitate: they feel it’s going to put more pressure on them in terms of answering quickly, or they simply haven’t thought about it yet.

Some entrepreneurs feel that since they don’t have enough sources to reply to the requests in time, this could result in people getting mad and leaving. However, in most cases, live chat forms are usually equipped with an email collecting function so you can always get back to your customers.

In fact, live chats are perfect for sorting out the ‘thousands of emails’ issue. If you have an agent who is responsible for answering live chat requests, you might be able to reduce the number of emails significantly.

Practice shows that the majority of customers’ inquiries are basic and can be resolved within minutes.

Imagine automating this process by having a virtual assistant that takes care of all the generic inquiries immediately and correctly. And now imagine how much money you can save.

Besides, live chat solutions allow you to track customer’s activity on your website and take the lead. You don’t need to wait until they ask a question or leave your website without an answer, you can reach out to your visitors yourself.

Live chat solutions demonstrate better results than ticketing systems and call centers in terms of speed and general performance. And if you’re worried that automating the conversations will take the moving spirit out of your business, consider this: your customers don’t care if they’re talking to a bot, a robot, or a real person. As long as their issue is resolved quickly and efficiently, they would be satisfied.

The Bottom Line

When evaluating your customer service performance, speed is definitely an important metric. However, it is a combination of various factors that matters. The support that your business provides should be both quick and efficient. Some issues require a bit more time to sort out while others can be resolved faster with a proper set of tools.

Live chat software, especially the one that focuses on business automatization can take lead on providing high-level customer service. If you want to give it a try, most of the solutions have a free trial period, and some of them are entirely free. It is important for online store owners to stay open-minded and consider new ways of handling their work routine. After all, leaving your comfort zone leads to scaling.