Get in Touch


What is a reasonable Response Time for an MSP?

May 2, 2024
Reading Time: 4 mins
Author: Ray Sweeney

Probably the most common question we're asked by companies reviewing their Managed Service Provider (MSP) is "What are your typical response times?"

It makes sense, as taking too long to respond is probably the most common complaint we hear. It comes right alongside "everything just seems too hard" and "we don't know what we don't know".

Everyone has varying expectations for response times depending on individual needs & past experiences. But what is a reasonable expectation?

In this article we will explore common response times in the industry, the pro's and con's of focussing on response time, and an alternative perspective that may yield a better result.


MSP Response Time Definition & Industry Average

The definition of response time can differ from MSP to MSP but is widely considered to be the amount of time between a ticket being logged, and an IT support engineer physically starting work on the issue.

MSPs that boast response times of less than 5 minutes are often only looking at time to acknowledgment; Measuring the time it takes to simply speak with someone, such as a scheduler or triage person.

All things being equal, best in class MSPs average between 30-45 minutes from receiving a ticket to working on it. As for the norm, response times of 1-2 hours is very typical, anything beyond 4 hours is problematic.


Response Times are NOT created Equal

Contrary to what you might think, a lower response time is not always better.

MSPs can drastically reduce their response times artificially through a number of tricks:

  • Alter the definition of a 'response' (as above)
  • Overuse of inexperienced 'level 1' technicians to triage and escalate
  • Prioritisation of incoming tickets over existing jobs

This last point is probably the most important. Many MSPs will halt working on existing tickets to start new ones. This creates the impression of great response times, at the expense of lengthy resolution time and overall ticket age.

A best in class MSP will balance response time with other metrics such as ticket age, tickets in queue, same day resolution and one touch resolutions. Keeping these metrics under wraps sacrifices some response time, but will yield a better overall result.


Is Fast Response Times really what you want?

Focusing too narrowly on response time can be counterproductive. When response time is put first and foremost, the following commonly suffers:

  • Tickets require more 'touches' & often multiple technicians to solve
  • Resolution times & overall age increase
  • Tickets are rushed leading to more re-opens
  • Documentation suffers, leading to longer resolution times in the future

When it comes down to it, most users don't really want a fast resolution time. Rather, they want to have their issue resolved hassle free in a reasonable timeframe, relative to the severity of the issue.

As a result, it's worth considering what else might be important to you:

  • Would you prioritise a meaningful first response? i.e. opt to wait a little longer in order to have your issue solved in one interaction.
  • Would you sacrifice response time to not have to explain your issue multiple times?
  • Would you prefer tickets to be prioritised by impact, rather than SLA classification?
  • Is it important for you to be kept informed and updated?

Despite what you may be told, you can't have all things. Prioritising one thing inevitably impacts another. Compromises have to be made in quality, documentation and thoroughness in order to get onto the next job quickly.


Response Time vs Disruption Time

Perhaps a more useful focus would be to look at disruption time. Whilst response time is only concerned with the initial action, disruption time considers the total amount of time that the issue costs in terms of productivity.

When considering disruption time, you want to be concerned with:

  • The total amount of time between incident and resolution (ticket age).
  • The amount of time a user needs to spend engaging with the support team.
  • The impact to a users ability to be productive whilst the issue remains.
  • The overall frequency of issues and their common severity.

As we've discussed in a recent article, there is a difference between a deliverable and an outcome. Fast response times are a deliverable, whereas disruption time measures the outcome of greater staff productivity.

Global research indicates that the average disruption time per incident is approx. 2-3 hours, leading to an average loss of 5-6 hours per month, per employee.

Interestingly enough, response time is inconsequential to total disruption time. The biggest contributors by far include:

  • Overall quantity of incidents (Tickets per User)
  • Severity / Complexity of incidents (Users Affected)
  • Speed of which issues can be solved (Resolution Time)

The solution to these items is a proactive approach. It may seem obvious, but what many fail to consider is that this approach is in direct opposition to reactiveness.

Why might you want to avoid an MSP that focusses primarily on response time? Consider the following:

Company A

(Proactive MSP)

Company B

(Reactive MSP)

Response Time: 30 min Response Time: 15 min
Resolution Time: 30 min Resolution Time: 60 min
Tickets p/ User: 0.5 Tickets p/ User: 2
User Count: 20 User Count: 20
20 Users x 0.5 Tickets p/ User = 10 Tickets
10 Tickets x (30 mins + 30 mins) =
20 Users x 2 Tickets p/ User = 40 Tickets
40 Tickets x (15 mins + 60 mins) =
10 Hours Total Disruption 50 Hours Total Disruption

Company B offers a 15 minute response time as they have placed twice as many resources into helpdesk. By doing so, less time is spent on standardisation, best practice and documentation.

The result is that tickets are more frequent, more complicated, and it takes far longer for technicians to troubleshoot and solve due to lack of documentation. Reactive MSPs on average take twice as long to solve issues and incur more than 4x as many tickets.


If your goal is greater productivity, a best in class MSP that focuses primarily on proactivity will have you 5x better off.



It's no surprise that response time is commonly high on peoples agenda when evaluating MSPs. After all, it's the most immediately noticeable frustration when things are not going well.

With that said, if you're considering changing you Managed IT provider you should be careful of making long term decisions based on short term pain. It's important to evaluate the ultimate outcomes you're trying to achieve as the seemingly obvious choice may be misleading.

Ready to experience better? We'd love to chat about whether or not we'd be a better fit for your business. There is no right or wrong, but there are missed opportunities - Book a Chat.


Discover How We Can Accelerate Your Business Growth