Improving Email Response Time: Interview with Leslie O’Flahavan


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The results of the 2015 Toister Performance Solutions email response time survey were released last week.

Customer service writing expert Leslie O’Flahavan joined me for a Google Hangout interview to discuss the results and offer some tips to help companies respond faster and better.

You may want to review the survey results before watching the interview.

Here’s the video plus some additional links and discussion below. 

Discussion & Links

The survey suggested a new response time standard for businesses: one hour.

A 2014 survey revealed the average business currently responds within one business day. Many businesses will risk disappointing their customers by prioritizing cost savings over responsiveness.

O’Flahavan raised the point that organizations trying to meet the new standard may end up compromising quality for speed. (You can see an example of that here.)

She gave us this great quote in the interview:

You have to figure out where does quick overlap with good.

O’Flahavan offered several suggestions for businesses to improve both speed and quality. One was a warm confirmation email that can be used to respond to more complicated problems and inquiries.

This is a message from a real person that essentially says, “We’ve received your email, we’re working on it, and here’s when you can expect a response.”

This tactic does a few things:

  • It lets the customer know their message has been received
  • It creates a stronger connection than a automated response
  • It buys the company some time to respond properly

You can also use this email to direct customers to other channels such as phone or a website that may be faster or more appropriate. 

Companies often face a challenge of coordinating email with other service channels. It wasn’t referenced in the interview, but O’Flahavan provides an excellent example in this recent blog post on her Writing Matters blog. 

Finally, we discussed co-workers. 

The email response time survey revealed that people also expected co-workers to respond within one hour.

O’Flahavan laid out a number of ways this unreasonable expectation might cause some workplace problems. For example, people are less present in meetings because they’re trying to respond to email on the sly.

Wasted time is another potential problem. I recently discovered several surprising email stats including this one: the average person wastes 24 percent of their day on useless email.

Do you have a question for Leslie? She’s very responsive to email.

You can also reach her here:

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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