Text Message Response Time and How to Set an Expectation With Your Customers

woman texting on cell phone

Have you ever sent an email or left a voicemail for a company’s customer service department and never gotten a response or had to wait days for it to arrive? While that wasn’t the type of customer experience you hoped for, you didn’t have much of a choice.

Today, things are changing as more companies adopt business texting software for faster customer communications. Our 2020 State of Texting data found that 68% of businesses reported using some form of texting to reach their customers. In fact, texting is now the most preferred method of communication for consumers, especially when scheduling appointments and receiving confirmations and reminders from businesses.

Consumers prefer texting for its speed and convenience

Texts are convenient to send but nobody wants to wait for an unspecified amount of time to get a response. If your business isn’t able to reply to a text within a few minutes, let the sender know with an auto reply. It’s a polite way to show customers that you know they have a question or concern and you’ll respond to them as quickly as possible.

Even family and friends expect a response within a short period of time. Data researchers at Google found that impatience is a universal condition now. Waiting more than 20 minutes to respond to a text message from someone you’re close to can be seen as rude. 

Trends in consumer sentiment are changing. No longer do customers make purchasing decisions primarily out of habit. People are becoming less forgiving about poor customer service while expecting a level of convenience that better fits their mobile lifestyle. Good service and responsiveness count. Texting meets both of those needs.

Companies hoping to succeed must innovate to keep up with changing buyer preferences. By using an SMS customer service platform, businesses can easily manage customer expectations before, during and after regular business hours without employing additional staff members.

auto reply message with schedule options

One size fits all companies

Auto reply texts benefit all sizes of companies but smaller businesses can flourish by doing more with fewer employees. During peak times, staff members may be helping other customers or handling tasks which means they can’t respond to texts. With Auto Replies, a short message letting the consumer know they’ll be helped soon is usually all it takes to keep them satisfied.

Here are three points to keep in mind when using texting for your business:

  • Let customers know when they can expect a reply
  • Deliver on that promise
  • Use automation tools to ease the workflow

Setting customer expectations about texting response times

Customers understand that a business may not be able to reply to their text immediately. By providing them with an estimated time to expect a response, you’re showing respect and sending a message that you appreciate their business and value their time.

If a text is sent after regular business hours, customers will understand they need to wait until the next business day to get personalized help. Letting them know that you received their message and will reply as soon as possible is easy with business texting software.

During business hours, if you’re confident employees can respond to texts within 10 minutes, 30 minutes or even an hour, say so. But make sure they do, or you’ll lose credibility and upset customers. It’s best to err on the side of caution and give your team extra time to respond to texts so consider that when setting your response time windows.

To speed up response times, texting software makes it efficient for employees to send texts from a computer. Most software also includes a mobile app which can be used when away from a desk, but using a keyboard and full-size monitor improves workflow.

Deliver on your promise of responding to texts

You’ve built trust with your customers and this is your opportunity to prove that you value them. Marketing to consumers requires time, money and skill. It can take several months to a year to recoup the cost of acquiring a single new customer. Now is not the time to risk losing them to a competitor because of a less than ideal customer service experience.

How a customer feels is an important benchmark, especially when they’re comparing companies that offer similar products or services. That’s why delivering timely text messages should be a priority. A study by Microsoft found that regardless of industry, 96% of respondents said customer service is important in their choice of loyalty to a brand. Keep your customers content by being responsive. One way to do that is to set up auto replies to respond to texts 24/7.

Business texting software tools that save time

Auto Replies

Spending a few minutes (one time) to set up an auto reply message and determine its schedule will save time. It also reduces the stress of having to respond to texts right when you open. All texts received after-hours will have been responded to by your auto reply which gives your staff some breathing room before they start responding to each text personally. There are three types of auto replies a business can send:

1. After Office Hours (sent when your business is closed)

“After Office Hours” Auto Replies are sent when someone texts your business when it’s closed. Texting software is customizable so you can adjust it to accommodate holidays and other times when shorter or extended hours apply. You determine when the auto reply is sent by selecting the days of the week and the hours for each day. Auto reply messages can even include an emoji to give your message some added personality.

auto reply software tool

2. During Office Hours (business is open, but text replies are delayed)

“During Office Hours” Auto Replies are sent when your business is open, but you can’t respond to incoming texts in real time. This customized message allows you to let customers know that you’ll respond to their message within a specific timeframe (within an hour, for example). Explain that your business is open, but you are currently unable to respond to their message personally but will do so by the time you stated.

3. General Auto Reply (business is open, but some replies are delayed)

“General Auto Replies” can be sent when your business is open but only used during specific hours when things are particularly busy. A General Auto Reply could be helpful during lunch hours when your staff size may be reduced due to employee breaks. Or, perhaps you start to see a huge influx of texts and you want to let senders of the new messages know you received their message and will respond within a specific timeframe.


Adding a Keyword to any of your auto reply texts can help assist customers who may be looking for specific information that you can provide automatically and immediately. For example, some customers may want to know your store hours or your business location. Including a line with one or two keywords (a feature that should be included with your business texting software) can eliminate the need to answer those messages the next day when your business re-opens.

cell phone conversation using auto reply and keywords


Templates are another efficiency tool included with business texting software that can streamline your operations. Rather than starting a new auto reply message from scratch every time you want to modify the message, simply select the “Template” icon within the Auto Reply feature set and choose one with the wording you want added to your message.

This time-saving feature allows you to quickly select a message that has been pre-written and checked for spelling and grammar to ensure the message matches the voice, tone and brand of your business. This is useful seasonally and during holidays when hours tend to fluctuate. Updating your auto reply messages during those times is fast and easy. The message has already been written and is sitting inside a template, ready when you need it.

More resources to increase customer engagement and satisfaction

To find out more about business texting software and its many benefits, download our free e-book: The Ultimate Guide to Texting Your Customers.

You’ll learn what to look for when evaluating business-texting services, best practices for TCPA compliance in texting, texting etiquette tips for your team, how to market your new texting capability to customers and more.

More than 35,000 companies use Zipwhip to increase customer engagement and drive growth through texting on their existing landline, VoIP or toll-free phone number. Our intuitive cloud-based software, enterprise-grade API and direct network connectivity mean businesses can use any computer or mobile device to securely and reliably reach their customers, every time.

Your customers are only a text away. Visit us at https://www.zipwhip.com.

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