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How Important is Response Time for Automated Emails?

I just signed up for an email newsletter (don’t ask!!) and I realized something when I got the mandatory “I am not a bot and this is my real email” request. I received the confirmation email in less than a second after hitting enter on the host’s website. That made me feel very confident of the quality/reliability/legitimacy of the host. I realized this because when it doesn’t come fast I feel less confident and the comparison was salient. Sometimes is comes after 10 seconds, which is not bad. Sometimes it comes a minute later and I get a small lump in my throat. The truth is that the delays are probably more due to my university’s email server and has nothing to do with the host’s reliability or legitimacy. And yet, the subjective nature of the delay still makes it relevant to my user experience.

So – questions for debate: Does this matter? Do you do anything about it, even though it is a reflection of users misunderstanding the situation? And if so, what?

Image credit: “Atos—Zero-Email—New-Tools-Jan-Krans—image-2” by Atos used under CC BY-SA.

3 thoughts on “How Important is Response Time for Automated Emails?”

  1. I think this is a question worth pursuing. Information timeliness relates to trust in the company which relates to the purchasing intention. But what sort of difference does an immediate email confirmation have on consumer trust vs an email sent with 10 second delay vs an hour delay?

  2. Does information timeliness matter less with a less critical task? For example, a delayed confirmation email when I purchase something online matters to me a lot. If I don’t get a confirmation within a couple minutes, then I question whether my order went through and if I should click the purchase button again on the website. As a graduate student, I am on a budget, and I have limited time to obtain a purchase and to clear up double charges. If the task was less critical (e.g., bigger budget, more time to obtain a purchase), then would it matter much if the email confirmation was sent later?

  3. Cory-Ann – I would guess there is a mediation effect. Even if I don’t need the response quickly (like with this weekly newsletter), it did make me feel better. But for a transaction like you describe, it would be even more important.

    And I wonder if we should look at the response affect separately. In the newsletter case, I “feel” nervous but I am not going to “do” anything differently. In the transaction, not only do I “feel” nervous, but I might go back and check on the confirmation at the company’s web site or perhaps email their customer service.

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