When you think of customer support, how fast do you expect companies to respond to you online? If you’re Eric Bahn of Beat the GMAT, 1 hour is the answer. When he built his company, he set a goal of responding to every post on his forum within 1 hour. It’s the first time I had heard the number but in the days since I first watched Eric’s Mixergy interview, I’ve heard this number repeat itself from other founders.

Then a couple weeks ago, a report was published that states over half of online users expect brands to respond to them within 1 hour on Twitter. It’s easy to say that you’ll respond within an hour, but then there’s taking that promise to another level.

In his interview, Eric described how he would literally wake up in the middle of the night to reply to a post. He’d place his phone next to the bed and would receive a text message every time someone posted on the site. That’s dedication! After committing to a one hour response time, Eric was able to build a community that now replies to all new posts within minutes. Without that commitment, I don’t think building a thriving community would have been possible.

About a week ago I caught up with Eric who shared one other aspect of the one-hour commitment: bad news is better received the faster it’s delivered. For example, imagine making a purchase on Amazon that later was found not to be in stock. If you knew immediately that the product wasn’t going to arrive on time you could go purchase it elsewhere. On the other hand, if you got a notification two days after you made the purchase, you’d be furious as you were eagerly anticipating the product’s arrival.

The lesson: for better or worse, reply to your customers in under an hour.