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Wed July 13 2011 10:00:40

How Long Should It Take Sellers to Respond to Customer Emails?

By: Ina Steiner

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I was reading an interesting discussion on the Amazon seller boards recently about the challenge of responding to customer emails. Amazon.com measures how long it takes each seller to respond to customer inquiries and expects sellers to respond within 24 hours to customer emails - including on the weekends - and publishes a target rate of 90 percent.

That made me wonder how long it usually takes sellers to respond to questions - and conversely, what sellers' expectations were when they were on the other side of the transaction, when buying online.

Does your response time vary depending on which marketplace the inquiry comes from? Are you more or less responsive when the customer comes from your own website versus an online marketplace?

Are you using mobile devices to respond even when you're relaxing at home or on vacation?

And what are some coping techniques to keep up with all the email that comes in?

Many articles have been written about email overload. One blogger wrote that he simply deleted his entire email inbox and sent apologies to friends and colleagues blaming a technical snafu for deleting all of his email!

Starting fresh with a clean inbox may be tempting, but online sellers don't have that luxury - every customer email is important.

We'll be running a guest column in EcommerceBytes about "CRM" - customer relationship management - that's what corporations call the process of dealing with all aspects of customer relations, including customer service - to get some expert advice. But I'd like to know what sellers who are in the trenches dealing with this challenge every day have to say.
 
Please take a few moments and let us know how you deal with customer emails by taking a quick survey on SurveyMonkey, and leave your comments below. I'll publish the results in a future issue.




Comments (51) | Permalink

Readers Comments

How Long Should It Take Sellers to Respond to Customer Emails?   How Long Should It Take Sellers to Respond to Customer Emails?

by: just for my eyes

Wed Jul 13 10:28:40 2011

I spend 24/7 in front of my computer waiting in anticipation of the next question.

In reality if you don't answer within 15 seconds BAMM your done.

99% of the questions asked are already answered in the description. Buyers are just to lazy or don't know how to read.

If a question is answered in the description I don't waste my time answering.

How Long Should It Take Sellers to Respond to Customer Emails?   How Long Should It Take Sellers to Respond to Customer Emails?

by: Steevo

Wed Jul 13 10:43:51 2011

I respond to all my ebay mails immediately, during the day within an hour or two, or whenever I wake up in the morning that is immediate.

I have seen lots of people who have lots of unanswered mail, not me, you have to stay ahead of it and answer right away.

It's just ridiculous getting behind. If you are not willing to keep up with your communication you are not taking your internet business seriously and should get someone else to do it.

Email is so easy if you don't get behind!

How Long Should It Take Sellers to Respond to Customer Emails?   How Long Should It Take Sellers to Respond to Customer Emails?

by: Charlie W
Web Site

Wed Jul 13 10:45:37 2011

I'm usually able to respond to email inquiries within an hour or two (during extended business hours). If an emailed question arrives outside of business hours, it gets a response as soon as I return.

I keep a cut-and-paste library of boilerplate responses for the most common questions, and that serves me well. But in addition to the pasted text, I try to add a friendly personal comment as well.

On a couple of rare occasions, I received a follow-up reply asking to be reminded what their original question was. (I guess they must ask a LOT of questions.) So now I make certain that all of my replies include the original text, along with an invitation to contact me again with any other questions.

About half of the people I respond to end up making a purchase, and the other half just vanish mysteriously. That works out to be one extra sale for every two quick cut-and-paste replies.

I'm happy with that.

How Long Should It Take Sellers to Respond to Customer Emails?   How Long Should It Take Sellers to Respond to Customer Emails?

by: Moonwishes
Web Site

Wed Jul 13 10:47:50 2011

My most frustrating thing is answering questions that are clearly spelled out in the listing itself. Don't people read? These are time waster emails and probably 90% of the question askers don't bother buying anyhow, but on the off chance it is someone that really does want to buy, I answer all emails.

One other problem is buyers that ask questions and leave the wrong email address, but you don't know that until your answer comes bouncing back to you which is obviously yet another waste of time! So of course they think you didn't answer and blow you off.

How Long Should It Take Sellers to Respond to Customer Emails?   How Long Should It Take Sellers to Respond to Customer Emails?

by: Quicksilver Messenger This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Wed Jul 13 10:47:52 2011

I repond to my customer emails ASAP-usually within 24 hours. It doesn't matter what venue I'm on. I treat all my customers with the same respect. I don't use mobile devices, maybe I am behind the times, but I feel it is over hyped. I respond even when I am out of town or on vacation. Customer service is my top priority unlike a certain venue I won't mention here.

How Long Should It Take Sellers to Respond to Customer Emails?   How Long Should It Take Sellers to Respond to Customer Emails?

by: Sellers to Respond ?

Wed Jul 13 10:56:25 2011

I try to answer quickly because most of the time they lead to sales. This applies to legitimate questions only.

I hope ebay doesn't keep track of time response though because some emails I feel are better left unanswered. Once in a while I get a buyer ranting on about how they feel a particular item is priced too high and wanting justification. Or some sob story and wanting it for next to nothing, or submitting a best offer when I list fixed price without best offer option.

Does Amazon have these issues with their buyers?

How Long Should It Take Sellers to Respond to Customer Emails?   How Long Should It Take Sellers to Respond to Customer Emails?

by: shyney

Wed Jul 13 11:11:18 2011

I have a great average response time (according to old data from musicstack)-about 30 minutes! Granted I am constantly near a computer, but that is the business I choose to do. Too many others are simply lame-some worry about their replies and take DAYS. The real problem is that they are not mail order animals like me. They should get out of the business if they can't answer any email in 12 hours or less. And yes, ''customers'' ask questions that are spelled out in the ad 99% of the time. and yes -barely 2% ever buy anything. But this is all part of the business-either answer quickly or get out of my way. Can't tell you how many buys I had to reconsider because of the slow or non-existant email replies from these so-called dealers....

How Long Should It Take Sellers to Respond to Customer Emails?   How Long Should It Take Sellers to Respond to Customer Emails?

by: shyney

Wed Jul 13 11:18:22 2011

excellent post-the quicker the response to any customer, the greater chance they will buy something! Some buyers like to be assured that there is someone on the other line...

How Long Should It Take Sellers to Respond to Customer Emails?   How Long Should It Take Sellers to Respond to Customer Emails?

by: jk

Wed Jul 13 11:21:12 2011

I answer my emails all day long, even during vacations and weekends. I go hunting (I am a woman) several times a year, and there is no easy internet service available in the wilderness. So I unload my gun, get into my truck, drive it to the highest point of the area. Pull out my laptop. Hook up a booster antenna to it and plop it to the roof of the truck and here we go. 'Do you combine shipping?' - 'Yes, I do' and by the way this answer is included in all of my listings. After answering this question and others alike for about 45 minutes, off I go again for another two hours, and hopefully kill something......

How Long Should It Take Sellers to Respond to Customer Emails?   How Long Should It Take Sellers to Respond to Customer Emails?

by: RAOTFLMAO

Wed Jul 13 11:32:00 2011

I have asked plenty of questions when the discription was so full of BS I did not want to read and try to cyper out what the seller really meant.  Most times the seller dances around the subject just to blow smoke and hide the truth.  I am a seller myself and I feel the best discription is short, to the point and invite questions. So many sellers cloud the description with way to much.   If we sell on the internet we need to be fast to answer before that old spur of the moment impulse to buy is gone.

How Long Should It Take Sellers to Respond to Customer Emails?   How Long Should It Take Sellers to Respond to Customer Emails?

by: Steevo

Wed Jul 13 11:47:08 2011

I have known ebay sellers who get 500 or more emails a day. High volume, and sure, it's difficult to answer that volume of emails.

But you have to try or they will think you are a dope.

To make your business work you have to take is seriously. Since this is an online business you are gonna get stupid questions and they come to you online. Just deal with it.

I am really surprised at the number of ebay sellers that either answer in 2 days, or with a one word answer that doesn't explain the question.

And sure, 99% of the questions are already answered in the listing. Sad but true. Deal with it.

How Long Should It Take Sellers to Respond to Customer Emails?   How Long Should It Take Sellers to Respond to Customer Emails?

This user has validated their user name. by: Bijoux Dragon
Web Site

Wed Jul 13 11:54:13 2011

As a seller, I take questions seriously and try to reply ASAP which to me is a few hours. I treat all inquiries with courtesy and respect and run about 90% sell through.  I write detailed descriptions and use multiple high resolution photos so I don't get that many questions.  That said, I have an orchard, 900 SF berry patch, 2 acre blueberry barren and 2 gardens so summer replies are slower than winter.

As a buyer, if my question goes unanswered, my purchase goes unmade. ''Used so it's not perfect'', ''pretty good condition for vintage'', ''See Photo'' with no other description or blurry, small photo will get questions about specifics as will no photo of the back of jewelry.  

Come on folks, we can all write a description that uses good grammar and spelling and features quality photos.  That's the best way to reduce emails and make customers want to purchase.

How Long Should It Take Sellers to Respond to Customer Emails?   How Long Should It Take Sellers to Respond to Customer Emails?

by: Gary Overton
Web Site

Wed Jul 13 12:12:18 2011

I am really anal about this. I respond to most in under an hour and seldom take over 4 hours. This is 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week.
I can't tell you how many sales I have made when I responded to a question immediately at 3 am. People think "Wow, that guy is on the ball"(they have told me so, many times)
To me it is more important to answer the questions quickly late nights and weekends than it is what some call normal hours.
I too, figure a large percentage of my questions are unnecessary because evrything is in the listing., but I am wanting the sale.

How Long Should It Take Sellers to Respond to Customer Emails?   How Long Should It Take Sellers to Respond to Customer Emails?

by: Char This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Wed Jul 13 12:23:48 2011

Like it or not we are in the customer service business. I answer questions within 30 minutes during waking hours; if a customer takes the time to ask a question they have an interest in my product...and I want to sell it to them. About 30% of my business is International so I get questions all hours of the day and night.

I use an iPhone and iPad to stay in touch while away from the office.

How Long Should It Take Sellers to Respond to Customer Emails?   How Long Should It Take Sellers to Respond to Customer Emails?

by: Steve This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Wed Jul 13 13:15:47 2011

I answer all emails website or other venues as soon as possible, usually within 1/2 hour. The exception to this is weekends and holidays when closed means closed. I answer all emails except the really stupid ones (what color is this black strap) or (will you accept $5.00 for this $35.00 item)

The first impression (contact) is an important one when dealing online to build confidence with new buyers. EVERY email inquiry that is not website related includes a response with links to specials and discount coupons to the website in an attempt to convert feebay, $hit creek (the river) or others to website customers.

This seems to work for me as my feedback reflects excellent communication from most customers.

How Long Should It Take Sellers to Respond to Customer Emails?   How Long Should It Take Sellers to Respond to Customer Emails?

by: zvicki

Wed Jul 13 13:21:57 2011

Well, so far I've only dealt with this via ebay. However my own website is coming right up, so I appreciate the insight everyone has provided.
As per ebay, I find that when I list a "hot" item the questions and (unwanted) comments come pouring in. Many are just stupid - "will you take $200 right now, and cancel the listing?" "Your asking way to much for that you know, I'm a dealer and know everything" or "this or that is clearly wrong with this item, your not going to get that price for it" ad nausem.
I usually repond, and as possitivly as I can muster, but sometimes I just "block" or "Delete" some of these people. They clearly have no interest in purchasing, or they are just being rude! It's frustrating to say the least, but I think I agree that we are in the biz, so have to take the good with the bad.

How Long Should It Take Sellers to Respond to Customer Emails?   How Long Should It Take Sellers to Respond to Customer Emails?

by: Ebay seller

Wed Jul 13 13:54:18 2011

I try to answer right away and keep on top of my emails.I give it a day or two when I am buying as I know sellers do have lives and families outside of ebay and do not sit in front of their computer 24/7.

How Long Should It Take Sellers to Respond to Customer Emails?   How Long Should It Take Sellers to Respond to Customer Emails?

by: mindelec This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jul 13 18:58:21 2011

personally i answer most emails within 1-6 hrs, sleep time excluded and all venues get equal treatment.

on the buying side, i expect an answer within 24 hrs, with some slack on the weekend.  not everybody on ebay is doing this as a business.

How Long Should It Take Sellers to Respond to Customer Emails?   How Long Should It Take Sellers to Respond to Customer Emails?

by: RC

Wed Jul 13 19:06:24 2011

QUOTE,"My most frustrating thing is answering questions that are clearly spelled out in the listing itself. Don't people read??

This exactly my problem with customers, everything is in the description and they still ask the dumbest questions. I copy and past it into an email. I answer emails daily, hourly and sometimes in minutes after they come in so I do not ignore anyone but do my DSR's show this, hell no!

How Long Should It Take Sellers to Respond to Customer Emails?   How Long Should It Take Sellers to Respond to Customer Emails?

by: pete

Wed Jul 13 20:30:37 2011

Lol some of you eBay sellers must have no life..how many messages from eBay buyers do I answer NONE: as our listing are clear to understand & the item description fully cover main points , I am not interested in sending items to some place in Africa or what’s my best price for 30 items or the classic will the item arrive for my friends birthday In 2 days!!!!!

How many Messages do I answer on Amazon..NONE; in 8 months we have not received one message, but we out sell eBay by around 8:1
I used to spend 2 hours a day on eBay messages plus email grabbing software running all day, so some of the questions were answered in seconds, I bet I could count on my fingers any sales that were generated over an 8 year period
People get your priority’s in order or you will become stressed and a nervous wreck but the illiterate eBay buyer will still be there wasting other seller time and effort…my time is valuable taking care of real customers who have already paid (for my time)

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