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Sometimes your customers need an  immediate response to a problem. Say they’ve ordered something online, and they think you might have overcharged them. Or they’re not sure they ordered the right thing. Or they lost their serial number but urgently need to use their software…

So they send you an email asking for help.

What is a reasonable amount of time to expect a customer to wait for an email response?

Now remember, Email Center Pro is all about helping you respond to your incoming emails quickly and efficiently. We’ve built metrics to show you how fast you respond, and we’ve created badges you can display on your website bragging about your response time.

Click here to take a look at Palo Alto Software’s Contact Us page.  We include on that page the hours we’re in the office, the fact that we generally respond to emails on the same day they’re received, and our Email Center Pro Response Time badge. The badge shows that during normal business hours, it takes us an average of 13 minutes to respond to customer emails.

13 minutes!

That’s pretty fast, don’t you think? We’re proud of that response time.

So back to the question: It’s 1 pm and our customer emails a question. Is 13 minutes too long to expect that customer to wait? Is two minutes too long?

I bring it up, because I had an experience today that makes me wonder if there’s ever going to be a way to be fast enough, or if we’ve reached the point that instant gratification is expected, at the expense of common sense and civility.

Today, I checked our inbox at 1:08 pm, and there was one email in it, time stamped 1:03. By the time I finished my reply to that email (which took all of 3 minutes), the same customer had emailed in again (time stamped 1:10). With the exact same question, worded only slightly differently.

Five minutes later (1:15), yet another nearly identical email from the customer arrived in the inbox. In 12 minutes she had sent three emails from our Contact Us form. She must have been sitting there rewriting and resending her email, without even checking her own email to see if we had replied.

The lesson? Even with the best email management software in the world and an average response time anyone would be proud of, you just can’t please everyone.

I can put myself in that customer’s shoes appreciate her need for an answer right away. But from the company’s perspective, it’s a little discouraging. Here we are, all proud of our 13 minute average response time, but our customers apparently can’t wait that long.

This customer had her reply 8 minutes after she sent her first email, but it was too slow. Can we ever win?

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