Speed Expectations in the Instant Gratification Economy

By Anh Nguyen |

Today, consumers want instant everything. What’s the point of going to a grocery store or waiting for a taxi when there are Instacart and Lyft? These and other “Uber for X” companies are utilizing mobile technology and complex logistic systems to feed the instant gratification appetite of the Millennial generation. While these companies are making everyday tasks such as grocery shopping, food ordering, dry cleaning and home cleaning more convenient, they have also drastically altered consumer speed expectations. Uber is 8 minutes away? Cancel and check Lyft instead. The same can be said for people looking for information from verified professionals. What used to take days of waiting around for an appointment to ask a simple question now takes minutes with JustAnswer.

A faster ride or quicker answer is now available almost instantly. But are instant gratification companies putting too much pressure on the fulfillment side of the market by driving up speed expectations?

What is the instant gratification economy?

The instant gratification economy is more or less a crossover of the sharing and on-demand economy. Liz Gannes, Re/code’s senior editor, wrote an extensive series where she explained that the instant gratification economy is driven by a mobile-enabled workforce and connected consumers who are adapting to an on-demand lifestyle. Workers in the instant gratification economy have smartphones that feed data back to instant gratification companies, where it’s used to advance logistics, optimize workflow, and deliver faster services to consumers.

And instant gratification is not just a startup’s game. Large corporations like Google announced that they have expanded their same-day delivery service to six new states, while Amazon is introducing a new on-demand delivery service called Amazon Flex that will compete against Uber, Instacart and others.

How fast is fast enough?

In early 2015, Uber released a speed expectation report of its customers. According to the report, 94% of San Francisco rides showed up within 15 minutes in 2011 compared to 99.5% in 2014. Why is this important? The data shows that customers are far more likely to cancel their requests when estimated time of arrival (ETA) is near the 15-minute mark.

At JustAnswer, we look at likely to refund relative to the median time of first response (number of minutes before a customer gets the initial Expert response). From 2015 data, there is a correlation between median time to first response from an Expert and refunds. You'll see whenever customers are getting faster initial responses to their questions from Experts; they are less likely to request refunds.

Likely to Refund

Next, we'll look at the frequency rate of receiving a 5-star rating relative to time of first response. You'll see that once time of first response passes 30 minutes, the likelihood of your receiving a 5-star rating is rare.

Setting speed expectations

Essentially, the longer customers have to wait for Expert answers, the more likely they are to request a refund and the less likely they are to give you a 5-star rating. Knowing this, we’re testing new ways to manage speed expectations based on fulfillment data while still delivering on JustAnswer’s brand values for customers of the platform.

As a part of this process, we’re extending platform tools available to Experts and customers.  We’ve just released a mobile app for members which will allow members to be notified of your responses to their questions. We’re in the process of developing a mobile app to allow Experts the flexibility to respond to questions anywhere, anytime. We’re using data to set waiting time windows rather than promising a specific response time. We’re encouraging new Experts to use our platform in categories that do not have enough fulfillments. We’re collecting feedback from Experts about why certain types of questions are not being responded to.

Customers have an appetite for fast answers and we know you’re up for the challenge. By combining business data intelligence, feedback from customers and you, and focusing on mobile, we look forward to helping you to meet customers’ expectations for instant answers.

Is the instant gratification economy delivering better values to consumers or setting unrealistic expectations? Share your thoughts below.

Have more questions? Submit a request


  • Avatar

    This sounds good but there is importance in giving a helpful and accurate answer . You can reply to a customer in 1 second after the question is posted and will not have time to review the issue or look at diagram etc . A quick response and accurate answer are what will bring customers back , getting a fast rushed answer that's incorrect will get you a negative rating and make just answer as a whole look bad

  • Avatar

    I was excited when the new contact features were rolled out. But since I work full time and sitting at the lap top waiting in not a option for me. So I tried to use my iPhone and had horrible results. Pages don't allow you to respond or anything ,now I know this was noted and took it with a grain of salt.
    Is this something that will be addressed for this feature ?

  • Avatar
    Anh Nguyen

    @Briggs-Fan: That's a really good point and you're absolutely correct. A combination of both "quick response and accurate answer" bring customers back again and again. Response speed is not something we've discussed with Experts in awhile so we want to bring some attention back to it and add some insights. Thanks!

  • Avatar
    Anh Nguyen

    Hi @dinotapia: A mobile solution for Experts is something we're focused on in the next few months and hope to have something available soon. As always, you'll be updated with progress.

  • Avatar

    I am sorry but the instant answer does not work in Appraisals, we have to ask for very detailed information in order to give an honest, ethical, fair appraisal. We cannot answer on an instant basis. Also it is completely unethical to ever give an appraisal without knowing what the customer has. Sometimes we have to go back and forth many times, getting pictures, sizes, colors, and so much more.

    In appraisals all of us Experts are finding that we receive more Negative Ratings due to the customer getting a reply when we do info requests in an answer form. I have been with JA for many years,have answered over 20,000 questions and more, I was at 99.9% rating until JA implemented the Automatic Answer to a customer instead of info requests. Because when we try to get information such as pictures, they are rating us Badly because they say this is not their answer. Such as this one I just go a minute ago.

    This is from a customer not 5mins ago:
    Customer : 7 Oct 2015, 1:52 PM
    This is a scam . You did not answer my question . But yet I got charged. The star for you is O. Going to call the better business burial . To report this. No thanks Emily cox

    All of us Appraisers are getting these on a regular basis now, we are being chewed out by customers, we are being told we are scammers, we are being told we are cheating them, and so much more.

    The instant gratification answer will not work in Appraisals, we have to be able to answer in an Ethical Manner , we are Appraisers, we do not just throw out answers in seconds or minutes. We all find the longer we work with customers exchanging pertinent Information back and forth creating a rapport with a customer, the more they realize we know our job, the more they realize this is not a scam and someone is actually interested and are doing a complete job on their Antiques, or items they have. We always receive Positive Ratings at this point. The instant answer cannot work in all categories.


  • Avatar
    Anh Nguyen

    Hi Ms_Daisy, thanks for sharing your concerns. You are correct that it's unfair and unrealistic to ask Experts to provide faster answers. This is why we look at response speed, which includes information requests. Basically, how fast from when a customer posts a question to when an initial reply is received. The data you see in this article only looks at responses, not answers. For your second point, while we did see an overall increase in accept rate when we removed the "I'm ready to be rated" checkbox, we are planning to bring the checkbox back next Thursday. An announcement will go out soon.

  • Avatar

    Thank you, this will help us immensely in Appraisals. While I know bad ratings are not counted they do very much effect moral! They effect your whole day while working on Just Answer, and the customers were not happy getting answers but, not answers.

    Thank you
    Glenda B

  • Avatar

    I agree with what the other experts are posting in preparing a well thought out, accurate answer. I am also wondering if simply greeting the customer immediately is part of the equation here. I feel very inclined to want to greet the customer immediately and let them know I am preparing an answer (either because there is a lengthy amount of typing to give them the answer, you need more info from them, or you need to do some research to provide an accurate answer) for them and to stand by for a few short minutes. The caveat in this approach with the current PQA format is that sending off the initial greeting and then going to prepare an answer puts me at risk for losing the question altogether to another expert. I have had this happen and it is frustrating. If you don't hit that lock down button fast enough or have a momentary technical dysfunction, another expert is waiting in the shadows to steal the question away. In the name of speed, they sometimes give a wrong answer and this is just unacceptable. The current PQA format should be changed. The first responder should automatically be given, say 10 minutes or so at least, of time with the customer without feeling the pressure of having to continuously hit the lock button. This way customers have the gratification of an instant response, they understand that to get an accurate answer will require a little more info from them or research on your behalf, and no one feels pressured to give answers without taking a moment to think the question through.